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Title: The Making of Modern Japan

Author: John Harington Gubbins

Release date: August 30, 2021 [eBook #66178]

Language: English

Credits: Richard Tonsing, MFR, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.




With an Introduction on the Japanese Family System.



(Published by Foreign Office.)


(Parliamentary Papers Series). Etc.


The Making of Modern Japan.

An Account of the Progress of Japan from Pre-Feudal days to Constitutional Government and the Position of a Great Power, with Chapters on Religion, the Complex Family System, Education, &c. By J. H. Gubbins, C.M.G., First Secretary of British Embassy at Tōkiō. With Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 21s. net.

The Sea Gypsies of Malaya.

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A Diplomat in Japan.

The Inner History of the Critical Years in the Evolution of Japan when the Ports were Opened & the Monarchy Restored, Recorded by a Diplomatist who took an active part in the events of the time. By The Right Hon. Sir Ernest Satow, G.C.M.G., British Minister, Peking, 1900–5; Formerly Secretary to the British Legation at Tōkiō. With Illustrations. Demy 8vo. 32s. net.

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Prehistoric Man & His Story.

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Prince Iwakura.

Descended from an ancient family of Court Nobles; he was a leading figure in the Restoration Movement, and in the Government subsequently formed.


J. H. GUBBINS, C.M.G., HON. M.A.(Oxon.)
38 Great Russell Street


The Author’s thanks are due to His Excellency Baron G. Hayashi, H.I.J.M.’s Ambassador in London, for most kindly referring to a competent authority in Japan, for confirmation, a doubtful point in feudal land tenure; to Prince Iwakura, Marquis Ōkubo, and Marquis Kido for photographs of three of the eminent statesmen whose portraits appear; to the Right Honorable Sir Ernest Satow for the trouble he took in reading the MS. of the book; to Sir E. F. Crowe, C.M.G., Commercial Counsellor of the British Embassy in Tōkiō, for very useful help given in various ways; and to Miss Maud Oxenden for valuable assistance in proof-correcting.



Early History—The Great Reform—Adoption of Chinese Culture 17
Establishment of Feudalism and Duarchy—The Shōgunate and the Throne—Early Foreign Relations—Christian Persecution and Closure of Country 24
The Tokugawa Shōguns—Consolidation of Duarchy 32
Political Conditions—Reopening of Japan to Foreign Intercourse—Conclusion of Treaties—Decay of Shōgunate 42
Anti-Foreign Feeling—Chōshiū Rebellion—Mikado’s Ratification of Treaties—Prince Kéiki—Restoration Movement—Civil War—Fall of Shōgunate 53
Japanese Chronology—Satsuma and Chōshiū Clans—The “Charter Oath” 68
New Government—Clan Feeling in Satsuma—Administrative Changes—Reformers and Reactionaries 77
Abolition of Feudal System—Reconstitution of Classes—Effects of Abolition of Feudalism 87
Effects of Abolition of Feudalism on Agricultural Class—Changes in Land Tenure—Land-Tax Revision 97
Missions to Foreign Government—Hindrances to Reform—Language Difficulties—Attitude of Foreign Powers 107
Changes and Reforms—Relations with China and Korea—Rupture in Ministry—Secession of Tosa and Hizen Leaders—Progress of Reforms—Annexation of Loochoo—Discontent of Former Military Class 117
Local Risings—Satsuma Rebellion—Two-Clan Government 129
Japanese Religions before Restoration: Shintō and Buddhism 139
Japanese Religions after Restoration: Christianity—Bushidō—Religious Observances 145
Political Unrest—The Press—Press Laws—Conciliation and Repression—Legal Reforms—Failure of Yezo Colonization Scheme—Ōkuma’s Withdrawal—Increased Political Agitation 152
Promise of Representative Government—Political Parties—Renewed Unrest—Local Outbreaks 162
Framing of Constitution—New Peerage—Reorganization of Ministry—English Influence—Financial Reform—Failure of Conferences for Treaty Revision 172
Imperial Authority—Privy Council—Local Self-Government—Promulgation of Constitution—Imperial Prerogatives—The Two Houses of Parliament—Features of Constitution and First Parliamentary Elections 181
Working of Representative Government—Stormy Proceedings in Diet—Legal and Judicial Reform—Political Rowdyism—Fusion of Classes 192
Working of Parliamentary Government—Grouping of Parties—Government and Opposition—Formation of Seiyūkai—Increasing Intervention of Throne—Decrease of Party Rancour—Attitude of Upper House 197
Treaty Revision—Great Britain takes Initiative—Difficulties with China 204
China and Korea—War with China—Naval Reform—Defeat of China—Treaty of Shimonoséki—Peace Terms 214
Militarist Policy—Liaotung Peninsula—Intervention of Three Powers—Leases of Chinese Territory by Germany, Russia, Great Britain and France—Spheres of Interest 223
American Protest against Foreign Aggression in China—Principle of “Open Door and Equal Opportunity”—Financial Reform—Operation of Revised Treaties—The Boxer Outbreak—Russia and Manchuria 234
Agreement between Great Britain and Germany—The Anglo-Japanese Alliance 245
War with Russia—Success of Japan—President Roosevelt’s Mediation—Treaty of Portsmouth—Peace Terms 254
Weakening of Cordiality with America—Causes of Friction—Expansion and Emigration—Annexation of Korea—New Treaties 265
Rise of Japan and Germany Compared—Renewal of Anglo-Japanese Alliance—Japan and the Great War—Military and Naval Expansion—Japan and China—The Twenty-one Demands—Agreement with Russia regarding China—Lansing-Ishii Agreement—Effects of Great War on Situation in Far East 274
The Japanese Family System 283
Education 292
The Makers of Modern Japan—How Japan is Governed 300
Index 307


Prince Iwakura Frontispiece
Ōkubo Ichizō 72
Kido Junichirō 80
Marquis Inouyé 104
Marquis Ōkuma 104
Prince Itō 176
Marquis Matsugata 184
Field-Marshal Prince Ōyama 184
Field-Marshal Prince Yamagata 216
Marquis Saionji 248
General Prince Katsura 248
The Making of Modern Japan

Early History—The Great Reform—Adoption of Chinese Culture.

There is much speculation, but no certainty, regarding the origin of the Japanese people. It is, however, generally held that the Japanese race is made up of two main elements—one Mongolian, which came to Japan from Northern Asia by way of Korea, and the other Malayan; a third strain being possibly supplied to some small extent by the Ainu aborigines, whom the invaders found in occupation of the country. The prevailing type of feature is Mongolian, though scientific research claims to have discovered traces of the physical characteristics of other Asiatic races.

If the earliest Japanese records provide little trustworthy material for the historian, they show how the legendary heroes of oral tradition became in the hands of successive chroniclers the deified ancestors of the reigning dynasty, and indicate the process of transition by which the feelings of respect and admiration they inspired developed into a popular belief in the quasi-divinity of Japanese Sovereigns. It is in this no-man’s-land, where no clear boundaries divide fable from history, that we are from the first confronted with the primitive native religion, and realize its weakness as a civilizing influence. From these same records, nevertheless, as well as from scanty Chinese sources, we glean certain general facts bearing on the early development of Japan. Chinese culture is seen trickling in at a very early date; we hear of the adoption at some time in the fifth century of Chinese ideographs, the Japanese following in this respect the example of their Korean neighbours, who, like themselves, had originally no written language of their own; and we learn of the introduction of Buddhism a century later. The advent of Buddhism 18was a notable factor in Japan’s progress. Its missionaries assisted the spread of the Chinese written language, and thus paved the way for the introduction in A.D. 645 of what is known as the Great Reform.

The Great Reform gave its name to the first year-period of Japanese chronology, and to Japanese history its first certain date. It was the outcome of a movement having for its object the repair of the authority of the Throne, which had been weakened by the separatist tendencies of the Sōga family. The new form of government then established, in imitation of changes made under the T’ang dynasty in China, was a centralized bureaucracy. The supreme control of affairs was vested in the Council of State. In this Council the Prime Minister presided, and with him were associated the two assistant Ministers of State and the President of the Privy Council. Of the eight Boards, or Departments of State, five dealt mainly, but by no means exclusively, with matters relating to Ceremonial, Religion, the Army, Finance and Taxation respectively; the other three having the direction of business connected more immediately with the Imperial Court. There seems, however, to have been no very clear-cut division of business, Court interests being apparently mixed up with the affairs of every department. This change in the form of government was only one of many results caused by the inrush of Chinese ideas at this time. The influence of the wave of Chinese culture which swept over the country permeated every part of the national fabric, remodelling the social system, and laying the foundations of Japanese law, education, industries and art.

Later on provision was made for the establishment of a regency during the minority of a reigning Sovereign, the regent (Sesshō) by virtue of his office ranking at the head of the official hierarchy. When the regency expired, the ex-regent assumed the title of Kwambaku (or Sesshō-Kwambaku), retaining his official precedence. The two posts were subsequently separated, and, like all other Court offices, became, as the authority of the Court declined, mere honorary titles. Both posts and honorary titles were hereditary in certain branches of the Fujiwara family, the only exception to this rule occurring in the sixteenth century.

It was not till the eighth century that the Japanese elaborated a written language of their own. The Koreans had done so already, but the two written languages thus superadded to what was borrowed 19from China have nothing in common. That of the Japanese consists of two different scripts, each adapted from Chinese characters. The Korean script bears no resemblance to Chinese. Both countries have good reason to regard as a very doubtful blessing the possession of two spoken and two written languages.

At this early stage in Japanese history three things stand out prominently: the welcome given to foreign ideas; the duality of religion and language; and the curious atmosphere of divinity surrounding the Throne, which by an easy process of transition came to be regarded by the people as a natural attribute of their country and of themselves. It is not surprising, therefore, to find in the development of Japan two opposite tendencies constantly at work—the assimilation of new ideas from abroad, and reaction in favour of native institutions. Together with the readiness to adopt foreign ideas, to which the seventh century bears such striking witness, there existed an intense national pride—a belief in the superiority of Japan, “the country of the Gods,” to all other lands. The existence of these two contrary currents of popular feeling, in which religion, politics and language all play their part, may be traced through the whole course of Japanese history.

The strengthening of the Throne’s authority, which was effected by the Great Reform, lasted but a short time, the ruling power soon passing again into the hands of another powerful family, the House of Fujiwara. But the centralized bureaucratic form of government borrowed from China survived, and with it the fiction of direct Imperial rule.

During the long ascendancy, covering more than three centuries, of the House of Fujiwara the Sovereigns, despite their assumption of the recognized titles of Chinese Emperors, sank into the position of mere puppets, removable at the will of the patrician rulers. It is important to note, however, that neither the nominal authority of the occupant of the Throne nor the power of the de facto Government during this period, and for many years after, extended much beyond the centre of Japan. The loyalty of district governors in the south and west was regulated by their distance from the seat of administration. To the north and east, again, the country was in the possession of the Ainu aborigines, with whom a desultory warfare was carried on until their eventual expulsion to the northern island of Yezo.

20Early in the twelfth century the Fujiwara régime came to an end. The succeeding administrators were members of the Taira family, which had gradually risen to importance, and wielded the predominant influence in the country. Fifty years later their position was successfully challenged by the rival House of Minamoto, which, like its two predecessors, could claim royal descent. The long struggle between these two houses ended in the final overthrow of the Taira family in the sea battle of Dan-no-Ura (A.D. 1155) and the establishment of the feudal system, in other words, of a military government.

Yoritomo, the Minamoto leader, who then rose to power, received from the Court the title of Shōgun (or General), a contraction of the fuller appellation Sei-i-Tai-Shōgun. This may be rendered Barbarian-quelling Generalissimo, and was the term originally applied to generals employed in fighting the Ainu aborigines in the North-Eastern marches. With the assumption of this title the term itself developed a new meaning, for it was not as the general of an army that he thenceforth figured, but as the virtual ruler of Japan. His advent to power marks a new phase in Japanese history, the inception of a dual system of government based on feudalism, which lasted, except for a short period in the sixteenth century, until modern times.

With the establishment of a military government the classification of society was changed. Thenceforth there were three recognized divisions of the people—the Kugé, or Court aristocracy, constituting the former official hierarchy, which, becoming more and more impoverished as the connection of its members with the land ceased, gradually sank into the position of a negligible factor in the nation; the Buké, or military class, which included both daimiōs and their retainers, and out of which the new official hierarchy was formed; and the Minké, or general public, which comprised farmers, artizans and tradesmen, or merchants, ranking in the order named.

Feudalism was no sudden apparition. It was no mushroom growth of a night. The importance of the military class had been growing steadily during the prolonged civil strife from which the Minamoto family had emerged victorious. This and the increasing weakness of the Government had brought about a change in provincial administration. Civil governors, dependent on the Capital, had gradually given place to military officials, with hereditary rights, who looked elsewhere for orders; manorial estates were expanding into territories with castles to protect them; and local revenues no longer 21flowed with regularity into State coffers. Thus in more than one manner the way had been prepared for feudalism.

The same may be said of the dual system of administration, though here the question is less simple. From all that history tells us, and from its even more eloquent silence, there is good reason to question the existence at any time of direct Imperial rule. We hear of no Mikado ever leading an army in the field, making laws or dispensing justice, or fulfilling, in fact, any of the various functions associated with sovereignty, save those connected with public worship. This absence of personal rule, this tendency to act by proxy, is in keeping with the atmosphere of impersonality which pervades everything Japanese, and is reflected in the language of the people. Everything tends to confirm the impression that the prestige of sovereignty in Japan thus lay rather in the institution itself than in the personality of the rulers. The casual manner in which succession was regulated; the appearance on the Throne of Empresses in a country where little deference was paid to women; the preference repeatedly shown for the reign of minors; the laisser-aller methods of adoption and abdication; the easy philosophy which saw nothing unusual in the association of three abdicated, or cloistered, monarchs with a reigning sovereign; and the general indifference of the public to the misfortunes which from time to time befel the occupant of the Throne, all point in the same direction—the withdrawal of the Sovereign at an early date from all active participation in the work of government. In so far, therefore, as the personal rule of the Sovereign was concerned it seems not unreasonable to regard the dual system of government established at this time as the formal recognition of what already existed. Its association with feudalism, however, brought about an entirely new departure. Kiōto, indeed, continued to be the national capital. There the former Ministers of State remained with all the empty paraphernalia of an officialdom which had ceased to govern. But a new seat of administration was set up at Kamakura, to which all men of ability were gradually attracted. Thenceforth the country was administered by a military government directed by the Shōgun at Kamakura, while the Sovereign lived in seclusion in the Capital, surrounded by a phantom Court, and an idle official hierarchy.

In this question of government there is still something further to be explained. It should be understood that the Shōgun did not 22personally rule any more than the Mikado. What for want of a better name may be termed the figure-head system of government is noticeable throughout the whole course of Japanese history. Real and nominal power are rarely seen combined either socially or politically. The family, which is the unit of society, is nominally controlled by the individual who is its head. But practically the latter is in most cases a figure-head, the real power being vested in the group of relatives who form the family council. The same principle applied to the administration of feudal territories. These were not administered by the feudal proprietors themselves. The control was entrusted to a special class of hereditary retainers. Here again, however, the authority was more nominal than real, the direction of affairs being left, as a rule, to the more active intelligence of retainers of inferior rank. Similarly the Shōgun was usually a mere puppet in the hands of his Council, the members of which were in turn controlled by subordinate office-holders. This predilection for rule by proxy was encouraged by the customs of adoption and abdication, the effects of which, as regards Mikado and Shōgun alike, were seen in shortness of reign, or administration, and the frequency of the rule of minors.

The highly artificial and, indeed, contradictory character which distinguished all Japanese administration had certain advantages. Abdication was found to be not incompatible in practice with an active, though unacknowledged, supervision of affairs. It also provided a convenient method of getting rid of persons whose presence in office was for any reason inconvenient. In a society, too, where adoption was the rule rather than the exception the failure of a direct heir to the Throne, or Shōgunate, presented little difficulty. It was a thing to be arranged by the Council of State, just as in less exalted spheres such matters were referred to the family council. Questions of succession were thus greatly simplified. In this contradiction, moreover, between appearance and reality, in the retention of the shadow without the substance of power, lay the strength of both monarchy and Shōgunate. It was, in fact, the secret of their stability, and explains the unbroken continuity of the dynasty on which the nation prides itself. Under such a system the weakness or incompetence of nominal rulers produced no violent convulsions in the body politic. The machinery of government worked smoothly on, unaffected by the personality of those theoretically responsible for its 23control; and as time went by the tendency of office to divorce itself from the discharge of the duties nominally associated with it increased everywhere, with the result that in the last days of the Shōgunate administrative policy was largely inspired at the seat of government by subordinate officials, and in the clans by retainers of inferior standing.

The question of dual government, which has led to this long digression, was more or less of a puzzle to foreigners from the time when Jesuit missionaries first mistook Shōguns for Mikados; and it was not until after the negotiation of the first treaties with Western Powers that it was discovered that the title of Tycoon given to the Japanese ruler in these documents had been adopted for the occasion, in accordance with a precedent created many years before, in order to conceal the fact that the Shōgun, though ruler, was not the Sovereign.


Establishment of Feudalism and Duarchy—The Shōgunate and the Throne—Early Foreign Relations—Christian Persecution and Closure of Country.

The fortunes of the first line of Kamakura Shōguns, so called from the seat of government being at that place, gave no indication of the permanence of duarchy, though it may have encouraged belief in the truth of the Japanese proverb that great men have no heirs. Neither of Yoritomo’s sons who succeeded him as Shōgun showing any capacity for government, the direction of affairs fell into the hands of members of the Hōjō family, who, by a further extension of the principle of ruling by proxy, were content to allow others to figure as Shōguns, while they held the real power with the title of regents (Shikken). Some of these puppet Shōguns were chosen from the Fujiwara family, which had governed the country for more than three centuries. Others were scions of the Imperial House. This connection of the Shōgunate with the Imperial dynasty, though only temporary, is a point to be noted, since under other circumstances it would suggest a devolution rather than a usurpation of sovereign rights.

It was in the thirteenth century, during the rule of the Hōjō regent Tokimuné, that the Mongol invasions took place. The reigning Mikado was a youth of nineteen; the Shōgun an infant of four. The six centuries which had elapsed since the Great Reform had witnessed notable changes in the countries which were Japan’s nearest neighbours. In China the Mongol dynasty was established. In Korea the four states into which the peninsula had originally been divided had disappeared one after the other. In their place was a new kingdom, then called for the first time by its modern name. The new kingdom did not retain its independence long. It was attacked and overthrown by the armies of Kublai Khan, the third Mongol Emperor. By the middle of the thirteenth century the King of 25Korea had acknowledged the suzerainty of China. Kublai Khan then turned his attention to Japan.

It was customary in those times for congratulatory missions to be sent by one country to another when a new dynasty was established or a new reign began, the presents exchanged on these occasions being usually termed gifts by the country offering them, and tribute by that which received them. The relations between Japan and the new Kingdom of Korea had been on the whole friendly, though disturbed from time to time by the piratical forays which seem to have been of frequent occurrence. But after Korea had lost her independence she was obliged to throw in her lot with China. When, therefore, in 1268, Kublai Khan sent an envoy to Japan to ask why since the beginning of his reign no congratulatory mission had reached Peking from the Japanese Court, the messenger naturally went by way of Korea, and was escorted by a suite of Koreans. The ports in the province of Chikuzen, on the north of Kiūshiū, the southernmost of the Japanese islands, were the places through which communications between Japan and the mainland were then carried on; and it was at Dazaifu in that province, the centre of local administration, that the envoy delivered his letter. This was in effect a demand for tribute, and the Regent’s refusal even to answer the communication was met by the despatch in the summer of 1275 of a Mongol force, accompanied by a Korean contingent. Having first occupied the islands of Tsushima and Iki, which form convenient stepping-stones between Korea and Japan, the invaders landed in Kiūshiū in the north-west of the province already mentioned. After a few days’ fighting they were forced to re-embark. In their retreat they encountered a violent storm, and only the shattered remnants of the Armada returned to tell the tale. A second invasion, six years later, planned on a far larger scale, and supported, as before, by Korean auxiliaries, met with a similar fate. On this occasion severer fighting occurred. The positions captured at the place of landing in the province of Hizen were held by the invaders for some weeks. Thence, however, they could make no headway. When they at length withdrew in disorder a violent storm again came to the aid of the defenders and overwhelmed the hostile fleets. The preparations begun by Kublai Khan for a third invasion were abandoned at his death a few years later. From that time Japan was left undisturbed.

The circumstances attending the fall of the Hōjō regents in 1333, 26and their replacement by the Ashikaga line of Shōguns, are noteworthy for the light they throw on the state of the country, and the unstable and, indeed, ludicrous conditions under which the government was carried on. It seemed for a moment as if the authority of the Court was about to be revived. But with the overthrow of the regents the movement in this direction stopped. The military class was naturally reluctant to surrender the power which had come into its hands; the position of the Mikado was also weakened by a dispute regarding his rights to the Throne. He had just returned from banishment, and had been at once reinstated as Emperor. But during his absence another Emperor had been placed on the Throne, and there were those who thought the latter had a right to remain. In the previous century it had been arranged, in accordance with the will of a deceased Emperor, that the Throne should be occupied alternately by descendants of the senior and junior branches of the Imperial House. This rule had been followed in filling the vacancy caused by the banishment of the previous Mikado, and the branch of the Imperial House which suffered by his reinstatement refused to accept the decision. Each claimant to the Throne found partizans amongst the feudal chieftains. Thus were formed two rival Courts, the Northern and the Southern, which disputed the Crown for nearly sixty years. The contest ended in the triumph in 1393 of the Northern Court. Having the support of the powerful Ashikaga family, it had early in the course of the struggle asserted its superiority, the Ashikaga leader becoming Shōgun in 1338.

The rule of the Ashikaga Shōguns lasted until the middle of the sixteenth century, though for several years before it ended the control of affairs was exercised by others in their name. During this period, which was favourable to the growth of art and literature, the seat of government kept changing from Kamakura to the Capital and back again. The former city shared the fate of the dynasty, and after its destruction was never rebuilt.

A break then occurred in the sequence of Shōguns. The chief power passed into the hands of two military leaders, Nobunaga and Hidéyoshi, neither of whom founded a dynasty or bore the title of Shōgun. By their efforts the country was gradually freed from the anarchy which had ensued during the last years of Ashikaga administration. Though here and there throughout the country there remained districts whose feudal lords insisted on settling their quarrels 27themselves, a more stable condition of things was introduced, and the work of the founder of the next and last line of Shōguns was greatly facilitated.

Europe had long before heard of Japan through the writings of the Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, who had visited the Court of Kublai Khan and there learned the failure of the Mongol invasions. It was not, however, till the middle of the sixteenth century, during the ascendancy of the first of the two military leaders above mentioned, that intercourse with European countries was established. The Portuguese were the first to come, and for this reason. Portugal was then at the height of her greatness as a maritime power; and by the Bulls of Pope Alexander VI, which divided the new lands discovered in Asia and America between her and Spain, those in Asia had fallen to her share. Some uncertainty exists as to the exact date at which the new Western intercourse began, and as to the identity of the first arrivals. Most authorities, however, agree in thinking that the first European discoverers of Japan were three Portuguese adventurers who, in the course of a voyage from Siam to China in the summer or autumn of 1542, were driven by a storm on the coast of Tanégashima, a small island lying midway between the southern point of the province of Satsuma and Loochoo. The adventurers who landed were successful in disposing of the cargo of their vessel, destined originally for Chinese ports. Their knowledge of firearms made a favourable impression, and the beginnings were thus laid of a trade with the Portuguese possessions and settlements in the East and with the mother country in Europe. Of greater interest and importance, however, than this early trade is the fact that to Portuguese enterprise Christianity owed its first introduction into Japan.

Seven years after the arrival of these involuntary traders, who had spread the news of the strange country they had discovered, one of the numerous Portuguese trading vessels which were thus attracted to Japan landed at Kagoshima, the capital of the Satsuma province, three missionaries—Xavier, Torres and Fernandez. Thenceforth, until the closing of the country to all but the Chinese and Dutch, it was the propagation of the Christian faith, not the progress of trade, which was the important factor in Japan’s foreign relations.

The coming of the first missionaries took place at a time when the widespread disorder which marked the closing years of the Ashikaga 28administration was at its height. Though Nobunaga was rapidly acquiring for himself a commanding position, the nation had not yet felt the full weight of the hand which twenty years later was to take the first steps towards the pacification of the country. The confusion of affairs assisted the spread of the new religion, the opposition offered by some of the leading daimiōs, such as the princes of Satsuma and Chōshiū, being counterbalanced by the eagerness of others to profit by the foreign trade which came with the missionaries; while Buddhist hostility lost much of its sting after the power of the militant priesthood had been crippled by Nobunaga.

The latter’s successor, Hidéyoshi, whom the Japanese regard as their greatest military genius, shared neither his sympathy with Christianity nor his dislike of Buddhism. To matters of religion he seemed to be indifferent, his one aim being apparently to make himself master of Japan. In a series of campaigns conducted in different parts of the country he overcame the resistance of one feudal chief after another, the last to submit to his authority being the Daimiō of Satsuma. His ascendancy deprived Christianity of the advantage it had previously derived from the unsettled condition of the country. His aim accomplished, Hidéyoshi changed his attitude suddenly, and in 1587 issued an edict against Christianity. As a result of this edict the missionaries were expelled from the Capital and the Christian church there was pulled down. Though the Christian persecution dates from that time, it was not prosecuted at first with much energy. Doubtless Hidéyoshi was aware of the connection between Christianity and foreign trade, and in his desire to profit by the latter was content not to push matters to extremities. There may also be some truth in the suggestion of the joint authors of A History of Japan (1542–61) that he was unwilling to incur the resentment of the numerous daimiōs in the south of Japan who had welcomed the new religion. Be this as it may, the initial stages of the persecution did not apparently affect missionary activity very seriously. We do not hear of any falling off in the number of converts, which is said to have attained about this time a total little short of a million.

For nearly half a century the Jesuits had the field of missionary enterprise in Japan to themselves. To this fact was largely due the spread of the new religion. In 1591, however, the state of things was altered by the arrival of members of other religious orders, who came in the train of a Spanish ambassador from the Philippines. 29This intrusion—which later on received the formal sanction of the Pope—was resented by the Jesuits; and the position of the Christian Church, already weakened by persecution, was not improved by the quarrels which soon broke out between them and the new-comers. What would have been the outcome of this change in the situation, if Hidéyoshi’s attention had not been directed elsewhere, it is impossible to say. At this moment, however, his ambition found a new outlet. Supreme now at home, he conceived the idea of gaining fresh glory by conquests abroad. With this object, he embarked on an invasion of Korea, intending ultimately to extend his operations to China. His pretext, it is said, for invading the neighbouring peninsula, like that of Kublai Khan in the case of Japan, was that Korea had refused or neglected to send the usual periodical missions. According to another, and perhaps more correct account, he demanded that Korea should assist him in the invasion of China in the same way as she had two centuries before aided the Mongols in their invasion of Japan, a request which, it is said, was scornfully refused.

The Korean campaign, in the course of which a Christian daimiō—Konishi, the owner of an extensive fief in the province of Higo—greatly distinguished himself, began in the spring of 1592, the last land engagement being fought in the autumn of 1598. The war thus lasted nearly seven years. The preparations made by Hidéyoshi were on an extensive scale. The army of invasion numbered, if the statistics of that time can be trusted, nearly 200,000 fighting men. As reinforcements were sent from time to time from Japan, the number of troops employed from first to last in the course of the war must have reached a very high total. Hidéyoshi did not lead his army in person, but directed the general plan of operations from Japan. The Japanese were at first successful on land everywhere, though at sea they met with some serious reverses. The Koreans were driven out of their capital, and the invaders overran more than half of the country. Then, however, the Emperor of China intervened in the struggle. Chinese armies entered Korea, and the tide of victory turned against Japan. The retreat of the invaders towards the coast was followed by overtures of peace, which resulted in the suspension of hostilities in 1594. But the negotiations, in which China took a leading part, broke down, and three years later a second Japanese army landed in Korea. On this occasion the Japanese forces 30met with more stubborn resistance. Chinese armies again came to the help of Korea, and when Hidéyoshi died in 1598 the Japanese Government was only too willing to make peace. The results of the war for Korea were disastrous. The complete devastation wrought wherever the Japanese armies had penetrated left traces which have never been entirely effaced. Nor did Japan come out of the struggle with any profit. When the final accounts were balanced all she had to show for her lavish expenditure in lives and money was the establishment in Japan of a colony of Korean potters, who were the first to make the well-known Satsuma faience, and the doubtful privilege of keeping a small trading post at the southern end of the Korean peninsula.

For some years after the Korean war had been brought to an end by the death of Hidéyoshi the position of the Christian Church showed little change. It was not until 1614, by which time a new line of Shōguns was ruling the country, that rigorous measures were adopted against the new religion. The edict which then appeared ordered the immediate expulsion of all missionaries, and its issue was followed by a fierce outbreak of persecution in all parts of Japan where converts or missionaries were to be found.

Evidence of the contradictory state of things then existing is furnished by the fact that in that very year an Embassy to the Pope and to the King of Spain was sent by the Japanese Daimiō of Sendai, whose fief was in the north-east of Japan.

Meanwhile, in 1609, Dutch traders had established themselves in the island of Hirado, where they were joined four years later by English traders representing the East India Company. The latter had not the resources necessary for so distant an undertaking, nor was the English navy strong enough to support the Company’s enterprise against the Dutch, who were then wresting from the Portuguese the supremacy in Eastern waters. At the end of ten years, therefore, the trading station was abandoned.

The Christian persecution continued with varying intensity for more than twenty years, culminating in the insurrection of Shimabara in 1638. With the bloody suppression of that rising, due as much to local misgovernment as to religious causes, the curtain falls on the early history of Christianity in Japan. Two years earlier, in 1636, an edict issued by the third Shōgun, Iyémitsu, forbade all Japanese 31to go abroad, reduced the tonnage of native vessels so as to render them unfit for ocean voyages, and closed the country to all foreigners except the Chinese and Dutch. The Portuguese were chiefly affected by this measure, for the English had abandoned their trading enterprise in Hirado in 1623, and in the following year the rupture of relations with Spain had put an end to the residence of Spanish subjects, thus justifying Xavier’s warning that the King of Spain should be careful how he interfered with Japan, in case he burnt his fingers. The Dutch owed their escape from expulsion to the fact that the Japanese did not regard them as being Christians at all, because of their openly expressed hostility to the form of Christianity professed by the missionaries. In neither case was the lot of the two favoured nationalities at all enviable. In 1641 the Dutch were removed from Hirado and interned in Déshima, an artificial island quarter of the town of Nagasaki; and some fifty years later the Chinese, who had traded at that port in comparative liberty from a date which is uncertain, were confined in an enclosure close to the Dutch settlement. Here, paying dearly as State prisoners for the commercial privileges they enjoyed, these traders carried on a precarious and gradually dwindling commerce until Japan was opened for the second time to foreign intercourse in the middle of the nineteenth century.


The Tokugawa Shōguns—Consolidation of Duarchy.

The rule of Hidéyoshi was followed by that of a new line of Shōguns. The circumstances under which it was established are well known. At the death of Hidéyoshi in 1598 the government of the country was, during the minority of his son Hidéyori, entrusted to five feudal nobles who acted as regents. Of these, the most prominent was Tokugawa Iyéyasu, who had married Hidéyoshi’s daughter, and whose feudal territories consisted of the eight provinces in the east of the main island known as the Kwantō. Disputes soon arose between the regents, and an appeal to arms resulted in the decisive victory of Iyéyasu at Séki-ga-hara, near Lake Biwa. This was in October, 1600. In 1603 he was appointed Shōgun, and twelve years later the death, in what is known as the Ōsaka summer campaign, of Hidéyori, the only personage who could challenge his supremacy, left him without any dangerous rival. Now for the first time in Japanese history the authority of the Shōgunate extended throughout the whole of Japan. The prestige of the previous ruler had been as great, and his reputation in the field higher, but he was not, like his successor, of Minamoto stock, nor could he trace his descent from an Emperor; there were remote districts in the country where his influence had not penetrated, out-of-the-way places where his writ had never run. In founding a fresh line of Shōguns the new ruler had other circumstances in his favour. The country was tired of civil war and exhausted; the fighting power and resources of turbulent chiefs had been weakened by long-continued hostilities; and much of the work of pacification had been already done.

Although the Tokugawa Shōgunate was, in its main outlines, the repetition of a government which had existed before, it differed in some important respects from previous administrations.

The third Shōgun, the ruler responsible for the closing of the 33country, put the finishing touches to the new system of government; but it owed more to the genius of his grandfather, the founder of the line, who framed it, supervised its operation and left posthumous instructions, known as “The Hundred Articles,” to ensure its observance by his successors. Japanese writers agree in stating that “The Hundred Articles” give a general idea of the system of government established by Iyéyasu. But it is a very general idea, a mere outline of things, that we are thus enabled to glean. To fill in the details of the picture it is necessary to draw on other sources of information.

The difference between the rule of Iyéyasu and that of previous Shōguns lay in the more complete subjection of the Imperial Court, in the wider range of his authority, which surpassed that of his two immediate predecessors, and in the highly organized and stable character of the administration he established. The changes he effected in the government of the country may be conveniently considered under the following heads, it being borne in mind that they were the work of several years, and that many were made after his early abdication in 1605, when he was governing the country, in the name of his son, the second Shōgun:—

Redistribution of feudal territories.
Position of feudal nobility.
Reorganization of central administration.
Relations between the Court and Shōgunate, and between the Court and Court nobles and the feudal nobility.

1. The new Shōgun in establishing his rule followed the example of his predecessors. Maps which give the distribution of feudal territories before and after the year 1600, and again after the fall of Ōsaka in 1615, show the sweeping character of the changes he carried out on both occasions. As a result of these changes, the most extensive fiefs at the outset of Tokugawa rule were those held by the three Tokugawa Houses in the provinces of Kii, Owari and Hitachi (Mito), to which may be added those in the possession of the Daimiōs of Satsuma, Hizen, Chōshiū, Aki, Tosa, Kaga, Échizen, Sendai and Mutsu.

2. Before the establishment of the Tokugawa Shōgunate the feudal nobles were divided into three classes—lords of provinces, lords of territories and lords of castles. In the organization of the feudal 34nobility, as remodelled by Iyéyasu, this old division was retained, but he created the three princely Houses of Owari, Kii and Mito (Hitachi), called collectively the Gosanké, and placed them at the head of the new order of precedence. It was from the two first-mentioned Houses, together with the Gosankiō, a family group of later institution, that, failing a direct heir, subsequent Shōguns were chosen. To the representative of the third House—that of Mito—the position of Adviser to the Shōgunate was assigned, and he was supposed to have a determining voice in the selection of a new Shōgun when this became necessary. Another important change was the separation of the feudal nobility into two broad classes—the Fudai daimiōs, or hereditary vassals, who had submitted to the new ruler before the fall of Ōsaka, and the Tozama daimiōs, who had acknowledged his supremacy later. The former class alone had the privilege of being employed in the Councils of State and the higher administrative posts. Two new feudal groups also made their appearance—the Hatamoto, or Bannermen, who filled the less important administrative posts, besides supplying the personnel of the various departments of State, and whose fiefs in some cases rivalled in extent those of the smaller daimiōs; and the Gokénin, a kind of landed gentry.

Full use, too, was made by the new ruler of the custom of retaining hostages from the feudatories as a guarantee of loyalty, a practice expanded under the second and third Shōguns into the system known as San-kin Kō-tai. This provided for the residence of daimiōs in alternate years at Yedo and in their fiefs, some members of their families being permanently detained in the Tokugawa capital, which owed its selection as the seat of government to its favourable location for the commerce of that day at the head of the bay of the same name. The system of State services (Kokuyéki), moreover, to which all daimiōs were liable, was a rich source of revenue to the Shōgunate, while at the same time it strengthened the authority of the Yedo Government. By these expedients, and by the encouragement of ostentation in every form, the feudal nobles were kept in strict subjection, the steady drain on their finances making it difficult for them to escape from a condition of impecuniosity. The expense of their annual journeys to and from the Capital alone constituted a severe tax on their resources, and was the main cause of the financial distress which existed at a later date in many of the daimiates. Further and quite independent proof of the unquestioned supremacy of the 35new Shōgun is supplied by the bestowal of his early family name of Matsudaira not only on all the heads of feudal families connected with his own, but on many of the leading lords of provinces. Amongst other recipients of this questionable privilege—which set the seal on the submission of the feudal nobility—were the daimiōs of Satsuma, Chōshiū, Hizen, Tosa and Awa, whose retainers took a prominent part in the Restoration of 1868–69. In these latter cases, however, the old surnames were used alternately with the new designations.

3. The main features of Tokugawa administration, as established by its founder and modified by his immediate successors, remained practically unchanged for two and a half centuries. Its form was a centralized bureaucracy based on feudalism. The general direction of affairs was in the hands of an upper and a lower Council of State, the members of which were chosen from Fudai daimiōs of varying distinction. There was usually an inner circle of statesmen, with whom both initiative and decision rested, while the lesser ranks of officials were recruited chiefly from the Hatamoto. Decisions on grave matters of State in times of emergency were referred, when necessary, to the Gosanké and other leading daimiōs, whose participation in these deliberations was, however, often more nominal than real. A leading part in administration was also played by the Jisha-bugiō, or Superintendents of Buddhist and Shintō temples. In spite of the religious sound of their titles, these executive officers had an important voice in State business of all kinds. There was also the Hiō-jō-sho. This was an institution resembling that originally created by the Kamakura Shōguns. Established at a time when no clear distinction existed between executive and judicial matters, it seems to have combined the functions of a Supreme Administrative Board and a Superior Court of Justice. It took cognizance of all sorts of questions, both executive and judicial, and, under the latter head, of both civil and criminal cases, which were decided by a special office known as the Ketsudan-sho, or Court of Decisions. The matters which came before this Board ranged from disputes regarding land, agriculture and taxation to questions concerning the boundaries of fiefs and provinces; from complaints of the conduct of the feudal nobility and Shōgunate officials to appeals from the decisions of local authorities. The members of the Council of State had the right to attend the sittings of the Board, being encouraged to make surprise visits in order to ensure the rendering of impartial justice; and for 36the same reason, apparently, in the earlier days of the Shōgunate, the attendance of the Shōgun himself was not unusual. A similar Board at Ōsaka dealt with questions referred to it from the provinces west of Kiōto, and with appeals from the decisions of local authorities in the districts in question.

Provincial administration varied according to the locality concerned. What were known as the Shōgun’s domains—amounting in extent to nearly one-third of the total area of the country—were administered by Governors (Daikwan) appointed by the Shōgunate, this system prevailing also in many of the Fudai daimiates and in certain coast towns. The feudal territories in the rest of the country, with the exception named, were governed by the clan rulers. A general supervision of affairs throughout the country was also exercised by a special class of officials called Métsuké. Their varied functions comprised those of travelling inspectors and circuit judges; they were appointed to enquire into the administration of feudal territories; and they were frequently employed as deputies or assistants to governors, delegates and commissioners, when their duty was to watch and report on the conduct of their superiors. Hence the description of them as spies by foreign writers on Japan—a description which was often correct. The system of local government was based on groups of five households, or families, each under the direction of a headman, and was the development of an earlier form of tribal, or patriarchal, government introduced from China at the time of the Great Reform. The headman of each group was subject, in towns, to the control of the senior alderman of the ward, and, in villages, to that of the mayor. The duties of these local officials, whose posts were often hereditary, were to make known the orders of the Central Government, or feudal authorities, as the case might be, to administer justice and to collect taxes.

A noticeable feature of Tokugawa administration was the duplication of offices. In this a resemblance may be traced to similar customs in other Oriental countries such as Thibet, Siam and Nepal, the tendency which inspired the practice being possibly one of the causes of the partiality of the nation for dual government. The employment of Métsuké in many cases as supplementary officials has already been mentioned. The custom was widespread, extending through all grades of the official class, and survived in Loochoo until the annexation of that principality in 1879. A curious proof of its 37prevalence was furnished at the time of the negotiation by Great Britain of the Treaty of 1858. Struck by the double title of the British negotiator, Lord Elgin and Kincardine, and arguing from their own methods of procedure, the Japanese officials concluded that two envoys had been sent, and when, in the course of the negotiations, no second envoy appeared, they took occasion to enquire after the missing Kincardine.

4. In his dealings with the Imperial Court at Kiōto the new Shōgun was content, so far as outward formalities were concerned, to follow the example of previous administrations, introducing, nevertheless, under cover of conformity with ancient usage, many important changes. The empty dignities of the Court were maintained with some increase of ceremonial etiquette, though without the lavish display which had reconciled the Throne to the rule of his predecessor. He was at the same time careful to curtail whatever vestiges of Imperial authority still remained. The measures taken for this purpose included the appointment of a Resident (Shoshidai) in Kiōto, and a Governor (Jōdai) in Ōsaka; the confinement of the reigning Emperor and cloistered ex-monarch (or ex-monarchs, for there were not infrequently several abdicated sovereigns at the same time) to their palaces; and the cessation of Imperial “progresses”—the name given to Imperial visits to shrines; the isolation of the Court by the interdict placed on the visits of feudal nobles to the Capital, even sight-seeing being only permitted to them within certain specified limits, and on condition of applying for permission for this purpose; the isolation of the Kugé, or Court nobility, by the prohibition of marriages and all monetary transactions between them and feudal families; and the reorganization of the official establishment of the Court, so as to bring it more completely under the control of the Shōgunate. Iyéyasu also arranged the betrothal of his granddaughter to the heir-apparent, an alliance not without precedent in the past, and he enforced a stricter supervision over the Imperial Household, the movements of Court ladies, and the daily routine of the palace.

Some idea of the condition of subservience to which the Throne was reduced, and of the arrogant position assumed by the new ruler, may be gathered from a perusal of the “Law of the Court and Shōgunate,” which, taken in conjunction with the “Law of the Imperial Court” and the “Hundred Articles,” throws some light 38on the new order of things. One of the provisions of the law in question transferred from the Court to the Shōgunate the protection of the Throne against evil spirits by abolishing the long-established Riōbu Shintō processions in the Capital, and by formally recognizing the Shintō deity, from whom this protection was supposed to emanate, as the tutelary deity of the Tokugawa family. The Shōgun was thus made responsible for the spiritual guardianship of the Throne, the material protection over which he already exercised in his capacity of supreme military ruler.

Though nothing of the substance of power was left to the Crown, the mere fact that authority was exercised in its name led to much friction in the relations between Kiōto and Yedo, and created an atmosphere of make-believe in which everything moved. The Crown still retained the nominal privilege of conferring the much-coveted Court titles. Its nominal approval was also necessary to the investiture of a new Shōgun, as well as to other important measures of State. It claimed the right, moreover, to be consulted in regard to ceremonial observances of all kinds, to questions of marriage, adoption, abdication and succession. Naturally, therefore, the large number of questions calling for discussion between the Court of the Mikado in the Capital and the Yedo Government gave rise to a voluminous correspondence, the official importance of which, however, was diminished by the presence of the Shōgun’s Resident at Kiōto. In the singular official relations recorded in this correspondence there is evidence of a settled policy on the part of the Shōgunate to divert the attention of the Throne from serious affairs and keep it occupied with the details of complicated ceremonial, and, on the other hand, of constant, though fruitless, attempts on the part of the Court to encroach on what had become the prerogatives of the Shōgun.

One or two instances, taken at random from the history of the Tokugawa period, will illustrate how the dual system of government worked in practice; what little latitude was left to the Throne even in matters which might be regarded as lying within its direct control; and how, whenever friction arose, the Shōgunate invariably had its own way.

The first trial of strength between Kiōto and Yedo occurred soon after Iyéyasu’s death, when his son Hidétada was Shōgun. The trouble arose out of some irregularities which had occurred in the Imperial Household. The Tokugawa administration was still in its 39infancy, and the Court nobles showed a disposition to dispute its authority, some of them being indiscreet enough to speak of the Yedo authorities as being Eastern barbarians. The Shōgun adopted a high-handed attitude. He threatened to break off the match between his daughter and the Emperor, which had already received the Imperial sanction, and he went so far as to intimate that the Emperor might be required to abdicate. His attitude had the desired effect. The Court hastened to admit itself in the wrong, and the affair ended in the banishment of three of the Court nobles.

Another and more serious quarrel occurred not long afterwards in the reign of the same Emperor and during the rule of the third Shōgun, to whom many of the later interpolations in the early Tokugawa laws are generally ascribed. The cause of the dispute was a trivial matter—the promotion by the Emperor, irregularly as the Shōgunate claimed, of certain members of the Buddhist clergy connected with the Court. This time it had a serious ending. The Emperor, mortified by what he regarded as vexatious interference with his authority, resigned the Imperial dignity, being succeeded on the Throne by his daughter, the child of the Tokugawa princess already mentioned.

A third instance, convenient for our purpose, is typical of the complications caused both in the matter of succession to the Throne, and in appointments to the office of Shōgun, by the difficulty of reconciling the custom of adoption with the dictates of filial piety, as laid down in Confucian doctrine. The time was the end of the eighteenth century. There were then a boy-Emperor eight years of age and a boy-Shōgun a few years older. Each had been adopted by his predecessor, who in each case had died shortly afterwards, the young Emperor’s succession to the Throne antedating the appointment of the young Shōgun by some six years. It was necessary to appoint a guardian for the young Shōgun, and some members of the Yedo ministry wished to appoint to this post the father, who belonged to the Hitotsubashi branch of the Tokugawa family. This course received the support of the boy-Shōgun, who, to show his filial respect, desired to instal his father with the title of ex-Shōgun (Taigiōsho) in the palace at Yedo set apart for the Shōgun’s heir. The proposal was resisted by the other Ministers on the ground that it was against precedent and would disturb public morals, in which ceremonial propriety played, as we know, so important a part. In 40the event of the adoptive parent dying in the lifetime of the real father—which in this case actually happened—the latter might, it was said, claim to be received in the former’s place into the adoptive family, a contingency which would lead to inconvenience and confusion. While the dispute was going on matters were complicated by the receipt of a similar request from the boy-Emperor in Kiōto, who desired that his father might be honoured by being given the title of ex-Emperor. There were precedents for the favour requested in the latter instance, and it would probably have been granted had the Government not felt that the concession would weaken their position in regard to the young Shōgun. Both requests were consequently refused; whereupon stormy scenes, we are told, occurred at the Yedo palace, in the course of which the Shōgun drew his sword on one of the offending Councillors, and an angry correspondence continued for two or three years between Kiōto and Yedo. In the end neither request was granted, and the Ministers whose counsel prevailed had at least the satisfaction of feeling that the apprehended danger to public morals had been averted.

Before closing this chapter it may be convenient to dwell for a moment on two points—the terms used to designate the Sovereign in Japan and the titles of daimiōs.

That the impersonality shrouding everything Japanese, to which reference has already been made, should show itself in the terms used to designate the Sovereign is not surprising. Nor is it in any way strange that these should include such expressions as “The Palace,” “The Palace Interior” and “The Household,” for sovereigns are commonly spoken of in this way, the habit having its origin in respect. What is curious is that in the case of a sovereign venerated from the first as a God, and so closely associated with the native faith, the terms by which he is known to his subjects should, with one exception, be borrowed from China, and that this one exception, the name “Mikado,” which means “Honourable Gate,” should be the term least used.

The titles borne by the feudal nobility were of two kinds—territorial titles, and the official titles conferred by the Court. The territorial title of a daimiō consisted originally of the word Kami joined to the name of the province in which his territories lay. The title of a daimiō, therefore, in early days had direct reference to the province in which his fief was situated. In the course of time, however, 41though this territorial title remained in general use, it by no means followed that there was any connection between the particular province mentioned and the territory actually possessed by a daimiō. This change in the significance of the title was due to several causes: to the partition amongst several daimiōs of lands originally held by a single individual, to the removal of a daimiō to another fief, to which he often carried his old title, and to the formation of cadet houses, which sometimes retained the title of the senior branch. The multiplication of similar titles led to much confusion, and in the later days of the Shōgunate, by way of remedying this inconvenience, a daimiō on appointment to the Council of State was obliged to change his title, if it were one already borne by an older member.

The history of the other, or official, titles is this. When the government of the country passed out of the hands of the Kugé or Court nobles, into those of the military class, the official posts previously held by the former were filled by members of the feudal nobility, who accordingly assumed the official titles attached to those posts. In the course of time, as successive changes in the details of administration occurred, the duties of these posts became merely nominal, until at last the titles, some of which had become hereditary, came to be merely honourable distinctions, having no connection with the discharge of official duties. There were in Iyéyasu’s time about sixty of these official titles, which were, nominally, in the gift of the Crown. Until the end of the Shōgunate there was much competition for these titles, which were the cause of constant intrigue between the Imperial Court and the Yedo Government.


Political Conditions—Reopening of Japan to Foreign Intercourse—Conclusion of Treaties—Decay of Shōgunate.

Much space has been given in the preceding chapter to the Tokugawa period of administration. For this no apology is due to the reader. The period in question, held in grateful remembrance by the nation as the Era of Great Peace, is the most important in Japanese history. This importance it owes to its long duration; to the singular character of its government—a centralized and autocratic bureaucracy flavoured with feudalism; to the progress which took place in literature, art and industry; to its being the immediate predecessor of what is known as the Meiji Era—the reign of the late Emperor, which began in 1868; and, consequently, to the fact that the Japanese people, as we see them to-day, are the product of that period more than of any other. Before leaving the subject, therefore, it may perhaps be convenient to explain very briefly what kind of feudal system it was which formed, as it were, the basis of Tokugawa government, for one feature of it still survives.

In his History of the Civilization of Europe, Guizot puts forward on behalf of feudalism the claim that it constitutes an essential stage in the evolution of nations. It certainly played a very noticeable part in the development of Japan, lasting as it did from the close of the twelfth century down to the middle of the nineteenth, a period of more than seven hundred years. The French author and statesman in question, however, might have been surprised had he known that one feature of Japanese feudalism would survive its abolition, and that feature one not known on the continent of Europe.

Though in its general character Japanese feudalism resembled the feudal systems prevailing at various times in the continental countries 43of Europe, in one respect—the position of the population inhabiting the fiefs—it came closer to the clan type of Scottish feudalism; with this important distinction, however, that, whereas the Scottish clan was a family, or tribal, organization, the basis of the Japanese clan was purely territorial, the clansmen being held together by no family link. The Japanese word Han (borrowed from China), the usual English rendering of which is “clan,” does not, in its feudal sense, refer to the territory included in a fief, but to the people inhabiting it. In unsettled times, which were the rule and not the exception before the middle of the sixteenth century, the map of feudal Japan was constantly changing. The area of a fief expanded, or contracted, according to the military fortunes of the daimiō concerned; and at times both fief and feudal owner disappeared altogether. Nor in the alterations thus occurring from time to time in the feudal map was any consideration paid to natural boundaries. A daimiō’s fief, or, in other words, the territories of a clan, might consist of the whole or only part of a province, of portions of two or three provinces, or even of several whole provinces, as in the case of the founder of the Tokugawa line of Shōguns, and, at one time, of Mōri, “the lord of ten provinces.” In earlier days the word “clan” (Han) was not much used, the personality of the daimiō of the fief being the chief consideration. As conditions became more settled, however, under the peaceful sway of the Tokugawa Shōguns, the boundaries of fiefs became more fixed and permanent. As a result, too, of these unwarlike conditions, and of the spread to feudal circles of the corrupt and effeminate atmosphere of the Imperial Court, the personality of a daimiō counted for less, while the term “clan” gradually came to be more commonly employed to express the idea of a distinct feudal community, united solely by territorial associations. These acted as provincial ties do everywhere, but where feudal and provincial boundaries were the same, the tie uniting the population of a fief was naturally stronger than elsewhere. Some idea of what the clan really was in Japan is necessary in order to understand how it was that clan spirit should have survived when feudalism died, and how it is that Japan to-day, more than half a century after its abolition, should be ruled by what the Japanese themselves speak of as a clan government (Hambatsu Séifu).

44We now come to a new chapter in the history of Japan—the reopening of the country to foreign intercourse. At the close of the drama which ended in the expulsion, or death, of all missionaries and their converts the Dutch and Chinese were, as we have seen, the only foreigners allowed to trade with Japan, the reason being that neither, so far as the Japanese could judge, had any connection with Christianity, or missionaries. This was about the middle of the seventeenth century. Things remained in this state until the beginning of the nineteenth, by which time the commerce carried on by the traders of the two favoured nationalities had dwindled to very small proportions. During the last fifty years of this trade changes full of meaning for Japan, for the continent of Asia and for the world at large were taking place. Russia was extending her sphere of activity in Siberia, and threatening to become an intrusive neighbour in Saghalin and the Kuriles. American whalers had discovered a profitable field of enterprise in the Sea of Okhotsk, while, further south, landing parties from these vessels were making use of the Bonin islands to obtain water and fresh provisions. The development of America’s seaboard on the Pacific had led to the opening of a new trade route with the mainland of Asia, for which the Japanese islands offered convenient ports of call. And, finally, the governments of Great Britain and France were busily engaged in demolishing the barriers of conservative prejudice behind which China had for so long entrenched herself. These changes, due partly to the introduction of steam navigation, caused a sudden and rapidly growing increase in the visits of foreign vessels to Japan. The trend of affairs was perceived by the Dutch, who warned the Japanese authorities that the moment was approaching when the policy of isolation could no longer be pursued without danger to the country. It needed little to arouse Japanese apprehensions. A system of coast defence was at once organized. The Bay of Yedo, and its vicinity, the inland sea, and the harbours in Kiūshiū, including the immediate neighbourhood of Nagasaki, were places to which special attention was given. It is clear from the experience of foreign ships which accident or enterprise carried into Japanese waters, from the detailed instructions issued periodically from Yedo, and from the reports of movements of foreign vessels received by the authorities, that there was no lack of vigilance in the working of the system. Yet it was singularly ineffective; a result, under the circumstances, not surprising, since the 45policy of the Yedo Government varied according to the degree of apprehension existing at the moment in official circles, and there was a general desire to evade responsibility.

Three reasons inspired these visits of foreign vessels: the need of provisions, looking for shipwrecked crews, or repatriating shipwrecked Japanese, and a desire to engage in trade, or to establish friendly relations which would lead to that result. In no case was the reception accorded encouraging, though a clear discrimination was exercised between merchant vessels and warships. To the former scant mercy was shown; but warships were treated with more respect. They were towed into and out of harbour free of charge, and were supplied with provisions for which no money was accepted.

America was the country most interested at that time in the opening of Japan to foreign intercourse on account of the operations of her whalers in the Pacific and her trade route to China. The United States Government, therefore, decided to take the initiative in endeavouring to put an end to the Japanese policy of isolation. Accordingly, in the year 1845, Commodore Biddle arrived in Yedo with two men-of-war for the purpose of establishing trade relations between the two countries. He failed, however, to induce the Japanese Government to enter into any negotiations on the subject. Seven years later the matter was again taken up by the Government at Washington, Commodore Perry receiving orders to proceed to Japan on a mission to arrange for the more humane treatment of American sailors shipwrecked on the coasts of Japan; to obtain the opening of one or more harbours as ports of call for American vessels and the establishment of a coal depôt; and to secure permission for trade at such ports as might be opened. No secrecy surrounded the intentions of the United States. They were known in Europe as well as in America, as Macfarlane, writing in 1852, mentions, and the Dutch promptly told the Japanese.

On July 8th, 1853, Perry arrived in the harbour of Uraga, a small cove in the Bay of Yedo, some thirty miles from the present capital. His instructions were to obtain the facilities desired by persuasion, if possible, but, if necessary, by force. He succeeded after some difficulty in prevailing upon the Japanese authorities to receive the President’s letter at a formal interview on shore. At the same time he presented a letter from himself demanding more humane treatment for shipwrecked sailors, and pointed out the folly of persistence 46in the policy of seclusion. He would return next spring, he added, with more ships to receive the answer to the President’s letter.

With Perry’s arrival the Shōgun figures under a new title, that of Tycoon (Taikun), or Great Lord, a term first used in correspondence with Korea in order to conceal the fact that the Shōgun was not the sovereign of Japan. This was the word chosen to designate the Shōgun in the earlier treaties concluded with foreign Powers, and is the name by which he was commonly known to foreigners until the Restoration put an end to the government he represented.

On Perry’s return in the following year, 1854, he insisted on anchoring further up the Bay of Yedo, off what was then the post town and afterwards the open port of Kanagawa. It was at a village close to this spot, now known as the town of Yokohama, that on the 31st March he signed the Treaty opening the ports of Shimoda (in Cape Idzu) and Hakodaté (in Yezo) to American vessels—the former at once, the latter at the end of a year. This Treaty, which was ratified in the following year, was the first step in the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse.

Perry’s Treaty was succeeded by similar arrangements with other Powers—with the British in October of the same year (1854), and in the year following with the Russians and Dutch.

The Dutch benefited greatly by the new direction given to foreign relations. By the provisional arrangement made in 1855 most of the humiliating restrictions accompanying the privilege of trade were removed; and two years later they were allowed “to practise their own or the Christian religion,” a provision which seems to suggest that the Japanese idea as to their not being Christians was inspired by the Dutch. The orders, moreover, with regard to trampling on Christian emblems were also at the same time rescinded. There was still some difference between their position and that of other foreigners. This, however, only lasted a year or two. With the operation of the later more elaborate treaties the nation which had prided itself on its exclusive trading privileges with Japan was glad to come in on the same footing as other Western Powers.

None of the arrangements above described were regular commercial treaties. The first, concluded with America, was simply an agreement for the granting of certain limited facilities for navigation and trade, the latter being a secondary consideration. The object of the British Treaty, made by Admiral Stirling during the 47Crimean war, was to assist operations against Russia in Siberian waters. The Russians, for their part, merely wished for political reasons to gain a footing in Japan; while the Dutch were chiefly anxious to escape from the undignified position they occupied.

It was not until 1858 that regular commercial treaties were concluded. Perry’s Treaty had stipulated for the appointment of an American Consul-General to reside at Shimoda. Mr. Townsend Harris was selected for the post. His arrival was unwelcome to the Japanese, who had not expected the enforcement of the stipulation. They accordingly boycotted him. He could get no trustworthy information. If he asked for anything, it was withheld as being “contrary to the honourable country’s law”; and his letters were not answered because “it was not customary to reply to the letters of foreigners.” Harris, nevertheless, persevered in spite of Japanese obstruction with his task of developing American relations with Japan. In June, 1857, he was able to report the signature of a convention which extended considerably the facilities conceded to Perry; in the autumn of the same year he was received in audience by the Shōgun as the first duly accredited representative of a Western Power; by the following February negotiations for the new Treaty were practically completed; and in July of that year (1858) the Treaty was signed in Yedo Bay on board an American man-of-war.

The delay of five months was caused by the Shōgunate’s decision to refer the Treaty before signature to Kiōto for the approval of the Throne. This reference was not necessary. The right of the Shōgun to act independently in such matters had been recorded in the “Hundred Articles,” and long custom had confirmed the rule thus recorded. But in the embarrassment and trepidation caused by Perry’s unexpected visit, and still less expected demands, the Shōgunate had departed from this rule, and revived the obsolete formality of Imperial sanction, extending at the same time its application. The Court refused its consent to the proposed Treaty, but in spite of this refusal the Japanese negotiators signed it; the Shōgun’s ministers being influenced by the news of the termination of the war in China, and the impending arrival of British and French ambassadors, as well as by the representations of the American negotiator.

Treaties with Great Britain, with Holland, with Russia, and with 48France followed in rapid succession, the first three being signed in August, the last-named in October. All four reproduced more or less closely the substance of the American convention. The choice of open ports in Perry’s Treaty—due to solicitude for American whalers, and considerations connected with America’s new trade route to China—had in the interests of general commerce been unfortunate. This defect was remedied in the new treaties by provisions for the opening of additional ports. A tariff and a system of tonnage dues were also established. In other respects the new treaties merely confirmed, or amplified, the provisions of earlier arrangements. They were useful, however, as the forerunners of a whole series of practically uniform agreements, which simplified Japan’s position, while enlarging the scope of foreign relations. One of the last to be concluded was the Austro-Hungarian Treaty of 1869, the English version of which was made the “original,” or authoritative, text. By virtue of the most-favoured-nation clause, which figured in all these conventions, it was this instrument which governed the relations of Japan with Treaty Powers, until the new revised treaties came into force in 1899. When the Japanese people became aware that the character of these treaties was different from those made by Western governments with each other, an early opportunity was taken to protest against the provisions conceding ex-territoriality and fixing a low customs tariff, and against the obstacle to revision presented by the absence in the agreements of any fixed period of duration. The irritation thus caused led later on to an agitation for treaty revision, which did much to embitter Japanese feeling towards foreigners. The complaint was not unnatural, but in making it there was a tendency to overlook the fact that the position of foreigners in Japan under these treaties was also very different from their position under other treaties elsewhere. The residential and commercial rights of the foreigner in Japan applied only to the “open ports,” while his right of travel, except by special permission, not readily granted, did not extend beyond a narrow area at the same ports known as “treaty limits.” The rest of the country remained closed. This limitation of facilities for commercial intercourse was, moreover, accentuated by the fact that the choice of “open” or “treaty ports” was not, as has been pointed out, the best that could have been made. Compelled against their will to consent to foreign intercourse, it was only to 49be expected that the Japanese should seek to render the concession worthless by selecting harbours neither suitable nor safe for shipping, and places far from markets, and that a similar spirit should dictate the choice of sites for foreign settlements. That the early negotiators who represented Japan were handicapped by ignorance of the principles regulating international relations is undeniable. But the injustice, as they considered it, of the conditions against which protest was made was really a blessing in disguise; for, on the admission of the Japanese themselves, it served as a powerful stimulus to progress on the lines of Western civilization.

In the course of five years from the date of Perry’s Treaty no less than thirteen elaborate agreements, besides other arrangements of a less formal character, had been concluded by Japan. So rapid an extension of foreign intercourse might seem to point to a subsidence of anti-foreign feeling, and a decrease of opposition to the establishment of friendly relations with foreign countries. Such, however, was not the case. The negotiations of these various covenants were carried on in the face of growing anti-foreign clamour, and in the midst of political confusion and agitation,—the precursors of a movement which was to end in the collapse of Tokugawa government.

In order that the subsequent course of events may be understood, some reference, however brief, to the political situation which existed at this time is necessary. It will be seen what complications—quite apart from the embarrassments arising out of the reopening of foreign intercourse—were caused by the inconsequence and ambition of the Court, the weakness of the Shōgunate, and the jealousies of rival statesmen. Some idea may also thus be formed of the ignorance of foreign matters which then prevailed, except in a few official quarters, and of the clumsy timidity of a policy which consisted chiefly of shutting the eyes to facts patent to everyone.

Ever since the establishment of Tokugawa rule there had been a party at the Kiōto Court, consisting of Court nobles, which championed the pretensions of the Throne, mourned over its lost glories, conducted its intrigues, and felt a common resentment against what in its eyes was an administration of usurpers. The fatal mistake of the Shōgunate in referring to Kiōto Perry’s demands for the reopening of foreign intercourse on new and strange conditions—a matter which, in accordance with established precedent, was within its own 50competency—gave an opportunity to this party to revive the long obsolete pretensions of the Court. The opportunity was at once seized. The party had at this time powerful adherents. Amongst them the chief figure was the ex-Prince of Mito. Early in the previous century his grandfather, the second of his line, had founded a school of literature and politics, which espoused the Imperial cause, and encouraged the native religion and language in opposition to what was borrowed from China,—a profession of principles which sat curiously on a leading member of the Tokugawa House. Holding the same views himself, the ex-Prince had been forced to abdicate some years before in favour of his eldest son for having destroyed the Buddhist temples in his fief, and made their bells into cannon, for the alleged purpose of repelling a foreign invasion. With the ex-Prince were ranged the Tokugawa Prince of Owari and the influential daimiōs of Chōshiū, Échizen, Tosa and Uwajima, whilst a large measure of sympathy with Imperial aims existed among the prominent clans of the south and west. The anti-Shōgunate movement also derived help from the turbulent class of clanless samurai, known as rōnin, which at this time was rapidly increasing in numbers owing to economic distress in feudal territories, and the growing weakness of the Shōgunate. The latter’s supporters, on the other hand, were mostly to be found in the centre, the north and the east, all of which were old Tokugawa strongholds. Its chief strength, however, lay in its being beatus possidens,—having, that is to say, the command of State resources, and being in a position to speak for the Throne; and in the fact that Tokugawa government, by its long duration and the completeness of its bureaucratic organization, had taken so firm a hold of the country, that whatever sympathy might possibly be evoked on behalf of revived Imperial pretensions might not unreasonably be expected to fall short of material support.

One other advantage the Shōgunate possessed was the presence in the Government of a minister of distinguished ancestry, and of great ability and courage, combined with, what was rare in those days, independence of character. This was the famous Ïi Kamon no Kami, generally known as the Tairō, or Regent, whose castle-town, Hikoné, near Kiōto, overlooked Lake Biwa. The early associations of his family made him a staunch upholder of Tokugawa rule. He quickly became the leading spirit of the Ministry, and the liberal views he apparently held on the subject of treaty-making and foreign 51intercourse brought him at once into collision with the boldest and most uncompromising member of the Court party—the ex-Prince of Mito. The disagreement between them first showed itself in the advice called for by the Throne from the Council of State and the leading feudal nobles on the question of the signature of the American Treaty of 1858. In the controversy which arose on this point they figured as the chief protagonists. The policy of the Court in 1853 had been non-committal. In 1855 it had formally approved of the treaties, the Shōgun’s resident at Kiōto reporting that “the Imperial mind was now at ease.” Nevertheless, in spite of this approval, and notwithstanding the signature of fresh treaties, the crusade of the Court party against foreign intercourse went on unabated. On the present occasion the ex-Prince of Mito argued strongly against the Treaty, while the Council of State, adopting the views of Ïi Kamon no Kami, who was not yet Regent, recommended the signature of the Treaty as being the proper course to follow. But the question which provoked the keenest rivalry and the bitterest antagonism between the two statesmen concerned the succession to the Shōgunate.

The Shōgun Iyésada, appointed in 1853, was childless, and, in accordance with custom in such cases, it was incumbent on him to choose and adopt a successor. The ex-Prince of Mito wished the choice to fall on one of his younger sons, Kéiki, then fifteen years of age, who having been adopted into the Hitotsubashi family, was eligible for the appointment. But the new Shōgun was only twenty-nine, and in no hurry to choose a successor from another family. His relations, moreover, with the ex-Prince of Mito were not cordial; and there were other objections. If he were constrained to adopt a successor, his own choice would, it was known, fall on a nearer kinsman, the young Prince of Kishiū, a boy of ten. The heir preferred by the Shōgun was also the choice of Ïi. The parties supporting the rival candidates were not unequally matched. Though the weight of clan influence was on the side of Kéiki, fated a few years later to be the last of the Tokugawa Shōguns, a section of the Court nobles joined with the Council of State in favouring the candidature of the young Kishiū prince, behind whom stood also the Shōgun.

The two questions in dispute were thus quite distinct, the one being a matter of foreign, the other of domestic policy. But the two protagonists in each being the same, it looked as if the side that was successful in one issue would gain the day in both. And this in 52fact is what happened. In June, 1858, in the interval between the second and third missions to Kiōto in connection with the signature of the American Treaty, Ïi became Regent—an appointment tenable in times of emergency as well as during a Shōgun’s minority. The end of the conflict, which had lasted nearly five years, was then in sight. In July, as already stated, the American Treaty was signed. Before another week had elapsed the young Kishiū prince was proclaimed heir to the Shōgunate. Ten days later the Shōgun Iyésada died.


Anti-Foreign Feeling—Chōshiū Rebellion—Mikado’s Ratification of Treaties—Prince Kéiki—Restoration Movement—Civil War—Fall of Shōgunate.

The signature of the Treaty was loudly condemned by the Court party, the ex-Prince of Mito being conspicuous amongst those who protested. He addressed a violently worded remonstrance to the Council of State, impugning the action of the Government, which was accused of disrespect to the Throne, and disobedience to the Imperial commands. The Regent retorted by striking at once at his enemies with all the force of his newly acquired position, and the prestige of his success in the matter of the succession. The ex-Prince of Mito and the Prince of Owari were confined to their yashikis (a term applied to the feudal residences occupied by daimiōs during their period of service in Yedo); while the latter, together with the daimiōs of Échizen, Tosa and Uwajima, was forced to abdicate. And when the Court, growing uneasy at this sudden reassertion of authority on the part of the Shōgunate, summoned the Regent, or one of the Gosanké, to Kiōto to report on the situation, a reply was sent to the effect that the Regent was detained by State affairs, and that the ex-Prince of Mito and the Prince of Owari were confined to their clan yashikis. A mission, however—the third in succession—proceeded to Kiōto from Yedo. This submitted a report on the subject of the Treaty, which explained the reasons for its signature in advance of Imperial sanction as being the arrival of more Russian and American ships; the defeat of China by the English and French; the news that these two countries were sending to Japan special envoys instructed to carry matters with a high hand; and the advice to sign at once given by the American minister. The Court’s eventual pronouncement in favour of the Treaty displayed in a striking manner the perverseness and inconsequence which characterized Japanese official procedure 54at that time. The decree conveying the Imperial approval expressed the satisfaction with which the Throne had received the assurance that the Shōgun, the Regent and the Council of State, were all in favour of keeping foreigners at a distance; and urged on the attention of the Shōgun “the Throne’s deep concern in regard to the sea in the neighbourhood of the Imperial shrines and Kiōto, as well as the safety of the Imperial insignia,” which, put into plainer language, meant that no port should be opened near Isé, or the capital. Two suggestions have been made on good authority regarding this decree: (1) that the Shōgun’s agents in Kiōto were directed to accept anything which established the fact of an understanding with the Court having been effected; and (2) that the agents in question succeeded in persuading the Court that, though the signature of this particular Treaty was unavoidable, the Yedo Government was not really in favour of foreign intercourse. Both suggestions are probably correct. In any case the Court’s action in ignoring the Throne’s previous approval of earlier treaties was calculated to stiffen opposition to the Shōgun’s diplomacy, and was thus doubtless responsible for some of the subsequent difficulties attending foreign intercourse, notably in connection with the opening of the port of Hiogo, which, with the consent of the Treaty Powers, was postponed until January, 1868.

As showing how meaningless the Imperial approval, in reality, was it may be well to note that the English text of the Treaty in question provided for the exchange of ratifications at Washington on or before the 4th July, 1859, failing which, however, the Treaty was, nevertheless, to come into force on the date in question. The Treaty went into operation on the date fixed, but the exchange of ratifications did not take place until 1860. The ratification on the part of Japan is described as the verification of “the name and seal of His Majesty the Tycoon.”

Hostility to foreigners at this time, however, was a feeling common to most Japanese, even Shōgunate officials being no exception to the rule. Writers on Japan mention as one cause which served to increase this feeling the drain of gold from Japan, which began as early as the operations of the first Portuguese traders. Another—adduced by the Japanese Government itself—was the great rise in prices which followed upon the opening of Treaty ports. Sir Rutherford Alcock, in the Capital of the Tycoon, adds a third—the 55memory of the troubles connected with the Christian persecution in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and of the serious alarm then entertained by the Japanese authorities at the undisguised pretensions of the Pope. The understanding regarding the Treaty question arrived at by the Regent with the Court did little to check the growth of anti-foreign feeling, for the Court continued its intrigues as before, and the Regent’s death, in the spring of 1860 at the hands of assassins instigated by the ex-Prince of Mito, provided a further opportunity. The effects of the fierce anti-foreign crusade upon which it then embarked were seen in the murder of the Secretary of the American Legation, in the successive attacks made on the British Legation, and in other violent acts by which foreigners were not the only sufferers. Yielding to the pressure of public opinion, the Government itself became almost openly hostile. Placed in this difficult position, the representatives of the Treaty Powers found both dignity and safety compromised. What, they might well ask, was to be gained by protests to the Japanese authorities in regard to acts with which the latter’s sympathy was barely concealed, of which they not infrequently gave warning themselves, but against which they were unable, or unwilling, to afford protection? Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the representatives of Great Britain, France, Germany and Holland should in 1862 have retired temporarily from the capital to Yokohama—an example not followed by the American representative; nor that the British Legation on its return, at the Japanese Government’s request, four weeks later, should have been immediately attacked in spite of a formal guarantee of protection. In respect of this attack, in the course of which two sentries were murdered, an indemnity was afterwards paid. Matters were further aggravated by the murder in September of the same year (1862) of Mr. Richardson, a British subject, on the high road near Yokohama by the bodyguard of a Satsuma noble, Shimadzu Saburō, who was on his way back to Kiōto from the Shōgun’s Court in Yedo. A formal apology for this outrage was demanded by the British, together with the payment of an indemnity.

The growing power of the Court and the anti-foreign party, for the two were one, showed itself also in its behaviour to the Shōgunate after the Regent’s death.

The adherents of the ex-Prince of Mito—who survived his adversary 56by only a few months—held up their heads again, while the late Regent’s friends were, in their turn, dismissed from office, fined, imprisoned or banished. Nor did the Shōgun’s marriage to the Mikado’s sister in the spring of 1862 materially improve the relations between Kiōto and Yedo, or moderate the high-handed attitude of the Court. In the summer of the same year the Shōgun was peremptorily summoned to Kiōto, which had not seen a Shōgun for two hundred and fifty years, to confer with the Court regarding the expulsion of foreigners; Prince Kéiki, the unsuccessful candidate for the office of Shōgun in 1858, was made Regent, and appointed guardian to his rival on that occasion, the young Shōgun Iyémochi, in the place of a nearer and older relative; while the ex-Prince of Échizen, one of the late Regent’s enemies, was made President of the Council of State. That nothing should be wanting to indicate its displeasure at the position taken up by the Shōgunate in regard to foreign affairs, the Court went so far as to order the Shōgun’s consort, who in accordance with custom had, on her marriage, assumed the title usual in those circumstances, to revert to her previous designation of princess. Other signs of the times, showing not only the anti-foreign spirit of the Court, but its determination to strike at the root of Tokugawa authority, could be noted in such incidents as the relaxation of the conditions of the residence of feudal nobles in Yedo, and the release of the hostages formerly exacted for their good conduct whilst in their fiefs; the solemn fixing at a Council of princes, attended by the Shōgun and his guardians, of a date for the cessation of all foreign intercourse; the revival of the State processions of the Mikado to shrines, which had been discontinued at the beginning of the Tokugawa rule; and the residence for long periods at Kiōto of feudal nobles, in defiance of the Tokugawa regulation which forbade them even to visit the Capital without permission—a step which showed that they were not afraid of its being known that they sided openly with the Court against the Shōgunate. The same spirit accounted for the attempt to associate the Shōgun and his Regent-guardian with the taking of a religious oath to expel foreigners, and, finally, for the fact that while so much that was incompatible with friendly relations with Treaty Powers was taking place, a mission sent to those very powers was engaged in persuading them to consent to the postponement for five years of the dates fixed for the opening of certain ports and 57places to foreign trade and residence. This consent was given, and was recorded, in so far as Great Britain was concerned, in the London Protocol of June 6th, 1862.

The communication to the foreign representatives of the decision to close the country duly took place on the 24th June, as arranged. But nothing came of it. The foreign governments refused to take the matter seriously, merely intimating that steps would be taken to protect foreign interests, and five months later the Shōgunate asked for the return of the Note.

Sir Rutherford Alcock in the course of a lengthy review of the situation, in which he seems to have foreseen clearly that the reopening of the country would eventually lead to civil war, came, though unwillingly, to the conclusion that foreign governments, if they wished to ensure the observance of the treaties, must be prepared to use force, and make reprisals; in fact, that opposition to foreign intercourse would not cease until the nation should, by drastic measures, have been persuaded of the ability of foreign Powers to make their Treaty rights respected. The effect of the reprisals made by the British Government in the Richardson case, in the course of which the town of Kagoshima was bombarded, and partly destroyed, besides the exaction of an indemnity, went some way to prove the correctness of this view. Its truth was further demonstrated when a second and graver incident occurred. This was the firing upon foreign vessels in the Straits of Shimonoséki by Chōshiū forts on June 24th, 1863. The date on which the outrage occurred was that fixed at the Council of feudal nobles, attended by the Shōgun and the Regent, his guardian, in Kiōto for the opening of negotiations with the foreign representatives for the closing of the country. It was also that on which, in accordance with the decision then taken, a communication had been made to them by the Council of State. The coincidence of dates gave a more serious aspect to the affair, though the complicity of the Shōgunate was never whole-hearted. In this case, also, it became necessary to take the drastic measures which to the British Minister in question had seemed to be inevitable sooner or later. Neither the first reprisals, however, instituted at once by the French and American naval authorities, nor the lengthy negotiations with the Japanese Government which followed, were of any effect in obtaining redress. For more than a year the straits remained closed to navigation. Eventually 58joint operations against the hostile forts conducted in August, 1864, by a combined squadron of the four Powers immediately concerned, accomplished the desired result. The forts were attacked and destroyed, an undertaking that they should be left in a dismantled condition was extorted, and an indemnity of $3,000,000 exacted. The lessons thus administered lost none of their force from the fact that the clans punished were the two most powerful, and those in which hostility to foreigners was perhaps most openly displayed. Both this and the Kagoshima indemnity were paid by the Yedo Government, and not by the offending clans. Were further proof needed of the strange condition of affairs at this time in Japan it is supplied by the fact that in both cases the drastic measures taken resulted in the establishment of quite amicable relations with the clans in question. This unlooked-for result points to the existence, both in the nation at large, and in individual clans, of a small minority which did not share the prevailing hostility to foreigners.

Towards the end of 1863 the British and French Governments came to the conclusion that the unsettled state of things in Japan, and the anti-foreign feeling, which showed no signs of decreasing, made it advisable to station troops in Yokohama for the protection of foreign interests. Accordingly contingents of British and French troops were landed, and established in quarters on shore, by arrangement with the Japanese authorities. Their presence served admirably the purpose intended; no collision or friction occurred between these garrisons and the Japanese, and in 1875, when their presence was no longer needed, they were withdrawn.

The Shōgun had been very reluctant to comply with the Imperial summons to Kiōto. His ministers had endeavoured to arrange for the visit to be limited to ten days. Once there, however, he was detained on various pretexts until June in the following year, by which time the Court had already embarked on its anti-foreign policy, and the Shimonoséki incident had occurred. His return to Yedo was the signal for the outbreak of further bickering between the Court and the Shōgunate, which revealed the same disposition on both sides to shut the eyes to facts, and change position with startling inconsistency. Ignoring its recent co-operation with the Imperial Court and feudal nobles in the anti-foreign policy initiated at the Capital, the fixing of a date for the expulsion of the foreigner, and the communication of its decision to the foreign representatives, 59the Shōgunate presented a memorial to the Throne pointing out how unfavourable was the present moment for pushing matters to extremity in the matter of foreign intercourse. The Court, for its part, while testifying its pleasure at the revival of the ancient practice of visits to the Capital, rebuked the Shōgun for not keeping the Throne more fully informed of his movements, for having gone back to Yedo in a steamer, and for his unsatisfactory behaviour in regard to foreign relations. Further indications of the general confusion of ideas and vacillation of purpose which characterized the proceedings of persons in authority appear in the expulsion of Chōshiū clansmen from Kiōto as a mark of the Court’s strong disapproval of the action of the Chōshiū clan in the Shimonoséki affair, as well as in the startling pronouncement made by the Échizen clan—whose chief’s enforced abdication has already been mentioned—in favour of foreign intercourse, and of the “new Christian religion,” and condemning alike both the policy pursued by the Court, and that of the Shōgunate.

That a definite rupture of foreign relations did not take place at this juncture was due to the promptness of the Shōgunate to repudiate its own acts and to the patience and good-humour of foreign governments; possibly also to the division of opinion in the country itself, where the centre of authority was beginning to shift, though the process was still incomplete. In its place there occurred the first threatenings, the beginnings, in fact, of the civil war which an attentive observer had prophesied. Conscious of the Government’s weakness, while piqued by the Court’s inconsistency, the Chōshiū clan brought matters to an issue in the summer of 1864 by making a sudden raid on Kiōto with the object of abducting the Mikado and raising the Imperial standard. The attempt was defeated; nor did the clan fare better in its efforts to repel the invasion of its territory by the Government forces. The resistance offered was soon overcome. Early in the following year (1865) the rebellion was suppressed, the severity of the terms imposed on the clan exciting widespread dissatisfaction. When, shortly afterwards, the same clan again rebelled, owing, it is said, to the excessive character of the punishment imposed, it was perceived that the success of the Tokugawa troops on the previous occasion was due, not to the Shōgunate’s military strength, but to the co-operation of other clans—notably that of Satsuma—in the punitive measures directed against the rebels. 60On this latter occasion the support of the other clans was withheld, with the result that the second campaign, though conducted under the eye of the Shōgun, who made Kiōto his headquarters for the purpose, was a complete failure. By the end of the year 1866 a compromise, designed to save the faces of both parties, had been effected. Hostilities then ceased. In the course of the negotiations by which this conclusion was reached the weakness of the Shōgunate was still further exposed. The prominent part taken by rōnin, both in the raid on the Capital and in the subsequent proceedings of the clan, as well as the incapacity of the feudal prince and his son, came also to light, together with the fact that the affairs of the fief were controlled by clan retainers, who were divided into two mutually hostile factions, each of which in turn gained the ascendancy.

The ignominy of defeat at the hands of a rebellious clan, added to a bankrupt exchequer, not to speak of the acceptance of a compromise which in itself was a confession of impotence, hastened the crumbling away of what was left of Tokugawa prestige. Fresh energy, at the same time, was instilled into the Court party. The situation became increasingly troubled and confused. While the Imperialists, as they now came to be called, clamoured more loudly than ever for the expulsion of foreigners, the ministers of the young Shōgun—soon to be succeeded very unwillingly by his cousin and guardian, the regent Prince Kéiki—busied themselves with explanations to the Court on the subject of the treaties, and to the foreign representatives on the political situation and the bearing of the Court.

In the meantime, in the summer of 1865, while the Chōshiū imbroglio was at its height, Sir Harry Parkes had arrived in Japan as British Minister. Soon after his arrival his attention had been drawn to the anomalous position of the Shōgun (or Tycoon), who was not the Sovereign of Japan, as described in the treaties, to the difficult situation created by the revival of Imperial pretensions, and to the encouragement afforded to the anti-foreign party by the fact that the Mikado had not yet given his formal sanction to the treaties of 1858, though they had been ratified by the Shōgun’s Government. The foreign representatives, who had already received instructions from their Governments to ask for a modification of the tariff of import and export duties annexed to the treaties of 1858, decided to press both questions together and, at the same time, to communicate to the Shōgunate, on behalf of their Governments, an offer 61to remit two-thirds of the Shimonoséki indemnity in return for (1) the immediate opening of the port of Hiogo and the city of Ōsaka, and (2) the revision of the Customs tariff on a basis of 5 per cent ad valorem. Accordingly, in November, 1865, a combined squadron visited Ōsaka for that purpose.

Reference has already been made to the constant anxiety of the Court to keep foreigners away from the neighbourhood of the Capital. The sensation created, therefore, by the appearance of foreign ships of war in the Bay of Ōsaka can readily be imagined. It was a repetition of what had occurred when Perry came. The action taken by the Court was the same. The demands of the foreign representatives were referred, as in Perry’s case, to a council of feudal nobles. These having concurred in the view already put forward by the Shōgun, and strengthened by his offer to resign, should this be desired, the Court intimated its intention to accept the advice. When, however, the necessary decree was issued, it was found to contain a clause making the sanction dependent on the alteration of certain points in the treaties which did not harmonize with the Imperial views, and insisting on the abandonment of the stipulation for the opening of Hiogo. The decree was duly communicated to the foreign representatives. But the Shōgunate in doing so, baffled it may be by the task of endeavouring to reconcile Imperial instructions with the fulfilment of Treaty obligations, or using, perhaps unconsciously, the disingenuous methods of the time, concealed the clause which robbed the sanction of much of its force. The treaties were sanctioned, it explained, but the question of the port of Hiogo could not be discussed for the moment. As for the tariff, instructions would be sent to Yedo to negotiate the amendment desired. This omission on the part of the Shōgunate to represent things as they really were misled foreign governments, and caused serious misunderstanding in the sequel.

The promise regarding the tariff was duly kept. It was fulfilled in the following year (1866) by the signature in Yedo of the Tariff Convention. A point to be noted in this instrument is the declaration regarding the right of individual Japanese merchants, and of daimiōs and persons in their employ, to trade at the Treaty Ports and go abroad, and trade there, without being subject to any hindrances, or undue fiscal restrictions, on the part of the Japanese Government or its officials. Its insertion was due to the determination of foreign 62governments to put an end to official interference with trade—a relic of the past, when all foreign commerce was controlled by the Shōgunate—and to their wish, in view of the reactionary measures threatened by the Court, to place on record their resolve to maintain the new order of things established by the treaties. Owing to the Shōgunate’s monopoly of foreign trade, which was what its control had virtually amounted to, the profits of commerce had swelled the coffers of the Government to the detriment of clan exchequers—a feudal grievance which was not the least of the causes responsible for hostility to the Yedo Government, and, indirectly, for anti-foreign feeling.

The course of affairs during the fifteen years which followed the conclusion of Perry’s Treaty has been described with some minuteness. This has been necessary owing to the complex character of the political situation, both foreign and domestic, during this time, and also because an acquaintance with certain details is essential to the comprehension of subsequent events. One of the features of the struggle between the Court and Shōgunate, to which attention has been called, was the gradual movement of several of the leading clans to the side of the Court. The stay of the chiefs of these clans in Kiōto, in defiance of Tokugawa regulations, led to the gradual loosening of the ties which bound the territorial nobility to Yedo, and to the shifting of the centre of action to the Capital, where the final scene of the drama was to be enacted.

At the end of the year 1866 both the Shōgun and his guardian, Prince Kéiki, were in Kiōto. There the Emperor Kōmei died early in the ensuing spring, his death being followed within a few days by that of the young Shōgun. The Emperor Mutsuhito, who was only fifteen years of age, succeeded to the Throne, and Prince Kéiki became Shōgun much against his will. Far from inheriting the forceful character of his father, the ex-Prince of Mito, the new Shōgun was of a retiring disposition. Though possessed of great intelligence and no small literary ability, he had a distaste for public affairs. Well aware of the difficulties of the time, and of the trend of tendencies unfavourable to the continuance of dual government, he was reluctant to undertake the responsibilities of the high office to which he was appointed. Not improbably, too, he may have inherited some portion at least of his father’s political doctrines. When, therefore, in October of that year (1867) the ex-daimiō of 63Tosa (whose abdication had been enforced eight years before by the Regent Ïi) presented a memorial to the Government, advising “the restoration of the ancient form of direct Imperial government,” the Shōgun took the advice tendered, and resigned. His decision was communicated in writing by the Council of State to the foreign representatives. In this document, which explains briefly the origin of feudal duarchy and of Tokugawa rule, the Shōgun dwells on the inconvenience attending the conduct of foreign relations under a system of dual government involving the existence of what were virtually two Courts, and announces his decision to restore the direct rule of the Mikado; adding, however, the assurance that the change will not disturb the harmonious relations of Japan with foreign countries. The statement also, it should be noted, contains an explicit declaration of the liberal views of the retiring ruler, who does not hesitate to express his conviction that the moment has come to make a new departure in national policy, and introduce constitutional changes of a progressive character.

Very possibly the retirement of the Shōgun might have been arranged in a peaceable manner, for his views were no secret to his supporters, though few shared them. Unfortunately, the Court, acting under the influence of leading clans hostile to the Yedo Government, and bent on a rupture, suddenly issued a decree abolishing the office of Shōgun, and making a change in the guardianship of the palace, which was transferred from Tokugawa hands to those of the opposition. This decree was followed by others proclaiming the restoration of direct Imperial rule; establishing a provisional government of Court nobles, daimiōs and the latter’s retainers; remitting the punishment imposed on the Chōshiū clan; and revoking the order expelling it from the Capital. The action of the Court made compromise impossible. The Shōgun withdrew to Ōsaka, whence, after a half-hearted effort to reassert his authority by force of arms, he returned to Yedo. The civil war that ensued was of short duration. The Tokugawa forces were no match for the Imperial troops, who were superior both in numbers and discipline. Although a small remnant of the ex-Shōgun’s adherents held out for some months in certain northern districts of the main island, and still longer in the island of Yezo, by the spring of 1869 peace was everywhere restored.

It has been said by a leading authority on Japan, as one reason for 64the fall of the Shōgunate, that dual government was an anachronism. This in itself presented no insuperable obstacle to its continuance; for the figure-head system of government, which flourished in an atmosphere of make-believe, was one which had grown up with the nation and was regarded as the normal condition of things. To its inconvenience, however, in the conduct of foreign relations the use of the title of Taikun (Tycoon) in the eighteenth century, and a resort to the same device in the nineteenth, bear witness. And it is reasonable to suppose that a system of administration so cumbrous would have failed to satisfy for long the practical exigencies of modern international intercourse. In no case, however, could the Tokugawa Government have lasted much longer. It carried within itself the seeds of its dissolution. It was almost moribund when Perry came. The reopening of the country simply hastened the end. It fell, as other governments have done, because it had ceased to govern.

Before its rule ceased the Tokugawa House had abandoned its dynasty. The three main branches—Mito, Owari and Kishiū—each in turn deserted the Tokugawa cause; their example being followed by leading feudal families, such as the Échizen clan, which were connected with the ruling House.

When the long line of Tokugawa rulers came to an end, it had been in power for more than two and a half centuries. Of the fifteen Shōguns of the line, only the founder and his grandson, the third Shōgun, showed any real capacity. The former was brilliant, both as soldier and statesman; the latter had administrative talent. None of the others was in any way distinguished. Nor was this surprising. The enervating Court life of Kiōto had been copied in Yedo. Brought up in Eastern fashion from childhood in the corrupt atmosphere of the women’s apartments, Mikado and Shōgun alike grew up without volition of their own or knowledge of the outside world, ready for the rôle of puppets assigned to them. The last of the Shōguns was no exception to the rule. Had it been otherwise, there might have been another and quite different story to tell.

On the short but decisive struggle which ended in the Restoration nothing in the nature of foreign official influence was brought to bear. The foreign Powers concerned preserved an attitude of strict neutrality, which was reflected in the action of their representatives. The task of maintaining neutrality was rendered easier by the fact 65that the interests of all the Powers, with one exception, were commercial rather than political. The two leading Powers in the Far East at that time were Great Britain and France, the former’s commercial interests far outweighing those of her neighbour on the Asiatic continent. Germany had not yet attained the position of an empire which she was to reach as the result of the war of 1870, the responsibilities connected with her slowly growing trade being undertaken by the North German Confederation, which was then being formed under the hegemony of Prussia. America, inclined from the first to regard Japan as her protégé, had not yet fully recovered from the effects of the Civil War; and though she had opened up a new avenue of trade with the Far East, the development of her Pacific seaboard was in its infancy. She prided herself on having no foreign policy to hamper her independence, nor had she any organized diplomatic and consular service. The interests of Russia, the exception referred to, were merely political, and of small importance; for neither the Amur Railway nor the Chinese Eastern Railway had been even projected, and the development of Eastern Siberia had hardly begun. The interests of other Treaty Powers were negligible. While, however, under these circumstances the conflict between the Tokugawa Government and the Imperialists lay beyond the sphere of foreign official influence, there were certain unavoidable tendencies which manifested themselves before the Civil War broke out. The presence of French military instructors engaged by the Shōgun’s Government was regarded as possibly attracting a certain extent of French sympathy with the Tokugawa cause—an idea which was strengthened by the attitude of the French representative and the conduct of one or two of these officers, who accompanied the Tokugawa naval expedition to Yezo, where a last stand was made. There was, moreover, quite apart from their official action, a natural bias on the part of most of the foreign representatives in favour of the Shōgunate as being the de facto government, a position it had occupied for two and a half centuries. On the other hand, the formal sanction given in 1865 by the Mikado at the demand of the foreign representatives to the treaties of 1858 had undoubtedly encouraged the Imperialist party in proportion as it had impaired the prestige of the Tokugawa Government. This demand had arisen out of the gradual realization of the fact that the Shōgun was not, as represented in the treaties in question, the real sovereign of Japan. But 66there was a further reason. From the moment that the Tokugawa Government had at the time of Commodore Perry’s arrival referred the question of reopening the country to the Throne, instead of using the full power of dealing with foreign affairs vested in the Shōgun, there had grown up two centres of authority, one in Kiōto, which was steadily increasing in influence, the other in Yedo. As was pointed out in the letters addressed by the foreign representatives in the autumn of 1864 to the Tycoon (the title given to the Shōgun in the official correspondence of the time), the existence of these two different centres of authority had been at the bottom of most of the complications which had arisen in respect of foreign relations. The representatives were, therefore, it was said, obliged to insist upon the Mikado’s recognition of the treaties, “in order that future difficulties might be avoided, and that relations with foreigners might be placed upon a more satisfactory and durable basis.” In other words, the recognition of the treaties by the Mikado was sought in order to put a stop to the anti-foreign agitation which was paralyzing the Shōgunate’s conduct of affairs and creating a highly dangerous situation. The reluctance of the Shōgunate to comply with this demand did not tend to improve its position with the foreign representatives, while this position was further weakened by its persistence in adhering to the false status given to the Shōgun. The continued use of the term “His Majesty” in official correspondence between the Shōgun’s Ministers and the diplomatic body long after doubts had arisen as to its correctness was productive of mistrust; and their confidence in the Government’s sincerity was shaken by its strenuous efforts for various reasons to isolate foreigners as much as possible, and by proof of its complicity in the matter of the Court’s order for the expulsion of foreigners, as well as in the Shimonoséki affair.

Under these circumstances—and as a result, also, of the friendly communications established with the two leading clans after the carrying out of reprisals—it is not surprising that some time before an appeal to arms took place a tendency to sympathize with the cause of the Sovereign de jure should have shown itself in certain diplomatic quarters. The busy intrigues carried on by both contending parties, which were by no means confined to domestic circles, may have led, and probably did lead, those whose acquaintance with Japanese history, though imperfect, far exceeded that of others, to attach undue weight to the doctrine of active and unimpaired Imperial supremacy sedulously 67inculcated by the Court party, and thus to arrive at the not illogical conclusion that the Tokugawa Shōguns were the wrongful usurpers they were described as being by Imperialist historians. That this pronounced sympathy, before hostilities began, in favour of what proved to be the winning side was a material factor in the issue of the struggle there is some reason to believe.

Another point claims passing attention. When the Shōgunate ceased to rule, the wide territory known as the Shōgun’s domains came under the control of the new Government. The classification of lands throughout the country for administrative purposes thus fell temporarily into four divisions—the small area known under the Shōgunate as the Imperial domains, the feudal revenue of which had been quite inadequate for the maintenance of the Court; the former Shōgun’s domains, the final disposition of which was in abeyance; the territories of the clans, as modified by the measures taken in respect of those which, having espoused the Tokugawa cause, had held out to the last against the Imperialist forces; and the large cities of Yedo, Kiōto and Ōsaka, which formed a group by themselves.


Japanese Chronology—Satsuma and Chōshiū Clans—The “Charter Oath.”

In the movement which swept away the Tokugawa Shōguns two cries were raised by the Imperialists: “Honour the Sovereign” and “Expel the foreigner.” They constituted the programme of the party. No sooner had the revolution been crowned with success than the second part of the programme was abandoned. The bulk of the military class had been led to believe that the downfall of the Shōgunate would carry with it the withdrawal of foreigners and the closure of the country. But the wiser heads among the revolutionary leaders recognized that this plan was unrealizable. They had at one time, regardless of consequences, encouraged the cry in order to stir up popular feeling against the Shōgunate. But with the disappearance of the Yedo Government the situation had changed. Moreover, in the course of the fifteen years which had elapsed since Perry’s Treaty the first bitterness of anti-foreign feeling had begun to wear off. Earlier ignorance of the outside world had given way to better knowledge. Closer association with foreigners had revealed the prospect of certain benefits to be derived from foreign trade, while the fighting at Kagoshima and Shimonoséki had been an object-lesson to many, whose reading of history had given them inflated ideas of the strength of their country. There were, also, among the leaders men who were aware not only of the military weakness of Japan, as compared with foreign nations with whom treaties had been concluded, but of the importance of introducing changes on the lines of Western civilization in many branches of administration. So the foreigner remained, and the foreign policy of the Shōgunate was continued. The other cry of “Honour the Sovereign” permitted much latitude of interpretation. The talk about establishing direct Imperial rule, in which Imperialists so freely indulged, was scarcely intended to be taken literally, any 69more than the vague phrases in the manifestos of the time regarding the abolition of dual government, for the personal rule of the Sovereign was in historical times unknown. It simply expressed indirectly the main object in view—the cessation of Tokugawa rule. This aim was achieved, and more easily than had been anticipated; but the dual system of administration, and the figure-head method of government, were too deeply rooted to be removed all at once, even had there been a desire to do so. The Shōgunate was, therefore, replaced by a government of the clans which had taken a leading part in the Restoration, while the figure-head method of rule worked on as before.

The Restoration ushered in what is known as the “Meiji Era,” or “Era of Enlightened Government,” this being the name given to the new year-period then created. The point is one of no little significance. This year-period marked the beginning of a reign more fruitful in rapid and far-reaching changes than any which had preceded it; it synchronized with the rise of Japan from the position of an obscure Asiatic, country to that of a Great Power; and it was chosen with undeniable fitness as the posthumous name of the monarch with whose death it ended. In dwelling on it, it will be necessary to go somewhat fully into the rather complicated question of Japanese chronology, which calls for explanation.

There were formerly four ways in Japan of reckoning time. These were: (1) By the reigns of Mikados; (2) by year-periods (Nengō), which constantly overlapped, one ending and the other beginning in the same year of our chronology, so that the last year of the former was the first year of the latter, the year in question, which never began on the first day of the first month, having, therefore, two designations; (3) by the Chinese sexagenary cycle; and (4) by computation from the first year of the reign of Jimmu Tennō, the mythical founder of Japan. The first was used at an early date in historical compilations. It ceased to be employed long ago, and the records based on it are unreliable. The second was borrowed from China at the time of the “Great Reform” in the seventh century, which gave its name to the first Japanese year-period. This and the third, the sexagenary cycle, were used both alone and in conjunction with each other. The fourth system (based on the imaginary reign of the mythical founder of Japan about the year 660 B.C.) is of comparatively recent origin, its adoption being due to the same somewhat far-fetched 70patriotism which encourages belief in the divinity of Japanese sovereigns.

The year-period, or Nengō, copied from China, had in that country a special raison d’être, for it changed with the accession of a new Emperor, its duration being consequently that of the reign with which it began. In Japan, owing probably to the seclusion of the Sovereign and the absence of personal rule, the year-period had no direct connection with the reign of a Mikado or the rule of a Shōgun, the correspondence, when it occurred, being, with few exceptions, merely fortuitous. As a rule, some unusual or startling event was made the reason for a change, but in Japan, as in China, great care was bestowed on the choice of propitious names for new year-periods. Since the Restoration, however, it has been decided to follow the old Chinese practice, and create a fresh year-period on the accession of a new sovereign. This decision was put into force for the first time on the death of the late Emperor in 1912. The Meiji year-period then came to an end, and a new year-period, Taishō, or “Great Righteousness,” began. Owing to the overlapping of year-periods, to which attention has been called, the new year-period dates from the same year as that in which the preceding Meiji period ceased.

The sexagenary cycle was formed by combining the twelve Chinese signs of the Zodiac, taken in their fixed order, namely, “Rat,” “Bull,” “Tiger,” “Hare,” etc., with what are known as the “ten celestial stems.” These ten stems, again, were formed by arranging the five primitive elements—earth, water, fire, metal and wood—into two sections, or classes, called respectively “elder” and “younger brother.” This arrangement fitted in exactly with a cycle of sixty years, a number divisible by ten and twelve, the numbers of its two component factors. When the year-period and the sexagenary cycle were used in conjunction with each other, it was customary to mention first of all the name of the year-period, then the number of the year in question in that period, and then, again, the position of the year in the sexagenary cycle.

Formerly, too, the month in Japan was a lunar month. Of these there were twelve. Every third year an intercalary month was added in order to supply the correction necessary for the exact computation of time. There was no division of time corresponding to our week. This, however, came gradually into use after the Restoration, the days 71being called after the sun and moon and the five primitive elements. The weekly holiday is now a Japanese institution. There are also in each year twenty-four periods of nominally fifteen days each, regulated according to climate and the season of the year, which are closely connected with agricultural operations, and bear distinctive names, such as “Great Cold,” “Lesser Cold,” “Rainy Season,” etc. Each month, too, is divided into three periods of ten days each, called respectively Jōjun, Chiūjun and Géjun, or first, middle and last periods.

With the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar, which came into force on January 1st, 1873, the sexagenary cycle and lunar month disappeared, and with them, of course, the quaint Zodiacal appellations of the years. The other distinctive features of Japanese chronology have survived. There are now three recognized ways of computing time annually—by year-periods, by the Christian Calendar and by the National Calendar, dating from the year 660 B.C. The year 1921 may therefore be spoken of either as we do, or as the tenth year of Taishō;, or as the year 2581 of the National Calendar.

The adoption of the Gregorian Calendar caused some grumbling, as it did when introduced in England in the eighteenth century, where it was received with the cry: “Give us back our eleven days.” In Japan there was more reason for complaint, for the year 1872 was shortened by no less than twenty-nine days, what would, under the old calendar, have been the third day of the twelfth month of the fifth year of Meiji being altered so as to become the first day of the first month of the sixth year of Meiji (January 1st, 1873). Much inconvenience and even hardship were occasioned by the change, since the end of the year, the time chosen, is the time fixed for the settling of all accounts between debtors and creditors.

The Restoration was the work of four clans—Satsuma, Chōshiū, Hizen and Tosa—whose territories lay in each case in the south-west of the country, though they had no common frontiers. The formation by feudal chiefs of alliances of short duration for definite objects had been the distinguishing characteristic of the unsettled times which preceded the establishment of Tokugawa rule. This was put an end to by the Tokugawa Shōguns, who by various measures, already described, kept the feudal aristocracy in complete subjection. As soon, however, as the power of the Shōgunate began to decline, 72the independent spirit of the clans reasserted itself. This tendency was encouraged by the attitude of the leading Tokugawa families. On Perry’s arrival the House of Mito had supported the Court against the Shōgunate on the Treaty question; while the House of Owari a few years later sided with Chōshiū in its second and successful struggle against the Yedo Government, thus definitely abandoning the Tokugawa cause. The alliances formed in this regrouping of the clans were of the same artificial kind as those which had taken place in earlier feudal days. Apart from the common object which brought them together, the overthrow of Tokugawa rule, there was no real sympathy between any of the four clans which took the chief part in the Restoration. It would have been strange if there had been, for it was no part of the policy of any clan, whose frontiers were jealously guarded to prevent the entry of strangers, to cultivate friendly relations with another. In the case of two of the allied clans, Satsuma and Chōshiū, special difficulties stood in the way of an understanding. They had long been rivals for the confidence of the Court, while the constant changes in the relations between Kiōto and Yedo gave opportunities for further friction and jealousy. More recently, too, the sinking of a Satsuma steamer by Chōshiū forts, the Chōshiū raid on the Imperial palace and the subsequent invasion of Chōshiū territory by the Shōgunate, on both of which occasions Chōshiū clansmen found themselves fighting against those of Satsuma, had created a feeling of active hostility. The author of “Ishin Shi,” or “History of the Restoration,” explains how these difficulties were eventually removed by the exertions of men in the Satsuma clan, whom the critical position of affairs brought to the front, by the mediation of men of influence in the Tosa, Hizen and other clans, whose political sympathies lay in the same direction, and by the co-operation of certain Court nobles, whose knowledge of domestic affairs gained in the conduct of relations between the Court and Shōgunate, and whose position at the Court were of great value to the Imperialist party. Some of these Court nobles had been placed in the custody of the daimiō of Chikuzen after the suppression of the first Chōshiū rising, and through their efforts, and those of the other mediators already mentioned, a friendly understanding was at length established between Satsuma and Chōshiū clansmen. This obstacle having been removed, a plan of campaign was discussed and settled by the four clans. The military strength of the alliance thus formed was soon proved in the short struggle which ended in the fall of the Shōgunate.

Ōkubo Ichizō.

A leading figure in the Restoration Movement and, until his early death, a member of the Government subsequently formed. His death occurred before the creation of the new peerage, but his son, the present Marquis, was ennobled in recognition of his father’s services.

73There remained other problems of a political kind. These were solved by degrees in the sequence of events. Not the least of these was the form of the Government which should replace that which had fallen. On this point there had before the Restoration been much divergence of opinion. According to the author of The Awakening of Japan the Satsuma “Federalists,” as he calls them, wished to reorganize the feudal system much on the lines existing in the half century that preceded the Tokugawa domination. The Chōshiū leaders, we are told, sought their ideal further back. They advocated the restoration of the Imperial bureaucracy of pre-feudal days. This view, supported by the Court nobles, who perhaps hoped by increasing Imperial prestige to strengthen their own position, was the one which ultimately prevailed. There were two powerful arguments in favour of its adoption. One was the inadvisability of attempting to retain the constitution of the previous Government, even had it been possible to do so. Another lay in the necessity of taking full advantage of the current of popular feeling in favour of the Restoration, and at the same time, while as yet the influence of the rising men was small, to work as far as possible through the class of Court nobles who had administered this system in early days.

The form chosen for the new administration was that of the bureaucratic system of pre-feudal days, modified to some extent by innovations copied from abroad. The chief feature in this administration was its division into eight departments. Two of these, the Department of Supreme Administration and the Department of Shintō (which dealt only with matters concerning the native faith, Shintō), ranked together, and before the other six, one of which dealt with legislation, while the remaining five corresponded in a general way to similar Departments in Western countries. As between the two senior Departments, however, though authority was nominally equal, the greater prestige lay with the Department of Shintō.

It will be seen that the new Government, formed in the spring of 1868 before the final surrender of the Tokugawa forces, was at best a patchwork attempt at administrative reconstruction. Its pre-feudal form had little in common with the feudalism that still survived, nor was it possible to harmonize innovations borrowed from the West with an ancient system in which the highest place was 74reserved for the department which controlled all matters connected with the primitive Shintō cult. In the autumn of the same year, and at various times in the course of succeeding years, many administrative changes were introduced. Into the details of these it is unnecessary to enter at length. They will be referred to, when essential, subsequently in the course of this narrative. It will suffice for the present to note that a Council of State, the constitution and functions of which were modified from time to time so frequently as to puzzle the administrators themselves, was substituted in place of the Department of Supreme Administration, thus reducing the number of departments to seven; and that the Department of the Shintō cult underwent many vicissitudes, being eventually reduced to the comparatively humble status of a bureau in the Home Department, a position which it occupies to-day. As might have been expected in the case of a Government which came in on the cry of the restoration of Imperial power, at a time when an atmosphere of semi-divinity still surrounded the Court, the new Ministry included several Imperial princes and Court nobles. Prince Arisugawa became President of the new Government, while the two Court nobles, Sanjō and Iwakura, who had been largely instrumental from the first in promoting the clan alliance which overthrew the Shōgunate, were appointed Vice-Presidents. Two other Imperial princes and five Court nobles were placed at the head of the remaining seven departments, the second position in three of these being given to the daimiōs of Échizen, Aki and Higo. Among those who held offices in minor capacities were Ōkubo and Terashima of Satsuma, Kido of Chōshiū, Gotō of Tosa, Itō and Inouyé, the two young Chōshiū clansmen, who, on their return from England in 1864, had tried without success to prevent the Shimonoséki hostilities, Ōkuma of Hizen and others whose names are household words in Japan.

In the group of princes and other notabilities above mentioned the only outstanding personality was Iwakura, who at once took a leading place in the direction of affairs. The rest took no active part in the administration. They were simply convenient figure-heads, lending stability and prestige to the new order of things, their presence also carrying with it the assurance that the main object of the Restoration had been accomplished.

In spite of the Western innovations embodied in its constitution the form assumed by the new Government gave little indication of 75the radical reforms which were destined to be accomplished in the course of the new reign. In the very year of its birth the murderous attack on the British Minister and his suite when on the way to an audience of the Emperor in Kiōto furnished incontestable proof of the existence still of much anti-foreign feeling. In view, however, of the fact that the cry of “Expel the foreigner” had continued until the eve of the downfall of the Shōgunate, and that up to the last moment the bulk of the military class in many districts was led to believe that the Restoration would be accompanied by the closure of the country, it was not surprising that the survival of anti-foreign feeling should show itself in fanatical outbursts of this nature. On the other hand, the employment in subordinate posts under the new Ministry of men of the military class who were known to be convinced reformers furnished good evidence that the policy of the new Government would, if their views prevailed, be progressive and not reactionary. And further proof of the new and radical departure contemplated by those active spirits in the Government was supplied by what is spoken of as the “Charter Oath” taken by the young Mikado on the 6th April, 1868, after the new Government had been formed.

In this Oath he announced his intentions in unmistakable language which undoubtedly reflected the ideas and aspirations of the reformers. The first of the five clauses of the Oath furnished the keynote of the whole, pointing, as it did, to the creation of parliamentary institutions. “Deliberative Assemblies”—so it ran—“shall be established on an extensive scale, and all measures of government shall be decided by public opinion.” And the last clause reinforced the resolution expressed by stating that “knowledge shall be sought for throughout the world,” a phrase which indicated indirectly the intention to draw on the resources of Western civilization. The other passages in the manifesto simply expounded the time-worn and vague principles of Chinese statecraft, which had long ago been adopted by Japanese administrators.

The general correspondence of the Imperial intentions, as set forth in the Oath, with the views of the last of the Shōguns, as expressed in the statement announcing his resignation which was communicated to the foreign representatives in the autumn of the previous year, is noteworthy. It shows that the liberal policy enunciated was no monopoly of the party of progress in the new 76ministry, but that a feeling in favour of reform was very widely entertained. There was, of course, no idea at that time of giving the masses a voice in the government of the country, for the feudal system was still in existence, and the bulk of the population had no interest in public affairs. It was, nevertheless, clear that representative institutions of some kind, however imperfect the popular conception of these might be, were the goal towards which men’s thoughts were turning.


New Government—Clan Feeling in Satsuma—Administrative Changes—Reformers and Reactionaries.

In the spring of the following year (1869), when order was finally restored and the young Mikado had held his first audience of foreign representatives, an attempt was made to give practical effect to the Imperial intentions by establishing a deliberative assembly, to which the name of Kōgisho, or parliament, was given. It consisted of 276 members, one for each clan. Here, again, we are struck by the wide range of progressive opinion in the country, irrespective of party feeling and anti-foreign prejudice, for in a manifesto issued by the ex-Shōgun two months before his resignation he had stated his desire “to listen to the voice of the majority and establish a deliberative assembly, or parliament”—the very word Kōgisho being used.

As might have been foreseen, this first experiment, made in an atmosphere of feudalism, was a failure; but Sir Harry Parkes, then British Minister, describing a debate on the subject of foreign trade which took place, said that the result of the discussion, and its general tone, were creditable to the discernment of this embryo parliament.

The treatment accorded to the adherents of the Tokugawa cause when hostilities finally ceased in the spring of 1869, was marked by a generosity as wise as it was unlooked for. In Japan up to that time little consideration had been shown to the defeated party in civil wars. The defeated side, moreover, in opposing the Imperialists had earned the unfortunate title of rebels (Chōteki), reserved for those who took up arms against the Crown. In this instance moderate counsels prevailed. The territories of the daimiō of Aidzu, the backbone of Tokugawa resistance, and those of another northern chieftain, were confiscated; eighteen other daimiōs were transferred 78to distant fiefs with smaller revenues; while in a few cases the head of a clan was forced to abdicate in favour of some near relative. Retribution went no further. Later on, when the feudal system was abolished, the same liberality was displayed in the matter of feudal pensions, being especially noticeable in the case of two large sections of the military class, the Hatamoto and the Gokénin, who formed the hereditary personal following of the Tokugawa Shōguns.

The generosity shown by the Government led to much discontent in the military class in many clans. This was notably the case in Satsuma, where there were other grounds for dissatisfaction. The position of the Satsuma clan had always been somewhat different from that of other clans. Its situation at the south-western extremity of the kingdom, far from the seat of authority, had favoured the growth of an independent spirit, and the clan had long been noted for warlike qualities. Though subdued by the military ruler who preceded the Tokugawa Shōguns, and professing fealty to the Tokugawa House, the clan had preserved an appreciable measure of importance and prestige, if not independence, which the Shōguns in question had been careful to respect. The previous head of the clan had before his death in 1859 adopted as his heir his brother’s son, then a child of five years. The affairs of the clan had been to a large extent controlled ever since by this brother, Shimadzu Saburō, a name familiar to foreigners in connection with the outrage which led to the bombardment of Kagoshima; but he was in poor health, and at the time when the new Government was formed the control of clan matters had largely passed into the hands of the elder Saigō, a man of commanding personality, whose daring defiance of the Tokugawa authorities in the stormy days preceding the Restoration had made him a popular hero, and of other influential clansmen. Both Shimadzu and the elder Saigō were thorough conservatives, opposed to all foreign innovations. But there was a strong progressive group in the clan led by such men as Ōkubo and the younger Saigō, who were far from sharing the reactionary tendencies of the older leaders. This division of feeling in the clan was one of the causes of the dissensions in the ministry which arose in 1870, and it had important consequences, which were seen a few years later in the tragic episode of the Satsuma Rebellion.

The first note of discord came from Satsuma. One of the first acts of the new Government had been to transfer the Capital from 79Kiōto to Yedo, which was renamed Tōkiō, or “Eastern Capital.” The Satsuma troops which had been stationed in Tōkiō as a guard for the Government suddenly petitioned to be released from this service. The ground put forward was that the finances of the clan, which had suffered from the heavy outlay incurred during the civil war, did not permit of this expensive garrison duty. But the real reasons undoubtedly were a feeling of disappointment on the part of a majority of the clansmen at what was regarded as the small share allotted to Satsuma in the new administration, and some jealousy felt by the two leaders who presented the petition towards their younger and more active colleagues, combined with distrust of their enthusiasm for reform.

The garrison was allowed to go home, and the elder Saigō also returned to his province. The moment was critical. The Government could not afford to lose the support of the two most prominent Satsuma leaders, nor, at this early stage in the work of reconstruction which lay before it, to acquiesce in the defection of so powerful an ally. In the following year (1871), therefore, a conciliatory mission, in which Iwakura and Ōkubo were the leading figures, was sent to the offended clan to present in the Mikado’s name a sword of honour at the tomb of Shimadzu’s brother, the late daimiō of Satsuma. The mission was also entrusted with a written message from the Throne to Shimadzu urging him to come forward in support of the Mikado’s Government. By this step clan feeling was appeased for the moment, and Saigō returned to the Capital, and became a member of the Government.

How unstable was the condition of things at that time was illustrated by the changes in the personnel of the Ministry which took place in September of the same year, and the administrative revision which followed within a few months. The effect of the first was to strengthen the progressive element in the administration at the expense of the old feudal aristocracy. The Cabinet, as reorganized, consisted of Sanjō as Prime Minister and Iwakura as Minister for Foreign Affairs; four Councillors of State, Saigō, Kido, Itagaki and Ōkuma, represented the four clans of Satsuma, Chōshiū, Tosa and Hizen, while another Satsuma man, Ōkubo, became Minister of Finance. The effect of the revision of the constitution was to divide the Dajōkwan, or Central Executive, established in the previous year, into three branches, the Sei-in, a sort of Council of State 80presided over by the Prime Minister; the Sa-in, a Chamber exercising deliberative functions, which before long took the place of the Kōgisho; and the U-in, a subordinate offshoot of the Council of State, which was shortly afterwards merged in that body. These administrative changes had little real significance. Their chief interest lies in the fact that they show how obsessed some enthusiastic reformers were with the idea of deliberative institutions, of parliamentary methods of some kind, being embodied in the framework of the new constitution; and in the further fact that the new chief Ministers of State, under this reorganization, the Daijō Daijin, Sadaijin, and Udajin, borrowed their official titles from the Chambers over which they presided. Sir Francis Adams, describing these changes in his History of Japan mentions that the deliberative Chamber was regarded at the time as “a refuge for political visionaries, who had thus an opportunity of ventilating their theories without doing any harm,” and that “the members of the subordinate executive Chamber (the U-in), who were supposed to meet once a week for the execution of business, never met at all.” He added that he had never been able to learn what the functions of this Chamber were supposed to be, or what its members ever did. The real work of administration was carried on by the small but active group of reformers of the four clans, who were gradually concentrating all authority in their own hands.

The high ministerial offices thus created were filled by Sanjō, Shimadzu and Iwakura. The last-named, the junior in rank of the three, shared with Kido and Ōkubo the main direction of affairs. The other two were mere figure-heads, though their positions at Court and in Satsuma, respectively, gave strength to the Government.

Kido Junichirō.

In recognition of the services rendered to the state before the creation of the new peerage his son was ennobled after his father’s death. His death occurred before the creation of the new peerage, but his son, the present Marquis, was ennobled in recognition of his father’s services.

81Shimadzu’s appointment was a further step in the conciliation of Satsuma, a development of the policy of timely concessions which had averted a rupture with that clan. The conclusion of the alliance between the four clans, which made the Restoration possible, had, as we have seen, been a difficult matter. A still harder task confronted the new Government. This was to maintain the alliance for future purposes,—to ensure the further co-operation of the same clans in the work of reconstruction. The first step in the new direction, the formation of a Government to fill the place of the Shōgunate, had been taken. Even if this Government had the defects of its purely artificial character, even if it were nothing better than a jejune attempt to combine things so incompatible as Eastern and Western institutions, feudal and pre-feudal systems, it had at least the merit of being the outcome of a genuine compromise brought about by the pressure of political need. Of the grave difficulties attending the work of reconstruction both the conservative and anti-foreign, as well as the progressive elements in the Ministry—the two parties to the compromise—must have been more or less conscious. The discontent in Satsuma was only one of many symptoms of grave unrest which showed themselves throughout the country. A sinister indication of the gradual decay of Tokugawa authority had been furnished by the discontinuance in 1862 of the enforced residence of feudal nobles at Yedo, with all its attendant results. This decay had carried with it the weakening of feudal ties. Laxity of clan administration, its natural consequence, had given opportunities for mischief to the dangerous class of clanless samurai, or rōnin. Of these they were not slow to avail themselves, as was shown by the frequency of murderous attacks on Japanese and foreigners alike; and the fear of combined action on the part of these ruffians which might at any moment threaten the safety of the whole foreign community had led to the stationing of foreign troops in Yokohama, The action, moreover, of the Imperialists in encouraging anti-foreign feeling for their own immediate purposes had brought its own nemesis by giving rein to the turbulent impulses in the national character. Clan jealousies, too, which the alliance of four clans had stifled for a time, began to reassert themselves.

With the downfall of the Tokugawa Government these disturbing influences came into full play, while the resources of the new rulers for coping with them were very inadequate. From the wreckage of the complicated system of Tokugawa administration little indeed which was of material value to the builders of the new framework of state survived. The hand-to-mouth methods of Tokugawa finance, largely dependent on irregular feudal contributions, had resulted in a depleted Exchequer, more debts than assets being left for the Shōguns’ successors. Nor were the finances of the clans in a better condition. The currency of the country was in a state of hopeless confusion due to the great variety of note and metallic issues in circulation throughout the country, the Shōgunate and most of the clans having their own paper money, which were at a premium, or discount, 82according to circumstances. Trade and industry were also hampered in their development by the rigid rules which closed the frontiers of clans and provinces to strangers, and by the numerous impediments in the shape of barriers and tolls which obstructed intercourse and the exchange of commodities between different parts of the country. To crown matters, the navy consisted of only a few ships, all of obsolete type with the exception of a monitor bought by the Tokugawa Government from America, and there was no regular army at the service of the State.

The military forces at the disposal of the Shōgunate in former days constituted on paper at least a respectable army for those times, sufficient, coupled with the policy of divide et impera systematically followed by Tokugawa Shōguns, to overawe the feudal nobility whose allegiance was doubtful. The total number of these troops may be reckoned roughly at about 400,000. They consisted of levies from the clans. By a law passed in the middle of the seventeenth century the clans were bound to furnish to the Government fixed quotas of troops, when occasion demanded, the number of men to be supplied being regulated by the revenue of a clan—this revenue, again, being the value of the assessed annual produce of its territories. But the efficiency of these troops had naturally deteriorated during the long period of peace coincident with Tokugawa rule, nor in later Tokugawa days could much dependence be placed on their loyalty to Yedo. The military weakness of the Shōgunate had been exposed in the course of the operations against the Chōshiū clan, nor had sufficient time elapsed for the services of the few foreign instructors employed by the Tokugawa Government to reorganize the army to have any good effect. During the civil war the Imperialists had recourse to the formation of small bodies of irregular troops called shimpei, or “New Soldiers,” recruited mainly from the class of rōnin already mentioned, some of whom were armed with rifles; but these hastily raised troops were untrained, and their lack of discipline was shown when they acted as a voluntary escort to the Mikado on his first visit to the new Capital. From their conduct on that occasion it was obvious that they might easily become a danger to the authorities employing them.

Encouraged by the success which had attended its efforts in Satsuma the mission of conciliation sent to that clan proceeded under instructions to Chōshiū, where a message from the Mikado of 83import similar to that addressed to the Satsuma noble, Shimadzu, was delivered. Here it was joined by another leading member of the Government, Kido. The mission, thus reinforced, visited in succession, Tosa, Owari and other clans. Besides its general purpose of conciliation, elsewhere, as well as in Satsuma, for the attainment of which it was necessary to enquire into the state of clan feeling, and take what steps might be advisable to allay the prevailing discontent, the chief object of the mission was to enlist the support of the clans concerned for the Government, and organize a provisional force to uphold central authority. The result of its efforts, so far as the chief object was concerned, was the formation of a force of some eight or nine thousand troops, which was obtained from various clans. A favourable augury for the future lay in the fact that it included not only clansmen who had taken part in the Restoration movement, but others who had supported the Tokugawa cause. By this means was formed the first nucleus of what was to develop by slow degrees into a national army.

In view of the slender financial resources at the disposal of the new Government it was decided to exact a forced contribution for the purpose of meeting the immediate needs of the Exchequer. This contribution, to which the term of “tribute” was given, was levied on all classes of the people, officials being called upon to pay a tax amounting to one-thirtieth of their salaries.

The important points to be noted in the foregoing imperfect sketch of the situation which confronted the new rulers at this time is that the revolution was planned and carried out by the military class of certain clans, with the aid of the Court, the rest of the nation taking no part in it; and that the leading men in that class who came to the front and assumed control of affairs were divided into two groups, whose views on future policy were in the main different. On one side were those who clung to the old traditional methods of administration, amongst whom were to be found, nevertheless, men of moderate views. In numbers and influence they were as superior to their opponents as they were inferior in vigour, ability and insight. The other group consisted of a few men of more enlightened and progressive views, who were convinced that the time had come for the nation to break with its past, and that in the establishment of a new order of things, visible as yet only in the vaguest outline, lay the best hope for the future. The conservative, 84or reactionary, party, as it may now be called, had long obstinately opposed foreign intercourse in any form save that which had kept Dutch traders in the position, virtually, of prisoners of State. Driven by the force of circumstances from that position, they fell back on a second line of entrenchments—resistance to changes of any kind when those changes meant the adoption of foreign customs. There was a fatal flaw of inconsistency in their attitude of which, perhaps, they were not unconscious themselves. They made an exception in favour of foreign innovations which appealed to the nation at large, such as steamships and material of war. Time, too, was on the side of their opponents, not on theirs. The doctrines they upheld were part of an order of things which the nation had outgrown, and was preparing to discard. New ideas were taking hold of men’s minds, and deserters from their ranks were one by one joining the standard raised by the party of reform. Never, even in pre-Tokugawa days, had the nation lacked enterprise. Intercourse with the Dutch had quickened appreciation of what was known as “Western Learning,” and provoked secret rebellion against the Tokugawa edicts of seclusion. Now the spirit of progress was in the air. The tide of reform, which later on was to sweep the less moderate reformers off their feet, had set in.

Fortunately for the country at this juncture there was one point on which both parties were in agreement. Between the leading men on each side there was a general understanding that the abolition of feudalism, repugnant as it was to many, could not well be avoided. The Tokugawa administration had, as we have seen, been established on a feudal basis. The survival of this feudal foundation may well have appeared compatible neither with the removal of the rest of the administrative structure, nor with the avowed principles of the Restoration, however broadly the latter might be interpreted. The Shōgunate, moreover, had filled two rôles, so to speak. Itself part of the feudal system, it was also the central government. The extensive territories, situated in different parts of the kingdom, known as the Shōgun’s domains, the feudal revenues of which amounted to one-third of the total revenue of the country, had, under the Tokugawa régime, been administered by the central government. There were also, as has already been explained, other feudal territories which, for various reasons, had also been subject, either from time to time or permanently, to the same central administration. 85How to deal with the large area represented by these domains and territories if the feudal system were to continue, would have been a difficult problem. The Shōgun’s domains themselves had for the time being passed into the hands of the new Government which was responsible for their administration, but there were obvious objections to giving to them the permanent character of Imperial domains. Apart from the difficulty of disposing of so wide an area in this way, the adoption of this course would have perpetuated an undesirable arrangement, the dual capacity of ruler and feudal lord having been one of the weak points in the Tokugawa system of administration. It would also have lowered the dignity of the Throne, which in principle at least had been upheld through all vicissitudes, by placing it on the same feudal plane as the defunct Shōgunate, not to speak of the reproach of treading in the footsteps of their predecessors which the new rulers would have incurred. To have made them Crown Lands would have entailed still more awkward consequences. On the other hand, a redistribution of this wide extent of territory amongst new or old feudatories would have occupied much time, and time was of importance in the work of reconstruction in hand. Any step, moreover, in this direction, however carefully designed to reconcile conflicting claims, would have opened the door to grave dissension at a moment when clan rivalry was reasserting itself. These and other considerations, in which questions of national finance—and perhaps also the idea, borrowed from abroad, that feudalism implied a backward state of civilization—may have played a part, doubtless contributed to the unanimity of the decision to cut the Gordian knot by abolishing the feudal system.

That this solution was one which had already found acceptance in many quarters there is clear evidence. It is true that no direct reference to the measure appears in the Charter Oath of April, 1868. But the manifesto announcing the Shōgun’s resignation, issued in the autumn of the previous year, contained the suggestion that the old order of things should be changed, and that administrative authority should be restored to the Imperial Court. The language of the Tosa memorial which inspired this resignation was still plainer. It spoke of the danger to which the country was exposed by the discord existing between the Court, the Shōgun and the feudal nobility, and advocated “the discontinuance of the dual 86system of administration” and “a return to the ancient form of government.” Making due allowance for the vagueness of the phrases used, if “the discontinuance of the dual system of administration” meant, as it clearly did, the cessation of Tokugawa rule, “the restoration of the ancient” (namely pre-feudal) “form of government” pointed no less plainly to the abolition of feudalism. The same sequence of ideas appears in the letter addressed by the Shōgun at the time of his resignation to the hatamoto, the special class of feudal vassals created by the founder of Tokugawa rule, and in the communication on this subject presented by his Ministers to the foreign representatives on the same occasion.


Abolition of Feudal System—Reconstitution of Classes—Effects of Abolition of Feudalism.

The abolition of the feudal system formed one of the subjects of discussion in the embryo parliament, the Kōgisho, soon after its creation in 1869. The way had been prepared for this discussion by the presentation of memorials on the subject at the time of the Shōgun’s resignation eighteen months before from several clans representing both of the parties which were so soon to be engaged in active hostilities. Memorials of this kind to the Throne and Shōgunate, and Edicts and Notifications issued in response to them, were common methods in those days of arriving at decisions in grave matters of State. Borrowed originally, like so many other things, from China, they were part of the machinery of central government. The recommendations offered in these Memorials revealed a considerable divergence of opinion. But they also showed, what has already been pointed out, namely, the recognition of the close connection between feudalism and the Shōgunate; and the existence of a very general feeling that, in spite of the serious disturbance of the whole administrative structure which so sweeping a change must necessarily involve, nothing short of the surrender of feudal fiefs to the Crown would be a satisfactory solution of the problem presented by the fall of the Shōgunate. This conviction had taken root in the minds of men like Kido, Iwakura and Ōkubo, whose mission to the clans, mentioned in a previous chapter, was a proof of their leading position in the new Government.

The method adopted for giving effect to the decision arrived at was the voluntary surrender of feudal fiefs to the Throne, the lead in this matter being taken by the same four clans which had planned and carried out the Restoration. In March, 1869—a memorable date for the nation—a Memorial in this sense, the authorship of which is 88generally ascribed to Kido, was presented to the Throne by the daimiōs of Satsuma, Chōshiū, Tosa and Hizen. The chief point emphasized in the Memorial was the necessity of a complete change of administration in order that “one central body of government and one universal authority” might be established; and, in accordance with the intentions of the Memorialists, the Sovereign was asked to dispose as he might think fit of the land and the people of the territories surrendered. The circumstances under which dual government had grown up were explained, stress being laid on the defect of that system, “the separation of the name from the reality of power,” and the Tokugawa Shōguns were denounced as usurpers. In this denunciation of the last line of Japanese rulers, due to political reasons, the fact that the system of dual government had grown up long before the Tokugawa family appeared upon the scene was conveniently ignored. As to “the separation of the name from the reality of power,” the expression is a reference to an old Chinese phrase, “the name without the substance,” a metaphor applied, amongst other things, to figure-head government. This is a stock phrase with Chinese and Japanese writers, who constantly appeal to a rule of conduct more honoured in the breach than in the observance.

The example set by the four clans was followed by others. By the end of the year out of 276 feudatories there were only seventeen abstainers from the movement, these being daimiōs of eastern territories who had taken the Shōgun’s side in the civil war. One of the earliest and most enthusiastic Memorialists was the daimiō of Kishiū, the Tokugawa prince who had succeeded to that fief by the promotion of his relative, Prince Kéiki, to be Shōgun. Only three years before he had been an advocate of the continuance of the Shōgunate. This change of attitude on the part of a prince who ranked with the daimiōs of Owari and Mito at the head of the feudal nobility may be interpreted as showing how natural was the association of feudalism with the Shōgunate in men’s minds, and how difficult for him, as for others, was the conception of a feudal system without a Shōgun.

The reply of the Throne to the Memorialists was of a non-committal nature. They were told that the question would be submitted to a Council of feudal nobles shortly to be held in the new Capital. There is no reason to suppose that the caution displayed in this answer implied any hesitation on the part of the Government to carry out the measure contemplated. The drastic 89character of the proposal justified caution in dealing with it, and the variety of the interests involved called for careful consideration. The proposal having been submitted to the assembly of daimiōs for their formal approval, a Decree was issued in August of the same year announcing its acceptance by the Throne, which felt, it was said, “that this course would consolidate the authority of the Government.” As a preliminary step, the administration of clan territories was remodelled so as to correspond with the new order of things; the daimiōs called together to pronounce on their own destinies returned in the altered rôle of governors (Chihanji) to the territories over which they had hitherto ruled; and the Government settled down to consider and determine in detail the various arrangements rendered necessary by the new conditions about to be created.

Two years later, on the 29th August, 1871, the Imperial Decree abolishing the feudal system appeared. “The clans,” so it ran, “are abolished, and prefectures are established in their place.” The brevity of the Decree, singular even for such documents, the length of which often ranged from one extreme to another, may in this instance be accounted for by the fact that an Imperial message was at the same time addressed to the new clan governors. In this reference was made to the sanction already accorded by the Throne to the proposal for the surrender of feudal fiefs, and it was pointed out that the sanction then expressed was not to be regarded as another instance of the common defect of “the name without the substance,” but that the Decree now issued must be understood in its literal sense, namely, the abolition of the clans and their conversion into prefectures. The message was followed by an order directing the ex-daimiōs to reside in future, with their families, in Yedo, their territories being entrusted temporarily to the care of former clan officers. This measure, while undoubtedly strengthening the hands of the Government, must have forcibly reminded the nobles concerned of the precautionary methods of Tokugawa days.

A further step in the same direction was taken by the amalgamation of the Court and feudal nobility into one class, to which the new name of kwazoku (nobles) was given. The abolition of feudalism, moreover, entailed the disappearance of the samurai, the fighting men of the clans, and the rearrangement of existing classes. Under the feudal system there had been, outside of the nobility, four classes—the two-sworded men, or samurai, the farmers, the artizans and 90the merchants, or tradesmen. The new arrangement now introduced comprised only two classes—the gentry (shizoku), who replaced the samurai, and the common people (heimin). What also had formed a pariah class by itself, consisting of social outcasts known as éta and hinin, was abolished, its members being merged into the class of heimin. A further innovation was introduced in the shape of a proclamation permitting members of the former military class to discontinue the practice of wearing their swords, which had been a strict feudal rule.

The Decree abolishing the clans was anticipated in one or two feudal territories, the authorities concerned acting on the previous announcement of the Imperial sanction having been given to the proposal of the Memorialists, and amalgamating, of their own accord, the samurai with the rest of the population. The example was not generally followed, but ever since the issue of that announcement memorials and petitions had been flowing in from the military class in many districts asking for early effect to be given to the measure in contemplation, and for permission to lay aside their swords and take up agricultural occupations. Nor was there wanting the stimulus in the same direction supplied by inspired writers in the Press that was just coming into existence under official auspices. One of these observed that what the nation needed was an Imperial army and uniformity in land tenure, taxation, currency, education and penal laws—aspirations all destined to be fulfilled in the near future. The general feeling thus shown doubtless influenced the Government in taking the final step.

Shortly before the issue of the Decree there occurred a reconstruction of the Ministry, strengthening the position of the leaders of the party of reform, and that of the clans they represented, while the influence of the aristocratic element in the Government was diminished. In the reconstituted Cabinet, as we may now call it, Prince Sanjō remained Prime Minister, Prince Iwakura became Minister for Foreign Affairs, replacing a Court noble, while four prominent clansmen whom the Restoration had, as we have seen, brought to the front, took office as Councillors of State. These four were Saigō, Kido, Itagaki and Ōkuma.

To this date also belongs a troublesome incident which called for the intervention of the foreign representatives. The Japanese authorities, fearing a recurrence of the disturbances connected with 91the Christian propaganda of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, had always regarded with misgiving the treaty clause permitting the erection of Christian places of worship at the open ports. This apprehension was increased by the renewal of missionary effort when the country was reopened to foreign trade and intercourse. As a precautionary measure, the old official notices denouncing Christianity as a pernicious doctrine had continued to be displayed in all parts of the country, and at Nagasaki, which had at one time been a Christian centre, the population had been forced annually to trample upon emblems of the proscribed faith. On the erection in 1865 of a Roman Catholic Church at that place, which had in the meantime become an open port, people from the neighbourhood attended it in such numbers as to attract the attention of the authorities. It was then discovered that Christian doctrines had not been completely stamped out there, as had been the case elsewhere. The offending individuals were consequently ordered to be banished to remote districts, the foreign representatives being with difficulty successful in obtaining a temporary suspension of the orders. After the Restoration the official notices proscribing the Christian religion were, with the substitution of the Mikado’s authority for that of the Shōgun, deliberately renewed, and in 1870 the orders for the banishment of the offenders were carried out in spite of repeated remonstrances on the part of the foreign representatives. Otherwise, however, judged by the standard of those days, the treatment to which the exiles were subjected appears on the whole to have been free from excessive cruelty. It was not till the year 1873 that the practice of Christianity ceased to be forbidden. The notices proscribing the Christian religion were then withdrawn, and the banished persons were restored to their homes. In curious contrast to this recrudescence of persecution was the suggestion, made in a pamphlet about the same time, that Christianity should be officially recognized, a suggestion which is said to have been carried still further some years later, when the attraction for Western civilization was at its height, by a prominent member of the Ministry.

To return to the subject of feudalism, from which this digression in the interests of chronological order has led us away, its abolition was the first, as it was also the most radical, of the reforms on which the new Government embarked. It struck at the root of old-established things and cleared the way for all future progress. It is 92a pity that Marquis Ōkuma in his Fifty Years of New Japan has dismissed the subject in a few lines. Himself one of the chief actors in the scene, no one was better qualified to deal with it. Foreign writers less well equipped for the task have given it more attention. Some of these have taken the superficial view, founded on the signatures appended to the Memorials, that the voluntary surrender of fiefs was due to the initiative of the feudal nobles themselves, and have praised their action for what they regarded as its exalted patriotism and unique self-sacrifice. This view is quite erroneous. Occasion has already been taken to point out how the surroundings in which the daimiōs of those days were brought up had the effect of depriving them of all character and initiative, and how they, like the Mikado and Shōgun, were mere puppets in the hands of others, unfitted for responsibility of any kind, unaccustomed to the direction of affairs. Lest it be thought that the picture has been overdrawn, it may be well to quote the words of a Japanese writer of the time. They occur in an anonymous pamphlet published in 1869, extracts from which are given by Sir Francis Adams in his History of Japan.

“The great majority of feudal lords,” the writer says, “are generally persons who have been born and nurtured in the seclusion of the women’s apartments: ... who even when they have grown up to man’s estate still exhibit all the traits of childhood. Leading a life of leisure, they succeed to the inheritance of their ancestors.... And in the same category are those who, though designated vassals, are born of good family on the great estates.”

Of the truth of this statement there is abundant evidence. There were, indeed, a few instances of feudal chiefs who had some share of power and influence. But they were exceptions to the general rule, and the authority they exercised was brought to bear rather on the affairs of the State than on the administration of their own territories. Long before the Restoration the government of feudal fiefs had passed out of the hands of the nominal rulers, and their hereditary chief retainers, into those of clansmen of inferior status. These were the real authors of the measure of reform which swept away the feudal system. They were the same men who carried out the Restoration. Throughout all the negotiations for the surrender of their fiefs the feudal nobility counted for nothing, and, as a class, were only dimly conscious, if aware at all, of what was going on before their eyes.

93In return for the voluntary surrender of their fiefs the dispossessed daimiōs received pensions amounting to one-tenth of their former revenues, the payment of the small hereditary incomes of the samurai, in their altered status of gentry, being continued for the present by the Government. From this arrangement, however, the samurai of one or two clans who had offered a prolonged resistance to the Imperialist forces were excluded, a distinction which caused much suffering and hardship.

The surrender of the clan territories involved, of course, the rendition of the lands, varying greatly in extent, that were held by the two large sections of the military class already mentioned, the hatamoto and gokénin. Their pensions were regulated on a scale similar to that adopted for the feudal nobility.

The amount of the revenues acquired by the Government in consequence of the surrender of all feudal territories, including the Shōgun’s domains, the administration of which had previously been taken over, is not easy to determine. A very rough estimate is all that is possible. The extent of the latter has already been noticed. Still more remarkable was its wide distribution. Out of the sixty-eight provinces into which Japan at the time of the Restoration was divided no less than forty-seven, by reasons of lands owned therein by the Shōgunate, contributed towards the Tokugawa exchequer. In the Tokugawa law known as “The Hundred Articles” the total assessed yield of the country is given as 28,000,000 koku of rice, the yield of all land, whatever the nature of its produce, being stated in terms of that cereal. Of this, 20,000,000 koku represented the produce of the lands of the feudal nobility and gentry, and the balance the yield of the Shōgun’s estates. This statement was made in the seventeenth century, and it is natural to suppose that by the time the Restoration took place the revenues in question may have increased with the general progress of the nation. In the absence of exact data we shall probably not be far wrong if we estimate the gross revenue which came into the possession of the Government by the abolition of the Shōgunate and the feudal system, of which it formed a part, as not much under 35,000,000 koku of rice, equivalent, at the average price of rice at that time, to about £35,000,000. From this had to be deducted the share of the cultivators, which varied according to the locality. Out of the residue, again, the pensions due to the feudal nobility, and other members of the military class, 94had to be paid, so that the net balance accruing to the national exchequer in the first years of the new administration could not have been large.

The effects on the various classes of the nation caused by the abolition of feudalism were very different, the benefit derived from it by some contrasting sharply with the hardship inflicted upon others. These effects, however, were for the most part gradual in their operation. They were not realized in their full extent until some years later, when the multifarious details connected with the carrying out of this great undertaking had been laboriously worked out.

With the exception of the fudai daimiōs and the feudal groups of hatamoto and gokénin—which constituted the hereditary personal following of the Tokugawa Shōguns, standing between the higher feudal aristocracy and the bulk of the military class—there is no reason to think that the territorial nobility suffered very greatly by the change, save, at once, in loss of dignity, and, later on, in the compulsory commutation of their pensions. Denied by custom all share in the management of clan affairs, they had little call to object to a measure the true import of which was imperfectly appreciated, or do anything else but silently acquiesce in the decisions of the masterful retainers by whose counsels they and their ancestors were accustomed to be guided. As a matter of State policy the change was as much beyond their control as it was above their powers of comprehension, which rarely strayed outside the orbit of trivial pursuits and pleasures in which they were content to move. Some, indeed, may have welcomed the change as a release from irksome conditions of existence, and as offering a prospect of wider fields of action. The case of the fudai daimiōs, and others in the same category, was different. To them the abolition of the feudal system was a severe blow, for it meant the loss of official emoluments which, under the Shōgunate, they had enjoyed as a special privilege for generations.

To the two classes of artizans and merchants the immediate effect may very naturally have been unwelcome in so far as it entailed disturbance of existing conditions of livelihood, of old-established usages of industry and trade. Under feudalism not only had a close system of clan guilds grown up, but, as in Europe during the Middle Ages, artizans and tradesmen engaged in the same handicraft or business 95were restricted to separate quarters of a town. The former may also have had reason to regret the liberal patronage of feudal customers, which allowed leisure and scope for the exercise of individual skill, and to view with concern the pressure of open competition in the industrial market. But as the new conditions became stabilized, and the benefits of uniformity of administration became apparent, neither class had any reason to be dissatisfied with the alteration in their circumstances. Certainly not the merchants and tradesmen. The disappearance of the barriers between provinces and between clans was all to their advantage, while the opening up of new channels of commercial activity must have more than compensated for any drawbacks attending the new order of things.

One class—the most important at that time—the samurai, suffered greatly by the change. Accustomed for centuries to high rank in the social order, to a position of superiority over the rest of the people, from whom they were distinguished by privileges and customs of long standing, as well as by a traditional code of chivalry in which they took a legitimate pride, the samurai found themselves suddenly relegated to a status little differing from that of their former inferiors. It is true that the military class, as a whole, had long been in an impoverished condition owing to the embarrassment of clan finances, which had led in several cases to the reduction of feudal establishments, and to the rigid rule which kept the members of this class from engaging in any of the profitable occupations open to the rest of the nation; and that the unrest and discontent which resulted from this state of things may have induced them to regard with favour any change which held out the prospect of a possible amelioration in their circumstances. There is some truth also in the view that the eager enthusiasm of the party of reform, inspired with a belief in the fulfilment of their cherished aspirations, may have found an echo in the minds of the military class and stirred the patriotic impulses so conspicuous in the nation; while, at the same time, the sentiment of feudal loyalty may have dictated implicit obedience to the decision of clan authorities. Making allowance for the influence of considerations of this nature, there can, nevertheless, be little doubt that the sudden change in the fortunes of the military class aroused a bitter feeling, which showed itself later in the outbreak of grave disturbances.

The unpopularity of the measure was increased by the commutation 96of pensions, which bore very hardly on the military class. In introducing in 1873 a scheme for this purpose the Government was influenced mainly by the pressing needs of the national exchequer. Under this scheme Government bonds bearing 8 per cent interest were issued. Samurai with hereditary incomes of less than 100 koku of rice were enabled to commute their pensions, if they chose to do so, on the basis of six years’ purchase, receiving half of the sum to which they were entitled in cash, and the remainder in bonds; while the basis for those in receipt of annuities was fixed at four and a half years’ purchase, the low rates of purchase in both cases being accounted for by the high rates of interest then prevailing.

Three years later the voluntary character of commutation was made compulsory, and extended to all members of the military class irrespective of the amount of income involved. The current rate of interest having by that time fallen, the basis of commutation was increased to ten years’ purchase for all alike, a slight reduction being made in the rate of interest payable on the bonds, which varied according to the amount of the income commuted. Indirectly this commutation resulted in further misfortune for the military class. Unversed in business methods, without experience in trading operations, many samurai were tempted to employ the little capital they had received in unremunerative enterprises, the failure of which brought them to extreme poverty.


Effects of Abolition of Feudalism on Agricultural Class—Changes in Land Tenure—Land-Tax Revision.

The abolition of feudalism came as a boon to the peasantry. If it inflicted much hardship on the samurai, who formed the bulk of the military class, while the verdict as to its results in other cases depended on the conclusion to be reached after balancing the gain and loss attending its operation, to the farmers it was a veritable blessing. Its full significance was, however, not felt until after the lapse of several years.

Under the feudal system the position of the farmer varied to some extent according to locality. In Satsuma, for instance, besides the ordinary farming class, there were samurai farmers. Again, in certain parts of the province of Mito, and elsewhere, there was a special class of yeoman farmers who enjoyed some of the privileges of the samurai. But throughout the country generally the bulk of the agricultural class consisted of peasant farmers, who, while cultivating their land on conditions similar to what is known in Europe as the métayage system, were in many respects little better than serfs. The peasant farmer could not leave his holding, and go elsewhere, as he pleased; nor could he dispose of his interest in it, though by means of mortgages it was possible to evade the law in this respect. To the frequent call for forced labour he was obliged to respond. He was subject to restrictions in regard to the crops to be cultivated, and their rotation, while in the disposal of his produce he was hampered by the interference of clan guilds. The farmer had also to bear the expense and risk of conveying the tax-produce of his land to the receiving stations, besides being obliged to deliver on each occasion an extra amount to cover the loss supposed to occur in its transportation. On the other hand, though under the feudal form of land tenure he was tied to the soil and transferable with it when it changed hands, he was practically free from disturbance in his holding so long as he paid his 98rent, which took the form of a share of the produce of the land, and other imposts exacted from time to time by feudal bailiffs. Fixity of tenure, therefore, he certainly enjoyed; and, looking at the peculiar nature of his association with the feudal landlord, it seems questionable whether his rights in the land he cultivated may not be regarded as having much of the character of ownership. Holdings, it may be added, descended from father to son, or, failing direct heirs, in the same family, the right of adoption being, of course, recognized.

The interests of the peasantry were affected in many ways by the abolition of the feudal system. The abrupt change in the position of the cultivator caused by the disappearance of his feudal landlord opened up the whole question of land tenure and land taxation, not only as it affected the peasant cultivator, but in its bearing on the occupiers of all agricultural land throughout the country, as well as other land not included in this category. To enable the Government to cope with a task of this magnitude, and at the same time to carry out their declared aims in the direction of uniformity of administration, far-reaching legislation was necessary.

In view of the singular character of the feudal tenure we have described, under which landlord and tenant were associated in a kind of joint ownership, it might have been supposed that advantage would be taken of the opportunity offered by the surrender of fiefs to place the question of land tenure on a clear footing by defining accurately the position of the people, and more especially the cultivators, with regard to the land. This, however, was not done. No Decree affecting the broad issue raised by the abolition of the feudal system was promulgated. It was only by degrees that the intentions of the Government became apparent. Step by step the policy in view was manifested by the removal of the various restrictions which had curtailed the tenants’ rights, until at length it became clear that, while retaining the theory that the ownership of all land was vested as of right in the Crown, the intention was that each occupier of land should become virtually the proprietor of his holding.

One of the first acts of the Government at the end of the civil war had been to place all land as far as possible on a common footing, the earliest step in this direction being taken in the spring of 1869. It was then enacted that all land held in grant from previous governments 99should be liable to taxation. This measure affected all grantees of land, the yashikis, or feudal residences of the territorial nobility in Yedo, coming under the new rule. The ground covered by these yashikis, some of which were extensive, forming separate parks in the neighbourhood of the castle and in other quarters of the city, had originally, like other grants of land, been handed over in free gift, neither rent nor land-tax being paid.

An essential point in the uniformity of administration contemplated by the new Government was the reform of all taxation, precedence being given to the revision of the land-tax. No hesitation was shown in taking up this task. Finance was the weak point in the administrative situation, as it had been that of the previous Government; and land having since early days been the main source of revenue, it was natural that the question of the land-tax should be the first to receive attention. Before the abolition of feudalism, and while the clans still retained their own provincial administration, it was not possible to take practical steps towards fiscal changes that should apply to all parts of the country. But the movement in favour of the surrender of feudal fiefs had begun almost as soon as the triumph of the Imperialist forces was assured, and by the time the feudal system was abolished by the Decree of August, 1871, the subject had been examined by the new Government in all its bearings, and the shape which the revision of the land-tax should take had been determined. It was, therefore, possible for a complete scheme of revision to be brought forward by the Finance Department before the end of the same year, that is to say, within four months after the disappearance of the clans.

Before dwelling on the main features of this proposal, for which Marquis Ōkuma and Marquis Inouyé, then Minister and Vice-Minister of Finance respectively, and Baron Kanda, an authority on all questions of administration, were mainly responsible, it may be well to glance for a moment at the previous system of land taxation in order that a clear idea of the changes introduced may be formed.

Put shortly, the position of holders of land in regard to taxation in the last days of Tokugawa rule was this. Only land under cultivation was taxed. The land-tax was payable everywhere in rice, whatever the crop cultivated might be, and was based on the assessed yield of the land. But the methods of estimating this yield varied 100greatly. In one place this would be done by taking the measurement of the land bearing the crop; in another the appearance and condition of the crop would be the decisive factors; while in a third there would be “assessment by sample,” as it was called, specimens of the growing crop being selected for the purpose. The land measures, too, were not everywhere the same. Moreover, the principle which governed the distribution of the produce of the land between the cultivator and the landlord—the latter’s share being, in effect, the former’s land-tax—varied in different provinces, and in different districts of the same province. In some places seven-tenths of the yield of land went to the landlord, and three-tenths to the cultivator; in others these proportions were reversed; there were districts, such as the Shōgun’s domains, where the cultivator received three-fifths, and other, again, where the proportions were equal. There was a general resemblance, dating back to the time of the Great Reform, between the taxation systems in force throughout the country. The old classification, under which there were three main heads of taxation, the land-tax, the industrial-tax and forced labour—all payable by the cultivator—was retained everywhere in a modified form. But each clan went its own way in other respects, having its own methods of assessment and collection, as well as its own rules of exemption from, and remission of, taxation. Except in the Shōgun’s domains, where matters, generally, were regulated on a somewhat better basis than elsewhere, there was no very definite distinction between central and local taxation; and, whether it was a clan or the Shōgunate itself to which taxes were due, there was a constant liability to irregular exactions imposed at the pleasure of the authorities.

The main features of the new scheme show the importance of the changes proposed.

A new official survey of land throughout the country was to be carried out. Title-deeds were to be issued for all land, whether cultivated or not. Land everywhere was to be valued, and the value stated in the title-deed. In the case of cultivated land the land-tax was to be made payable in money, instead of in rice, as before, and was to be based on the selling value of the land, as declared in the title-deed, and not, as before, on the assessed yield of the holding. The proprietor—for this, in effect, the farmer became when the revision was accomplished—was to be free to cultivate his land in all 101respects as he pleased, and could sell or otherwise dispose of it as he chose.

The Sei-in—that curious body in the reorganized Government of 1869 which represented an attempt to combine in one branch of authority legislative, deliberative and executive powers—signified its approval of the scheme, and arrangements were made to give effect to some of its provisions. In January, 1872, as a tentative measure, title-deed regulations were issued. These were made operative at first only in the Tōkiō prefecture, but their operation was gradually extended to other places. Shortly afterwards further regulations providing for the annual payment of land-tax at the rate of 2 per cent on the value of land, as entered in the title-deed, were published. And in March of the same year the restrictions on the alienation of land, which had previously prevented all transfers of land between the military class and other classes of the people, as well as between members of the latter, were removed.

Before, however, this scheme for the revision of the land-tax assumed its final legislative shape it underwent various modifications. It was submitted early in 1873 to a conference of the chief administrative officials in the provinces which took place in the Capital. The necessity of reform on the lines suggested was admitted by all concerned. The main point on which opinions differed was whether the revision of the land-tax should be carried out as soon as possible, or gradually. The advocates of prompt action urged that the question should be dealt with quickly and decisively, arguing that whatever disadvantages might attend this course would be more than counterbalanced by the benefits resulting from a uniform system of taxation. The other side held that it would be unwise to do away suddenly with old customs and usages, and that it would be better to carry out the contemplated changes very gradually, taking care not to offend local prejudice. In the end the views of the advocates of prompt action prevailed, and a draft law was prepared. This, having received the sanction of the Throne, was notified to the country by Imperial Decree in July of the same year. No direct reference was made in the Decree either to the change of government, or to the abolition of feudalism, which were the real causes that had inspired the measure. It may have been thought inadvisable to refer to a past so full of dangerous memories, and so recent as to invite inconvenient comparisons.

102The Decree itself merely stated the object of the measure, which was “to remedy the existing harsh and unequal incidence of taxation,” and the fact that local authorities, besides other officials, had been consulted in its preparation. In the notification accompanying it further information was given. It was explained that the old system of paying taxes on cultivated land in rice was abolished; that as soon as fresh title-deeds had been prepared land-tax would be paid at the rate of 3 per cent on the value of the land; and that the same course would be followed in the case of local land taxation, with the proviso that the local land rate should not exceed one-third of the Imperial land-tax.

By a looseness of wording, which may have escaped notice at the time, both the Decree and the Notification spoke of the land-tax as having been revised. It needed more than a stroke of the pen to do this. Neither those who in the conference objected to hasty measures, nor those who were in favour of prompt action, had foreseen the length of time that would be occupied in the execution of the reform. It was left to the practical exigencies of the situation to effect a compromise between the two parties which the conference had failed to bring about. The original estimate of the time needed to carry out the measure was found to be quite inadequate. Though the task was set about at once, several years elapsed before it was completed; and eventually it was decided to allow the new scheme to come into operation in each district, as soon as the requisite arrangements had been made, without waiting for its adoption in other places.

Voluminous regulations were appended to the Notification. In one of these a promise was given that the rate of land-tax would be reduced to 1 per cent whenever the total annual revenue from other sources should have reached the sum of Yen 2,000,000 (£400,000). This promise was never fulfilled. By the time the revenue from other sources had reached the amount stated the needs of the new Government had so outgrown its resources that reduction to the extent contemplated was not possible. A reduction from 3 to 2½ per cent was, however, made a few years later, while the work of revision was still proceeding.

Some other points may be noted in passing which throw light on the principles underlying the measure.

All holders of land were required to remeasure it, and furnish a 103statement of its value. These estimates were then to be checked by comparison with similar estimates made by official experts. In the case of a holder of land refusing to agree to the value fixed by the assessors, the land was to be sold.

The land-tax of 3 per cent was to be levied only on cultivated land, this category including both rice land and other arable land. The tax on house land was higher, while that on other classes of land, such as land covered by forests, pasture or moorland, was almost nominal.

The plan adopted, wherever possible, in fixing the value of land in a district was to take a certain village as a specimen, and, having fixed the value of the land in it, to make that value the basis for determining the value of all other land in the district, the guiding principle being to ascertain the actual profit it yielded to the cultivator. With this principle in view, the method employed for determining the value of cultivated land was as follows: Land was first of all divided into two classes, rice land, and land on which other crops were grown. The official assessors having, with the assistance of the cultivator, estimated the annual yield of the holding, this yield was, in the case of rice, wheat and beans, converted into money by taking the average market price per koku (about five bushels) of each of these articles of produce for the five years 1870–4 inclusive. In fixing this average market price it would have been impossible to have taken one price for the whole country, since the prices of all staple articles varied in many districts. The difficulty was, therefore, met by fixing several market values, to be used as the separate bases of valuation wherever local conditions and circumstances required special consideration. Thus in some cases one market price for rice, or for wheat, was made the basis for valuing land in a whole province; whereas in other cases separate market prices had to be determined for particular districts, or even villages. In the case of land on which other produce, such as tea, silk, hemp and indigo, etc., was grown, the method adopted was to estimate what crops of wheat, or beans, land of the same kind in the same place yielded. This yield was then taken as that of the land in question, and converted into money in the usual way. Up to this point the method followed was the same for all land, whether a man cultivated his own holding, or held it on lease from the proprietor. In the former case the next step in the process of fixing land values was to deduct from 104the total value of the yield of the land 15 per cent, as cost of seed and manure. From the sum that remained the land-tax and local taxes were again deducted, as well as the cost of wages, if these were paid, for labour employed. The balance remaining over was taken to represent the net value of the yield of the land. And, as the Government decided to regard 6 per cent as the average rate of profit accruing to a cultivator, the value of a holding was determined by a simple calculation. This value, so determined, became the assessed or taxable value of the land, and on this the land-tax was levied. The process by which the value was arrived at in the case of a cultivator who held his land on lease was a little more complicated. Stated in other words, the taxable value of cultivated land, as determined by the revision, was in all cases the net value of its yield to the cultivator, whether the latter was owner, or only tenant.

To the question of the periods of payment of the land-tax much attention was given. The three instalments in which it was at first made payable were afterwards reduced to two, the dates of payment varying according to the nature of the crop cultivated. It should be noted, also, that in making the revised land-tax uniform throughout the country an exception was introduced in favour of Yezo, or the Hokkaidō, to give it its administrative name. There, in order to encourage the development of what was then the northernmost island, the rate of tax was fixed at 1 per cent.

Four years after the work of revision had begun the land-tax was, as already stated, reduced to 2½ per cent. In the Decree announcing this reduction allusion was made to the growing needs of the country, which had not yet been able, it was said, to adjust itself to the changed conditions brought about by the Restoration, and to the distress still prevailing amongst the agricultural classes. The apparent slowness with which the work of revision proceeded was brought to the notice of the local authorities by the Government, and the year 1876 was fixed as the date by which the revision must be concluded. Neither that year, however, nor the next saw the end of the undertaking. It lasted five years longer, being eventually completed in 1881.

Marquis Inouyé.

Took an active part in the Government formed after the Restoration, and was an outstanding figure in Foreign as well as Financial affairs.

Marquis Ōkuma.

Was prominent in the formation of the new Government subsequent to the Restoration; was for some time in Opposition, returning to the Ministry later. Conspicuous as an advocate of constitutional government, as an author, and as an educationalist, he was the most versatile of all the statesmen of his day.

105By a very rough computation, which is all that the unreliability of statistics in those days will permit, the extent of taxable land occupied, or owned, by the people previous to the revision may be estimated at about ten million acres. As the result of the revision this area was more than quadrupled. On the other hand, the revenue derived from the land showed a falling off of 5 per cent. This result is explained by the fact that some of the land had before been over-taxed, while a large portion of the new taxable area consisted of uncultivated land paying only a nominal tax, and, therefore, contributing little to the revenue.

The total cost of the revision of the land-tax, according to official estimates, was about £7,500,000. Of this sum about £6,000,000 were repaid by the people, the balance being defrayed by the provincial authorities, with the exception of an item of some £100,000 which was charged to the central government. Heavy as this expense was, the gain to Japan would have justified a greater cost. For the first time in her history there was one uniform system of land taxation for the whole country, and, with the exception above mentioned, one uniform rate.

Since the completion of the task of revision the system of land taxation has in its main features remained unchanged. But the heavy expenditure entailed by the Russo-Japanese war in 1904–5 made it necessary for the Government to increase taxation of all kinds. Special war taxes were then imposed. Amongst these was an additional land-tax. When the war came to an end this additional tax was retained, as was the case with our own income-tax, and the Chinese transit tax on commodities (lekin), both of which were also originally war taxes.

A feature to be noted in connection with this land reform is the change that was made in the title to land. Hitherto the registration of land in the local land register, in accordance with the practice of centuries, as well as entries regarding the transfer of land recorded in the same land register, had constituted the holder’s title. Henceforth the title to land was determined by the possession of a title-deed. The new system, however, did not come to stay. After a trial of over fifteen years it was abandoned in March, 1889, in favour of the old method of registration in the land books of a district which, with certain later modifications in matters of detail, is now in force.

The reclassification of land—one of the results of the land reform—was set forth in an elaborate schedule, into the details of which it 106is unnecessary to enter. A reference to the various classes into which land was divided establishes two facts:

All cultivated land, with a few exceptions, belongs to the people.
All waste land, with a few exceptions, belongs to the Government.

To these we may add a third, that all land in Japan is subject to land-tax, with three exceptions:

Government land.
Land held for religious purposes.
Land used for purposes of irrigation, drainage, and roads.

Missions to Foreign Governments—Hindrances to Reform—Language Difficulties—Attitude of Foreign Powers.

The numerous measures called for by the abolition of feudalism did not prevent the new Government from turning their attention to foreign affairs. In the same year (1871) which saw the issue of the Decree giving practical effect to the surrender of feudal fiefs a mission composed of Iwakura, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and two Councillors of State, Kido and Ōkubo, was despatched to Europe and the United States. The suite of the mission, which numbered more than fifty persons, included Mr. (afterwards Prince) Itō.

This was the third mission sent from Japan to the Courts of Treaty Powers, and by far the most important. The first of these, despatched by the Tokugawa Government early in 1862, when the conditions surrounding foreign intercourse were rendered precarious by the open hostility of the Court party, had achieved some measure of success in obtaining a postponement for five years of the dates fixed for the opening of the ports of Hiogo and Niigata, and the towns of Yedo and Ōsaka; the reasons by which the request was supported, as well as the conditions on which consent was given, being recorded so far as Great Britain was concerned, in the London Protocol of June, 1862. The reasons were: “the difficulties experienced by the Tycoon and his Ministers in giving effect to their engagements with foreign Powers having treaties with Japan in consequence of the opposition offered by a party in Japan which was hostile to all intercourse with foreigners.” The conditions, shortly stated, were: the strict observance of all other Treaty stipulations; the revocation of the old law outlawing foreigners; and the cessation in future of official interference of any kind with trade and intercourse.

108The second was sent by the same Government in February, 1864. Its ostensible object was to apologize to the French Government for the murder of the French officer, Lieutenant Camus, which had taken place in October of the previous year. Its real objects, however, were to endeavour to obtain the consent of Treaty Powers to the closing of the port of Yokohama, a matter in regard to which the Shōgun’s Ministers had already appealed in vain to the foreign representatives; and, incidentally, to take an opportunity if it offered, of purchasing war material. The mission, which never went beyond Paris, returned to Japan in the following August at the moment when arrangements were being completed for the forcing of the Straits of Shimonoséki by a combined foreign squadron. It brought for the approval of the Shōgun’s Government a convention concluded by the members of the mission with the French Government. This somewhat singular instrument, which bore the signature of Monsieur Drouyn de Lhuys, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, provided that it was—after its acceptance by the Shōgun’s Government—to come into force at once, and was to be regarded as forming an integral part of the existing Treaty between France and Japan. It contained, amongst other things, a stipulation for the reopening of the Straits within three months after the return of the mission to Japan, and also provided for the co-operation, if necessary, of the French naval squadron in Japanese waters with the Shōgun’s forces in the attainment of this object. The Shōgun’s repudiation of the agreement prevented the occurrence of what might have been troublesome complications, the only result of the incident being a delay of a few days in the departure for Shimonoséki of the allied squadron.

The ostensible object of this third mission, like that of the first, related to Treaty stipulations. By a clause of the treaties of 1858—the texts of which were more or less identical, while their interpretation was governed by the stipulation regarding “most-favoured-nation” treatment—provision was made for revision by mutual consent in 1872. This consent it was the purpose of the mission to obtain. The number of Treaty Powers had by this time increased to fifteen, but the interests of most of them being very small, it was recognized that if the consent of the chief Powers could be obtained, no difficulties would be raised by others.

The working of the treaties had been on the whole satisfactory, 109as satisfactory, that is to say, as it was reasonable to expect from the exceptional circumstances attending their negotiation; and there seemed to be no special points in regard to which revision was in any way urgent. This, however, was not the view taken by the Japanese Government. Very soon after the coming into operation of the treaties of 1858 the Japanese authorities and people seem to have taken umbrage at the extra-territorial privileges enjoyed by foreigners in Japan under Treaty stipulations. It is more than probable that this feeling with regard to extra-territoriality may not have been altogether spontaneous, but may have been inspired at this time by foreigners actuated by mixed motives, and inclined to draw hasty conclusions. In any case, the Japanese early became aware that the enjoyment of extra-territoriality was regarded generally as a privilege conceded under pressure to the subjects of countries possessing, or claiming to possess, a civilization more advanced in some respects than that of the country from which the concession was obtained. The pride of the nation rebelled against the discrimination thus exercised, and not unnaturally it was eager to seize the first opportunity that presented itself to get rid of the obnoxious extra-territorial clauses that stood in the way of the exercise of Japanese jurisdiction over foreigners in Japan. This was the main motive underlying the desire for revision of the treaties.

There were, however, additional objects in view in sending the mission. To the foreign representatives the Government explained their anxiety to communicate to the Governments of Treaty Powers details of the internal history of their country during the years preceding the revolution of 1868, and their wish to inform them of the actual state of affairs, and the future policy it was intended to pursue. They also considered it important, it was added, to study the institutions of other countries and to gain a precise knowledge of their laws, of the measures in force regarding commerce and education, as well as of their naval and military systems.

So far as these minor objects were concerned, the proceedings of the mission were attended with success. This was shown not only by the period of its absence abroad, which extended over two years, far longer than had been intended, but also by the rapid progress of the work of reform after its return. The information gained by its members, amongst whom were some of the most talented men of the day, was later on of much service to their country; while the insight 110they gained into foreign affairs, and the disposition of foreign Governments towards Japan, was of the greatest value. In the matter of the ostensible purpose of the mission, however, nothing was accomplished. The efforts of the ambassadors in this direction met with no encouragement. The foreign Governments concerned were indisposed to overlook the constant obstructions to the fulfilment of Treaty stipulations caused by indifference and ill-will on the part of Japanese officials. Nor, in view of the short interval that had elapsed since Japan had emerged from feudalism, were they in any haste to gratify the aspirations expressed in the Letter of Credence presented by the head of the mission to the President of the United States—the first country visited—which spoke of an “intention to reform and improve the treaties, so that Japan might stand on an equality with the most enlightened nations.” They accordingly declined to enter into any discussion on the subject on the ground that the moment had not arrived when the discussion could be useful.

The rebuff thus administered caused disappointment and ill-feeling, and led before long to the beginning of an agitation for Treaty revision, which did much mischief to foreign relations; was frequently used as a convenient cry by politicians in the course of attacks directed against the Government of the day; and lasted until the first of the new revised treaties was signed by Great Britain in the summer of 1894. Its chief effect, however, so far as foreigners were concerned, was to strengthen the Japanese Government in its determination to resist all efforts on the part of foreign Powers to obtain further access to the interior of the country, and to restrict in every way possible the granting of any additional facilities for foreign trade and intercourse under existing treaties.

Much space has been devoted in previous chapters to the abolition of feudalism as being the starting-point of Japan’s modern progress. The immediate effect of that step, as well as the various measures relating to land tenure and land taxation, which were its natural sequel, have also been explained in some detail. There is, however, no intention to trace with the same minuteness, or in strict chronological order, the successive stages of the work of reform. Our purpose being to give a general idea of the process which brought about the gradual transformation of an Oriental country into a progressive modern Empire, we shall pass lightly over many matters, dwelling 111mainly on such conspicuous and outstanding features as will illustrate most clearly the character and course of Japan’s modern development.

Before touching on other measures of reform undertaken in the first years following the Restoration, it may be well to glance at the conditions under which the work of reform proceeded. The initial difficulty which hampered the reformers at the outset was the absence of any definite scheme of reconstruction. Beyond the surrender of feudal fiefs nothing in the nature of a detailed programme had been thought out. They had to feel their way. As one of the leading figures in the events of the Restoration said some years later, “They could not look far ahead; it was sufficient if they could agree on the next step to be taken.” Another difficulty with which they had to contend was the question of language. The spread of Christianity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries had not been accompanied by the introduction, to any appreciable extent, of any of the languages of the three nationalities—Portuguese, Spanish and Italian—to which the early missionaries belonged. The use of Latin in the religious services, and the study of Japanese by the missionaries, had rendered this unnecessary. And when Christianity disappeared, what little Portuguese, or other Latin language, had come with it disappeared too. But with the advent of the Dutch things were changed. The Dutch language became the medium of commerce, and also the medium through which all Western learning, and indeed all knowledge of the West, was received. A class of Dutch-speaking interpreters, who found employment in foreign trade, grew up; and with the enterprise, unsubdued by constant official repression, and the curiosity for what is new, which have always distinguished the Japanese people, men took to learning Dutch in order to educate themselves.

So, when foreign relations were renewed on a wider basis in the middle of the nineteenth century, Dutch was the language to which Japanese and foreigners naturally turned as the medium for the conduct of the newly established intercourse. All communications were carried on in this language, and it became the authentic text of all the earlier treaties, including those of 1858. Harris, the first American representative in Japan, in his diary gives us some idea of the trouble and vexation involved on both sides in wrestling with the language problem. The Dutch the Japanese had learnt was, he tells 112us, a mercantile patois, the correct Dutch spoken by the Dutch interpreters attached to his mission being quite strange to them. When it came to drawing up written agreements in both languages, they insisted that every word in the Dutch version should stand in the same order as its equivalent in the Japanese version. This, he says, occasioned some difficulty, and we feel that he is not overstating the case.

The employment of Dutch as the medium of communication in the early days of renewed foreign intercourse, though inevitable, was unfortunate. And for this reason. During many years of the Dutch monopoly—so far as Western nations were concerned—of trade with Japan, Holland was at the zenith of her power. If not actually mistress of the seas, she occupied a position of pre-eminence as a maritime state. But by the time the first treaties with Japan were negotiated Holland had lost this high position. She was no longer a great Power, and consequently the knowledge of Dutch possessed by many Japanese ceased to be useful to Japan. It was necessary for some other language to take its place. Thanks to the growing commerce and power of Great Britain and the United States, English was the language which stepped naturally into the breach, and it became necessary for the Japanese to abandon Dutch, and turn their attention to the acquisition of the new language which had superseded it.

So far we have dwelt on the difficulty connected with the languages of the foreigners who had made their more or less unwelcome appearance on the scene, and from whom Japan was intent on borrowing the materials of the contemplated reforms. If we now turn to the other side of the question, the difficulty arising from the Japanese language itself, it will be seen how serious an obstacle to Japan’s modern progress her own language presented.

Until the seventh century of our era Japan had, as we have seen, her own language. This was spoken, not written. Then by one of those unaccountable impulses which affect the destinies of nations, she followed the example of Korea, which had also spoken dialects of her own, and adopted the written language of China. Later on, from the Chinese characters thus borrowed, she evolved syllabaries, filling the place for her of our alphabet for us, and so developed native scripts of her own. But this native written language never prospered in its competition with the Chinese characters from which 113it was derived. Though it was employed in poetry, and other native classical literature and served a useful purpose as a literary vehicle for women of the upper classes, in whose hands it displayed unexpected potentialities, and for the uneducated masses, it eventually found its most usual place in literature as a simple adjunct to the use of Chinese.

This incubus of two languages, disguised as one, was rendered still more irksome by the fact that the borrowed Chinese written language never became thoroughly assimilated and incorporated with the Japanese spoken language to which it was joined, but preserved a more or less separate identity. It would have simplified matters if the Japanese had given up their spoken language and adopted Chinese in its place. There would then have been a natural harmony and relation between the spoken and written tongues, such as exists in China to-day. Japanese would then have written as they spoke, and spoken as they wrote. But this they did not do. Their own spoken language was there, and had sufficient vitality to resent the intrusion of the alien tongue, though not enough to enable the nation to shake itself free of the incubus it had voluntarily imposed upon itself by this wholesale importation of Chinese characters. In these considerations lies the explanation of the constantly recurring agitation in favour of the adoption of the Roman alphabet in the place of Chinese.

In justice to Chinese characters it is well not to overlook the advantage which a knowledge of them gives to the Japanese people over foreign competitors in their intercourse and trade with China. It should also be borne in mind that the Chinese side, so to speak, of the Japanese language lends itself with peculiar facility to the formation of new words to express new ideas. In this respect it has served to encourage the introduction of Western civilization. These advantages are, nevertheless, counterbalanced to a large extent by the addition to the language of a countless host of dissyllabic words, only to be distinguished one from the other by the attendant hieroglyphs. The result is the creation of a cumbrous vocabulary, based on Chinese, which is growing so fast as to discourage scholarship, thus hampering the very progress it is employed to promote.

One other difficulty remains to be considered. In turning to the West for inspiration in the work of reconstruction Japan was borrowing not from one country, as before, but from several. Nor was there 114any natural affinity between her and them, as in the case of the first country, China, which she had laid under contribution. The new ideas, moreover, she was assimilating belonged not to the same, but to different periods of time. There was as great diversity of date, as there was of origin. But they all came together, and had to be harmonized, in some degree, with a foundation of things in its origin Chinese. Japan has been generally regarded as having deliberately embarked on a policy of eclecticism. No other course lay open to her. Out of the crowd of new things which presented themselves she had to make a choice. And the urgency of the moment left her little time in which to make it.

We have noticed some of the difficulties which lay in the path of Japan’s progress, and tended to complicate the work of reconstruction. Let us see what advantages she had to help her. There were not many, and some were moral and not material. The reforming statesmen were helped by the feeling of exaltation common to all political revolutions, as well as by the wave of enthusiasm for what was hailed as the restoration of the direct rule of the Sovereign, though what this would mean, when accomplished, beyond the disappearance of the Shōgunate, none of its advocates had any clear notion. The general feeling in favour of reform which, with exceptions in the case of the former military class, existed throughout the country was also in their favour. Japan, too, in these early years was conscious of the sympathy of Treaty Powers. It has been the fashion amongst a certain class of writers to decry the attitude of foreign Powers, who are represented as unsympathetic and as having held out no helping hand to the young Government then on its trial. This is an erroneous view. Even before the Restoration, at the time when the Court was openly hostile to foreign intercourse, and the Shōgunate, in its extremity, was facing both ways—announcing to the Throne its determination to expel the hated barbarian, while assuring the latter in the same breath of the friendliness of its feelings; conniving at obstruction it would have liked to direct more openly and then feigning indignation at its own misdeeds—the forbearance of foreign Governments, and the patience of their agents, are things of which the West may well be proud. And as soon as the sincerity of Japanese reforms was clearly understood, the sympathy of foreign Governments took a more active shape.

Perhaps, also, we shall be safe in assuming that the new Government 115was assisted to some extent in the introduction of reforms by the submissiveness of the people they were called upon to rule. Under the influence of Chinese ideas the dividing line separating rulers from ruled was very sharply drawn. Both in Confucian ethics, and in Buddhist teaching, the two foundations of Japanese morality, the greatest weight is given to the virtue of loyalty to superiors, which comprises—and this is an essential point—obedience to constituted authorities. Equal prominence in the same ethics and teaching is assigned to the corresponding duty of the ruler to govern wisely, or, as the phrase runs, “with benevolence.” The conception of the relationship between governors and governed, as it presented itself to the Japanese mind of those days, was that it was the business, the duty, of the Government to govern, the privilege, or right, of the subject to be ruled. The latter looked to those in authority for light and leading. So long as the government was in accordance with Confucian doctrine, conducted with “benevolence,” that is to say, without glaring injustice and tyranny, he was satisfied. The establishment later on of constitutional government and the practical working of a Diet and local assemblies have somewhat modified this habit of mind. But even in the most stormy and tumultuous sessions which have of recent years characterized the development of parliamentary institutions the influence of this old idea has been apparent; while in the earlier periods of which we are now speaking it was a dominant and salutary factor, lightening very materially the task of the administrator.

There was still another agency working in the same direction. This was the new field of activity opened by the changes accompanying the Restoration to the energies of the people, more especially those of the commercial and industrial classes. Their attention was engrossed in a large measure by their own concerns, which were rendered of increased and more varied interest by the upheaval caused by the revolution in national life. They had thus little time, even had the wish been there, to enquire closely into the direction of public affairs.

There was advantage, too, in the fact that Japan had borrowed before, and had, therefore, gained experience in the art of assimilating foreign ideas. She was not new to the work. She was only doing now on a less extensive scale what she had done on a previous occasion. And her task was rendered more simple because what she 116was now taking from the West lent itself to her immediate requirements, perhaps, in a more practical way than her borrowings of former days from a sister nation.

Finally, we must not overlook the immense advantage she had in the adoption of all reforms which were based on Western models. At no cost to herself, without expenditure of time, thought, labour or money, she took the fruit of generations of toil in Europe and America. She levied toll on all the Western world. Profiting, at once, by the discoveries and improvements made in the course of centuries in every field of human energy, she began in her career of constructive progress at the point which other countries had already reached.


Changes and Reforms—Relations with China and Korea—Rupture in Ministry—Secession of Tosa and Hizen Leaders—Progress of Reforms—Annexation of Loochoo—Discontent of Former Military Class.

The changes introduced after the Restoration group themselves broadly into two kinds—those borrowed from abroad, and those due to the inspiration of the reformers themselves. The reforms affecting the land, which we have already considered, fall essentially into the latter category. Though some colouring of Western ideas may be apparent in the stress laid on uniformity of tenure and taxation, and in some other respects, the land reform, viewed as a whole, was the logical outcome of the abolition of feudalism. It was thus from the first a matter into which domestic considerations alone entered, one that was free, therefore, from any marked foreign influences.

Of a different kind, and bearing the manifest impress of importation from the West, were the introduction of conscription on European—mainly German—lines; the creation of a postal system, and the opening of a mint; the construction of the first railways, telegraphs and dockyards; the suppression of anti-Christian edicts, and the cessation of religious persecution; the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; the formation of a Board for the development of Yezo; the establishment of treaty relations with China in accordance with Western usages; the creation of the Tōkiō University; and the removal of the prohibition regarding the use, in speech or writing, of the Mikado’s name. All these changes occurred in rapid succession in the short space of five years.

With regard to the change, or reform, last mentioned—the removal of the interdict regarding the use of the Emperor’s name—to foreigners the permission seems as strange as the prohibition. It sounds like an echo from remote ages. But it is difficult to exaggerate the gulf which had hitherto separated the Throne from 118the people. Only in an ironical sense could the phrase “the fierce light that beats upon a throne” have been applied to a Japanese monarch. Both the throne and its occupant were veiled in mysterious shadow, and to the respect due to royalty was added the veneration paid to a God. In the case of the Mikado, his name never appeared in writing until 1868, when the Message dated the 3rd February of that year, announcing to foreign Governments his assumption of “supreme authority,” in consequence of the Shōgun’s voluntary resignation of “the governing power,” was delivered to the foreign representatives. This Message bore the signature “Mutsuhito,” which purported to be the sign-manual of the Sovereign. The change introduced was, however, of no practical importance, for no one wished to make use of the permission vouchsafed. It is interesting only from the fact of its being a significant departure from traditional custom, and also because it illustrates the spirit in which all reform was conceived.

The establishment in 1871 of a new Board, or minor department, for the development of the then northernmost island of Yezo, thenceforth to be known as the Hokkaidō, or Northern Sea Circuit—one of the many geographical areas distinguished by this name into which Japan is divided—calls for notice chiefly from the fact that it was one of the few instances of reforms which were unsuccessful. For the enterprise in question the services of American experts were engaged. The project, on which in all some £10,000,000 are stated to have been spent, languished from the outset, though some benefit was ultimately derived from the horse-breeding industry which was then created; and ten years later the Board was dissolved. It was in connection with the abandonment of this undertaking, the direction of which was entrusted to General Kuroda, a leading Satsuma clansman, that Marquis (then Mr.) Ōkuma left the Ministry, which he did not rejoin until seven years later.

Various reasons were assigned for this failure, charges of official corruption being freely made. As to one contributory cause there can be little doubt—the distaste, or, it may be, the constitutional unfitness, of the Japanese people for what may be called the pioneer work of colonization. Those who differ from this view may point to the success achieved by Japan elsewhere, in Formosa, for instance, which she received as part of the fruits of her victory over China in the war of 1894–95. The conditions in that case, however, were 119exceptionally favourable. The secret of her success there lay in the great natural riches of the island, due to virtues of climate and soil, in a plentiful supply of cheap labour, and in the still, industry and organizing talent which distinguish the Japanese people. Formosa produces nearly the whole of the world’s supply of camphor, of which Japan has made a State monopoly. Among other notable products are cane sugar, now also a State monopoly, tea and rice. The development of these staple products is a tribute to the thoroughness of Japanese administrative methods. But the Japanese were never pioneers there; nor did they create the industries they developed. These owe their inception to the Chinese population, originally settlers from the mainland, which was disputing the hill country with the aborigines when the Japanese arrived. Ten years after the Japanese occupation of the island the Japanese inhabitants, including many officials, numbered only 40,000, as compared with some 100,000 aborigines, with whom an intermittent warfare is still being carried on, and about 3,000,000 Chinese. These figures speak for themselves.

The less favourable conditions of climate and soil under which similar operations have been conducted in the northernmost Japanese islands have led to very different results. Of recent years, owing to the exploitation of coal mines and the general growth of shipping and commerce, there has been a marked advance in the development of Yezo. As compared, however, with the great strides made by Japan in other directions, the record of what has been accomplished there in the half century which has elapsed since the Restoration is disappointing. Viewed in conjunction with other facts, it justifies the inference that while the industry and enterprise of the Japanese people ensure remarkable results in favourable conditions, where no pioneer work is demanded,—as in Formosa, Hawaii, and the Pacific coasts of Canada and America—neither by physique nor by temperament are they fitted to cope under adverse circumstances with the strenuous toil and severe hardships of pioneer colonization. And this conclusion is supported by what we know of the Japanese occupation of Manchurian territory. The point is of importance as bearing on the question of finding an outlet for the surplus population of Japan, a subject which is frequently discussed in the Japanese Press, and which will be referred to again in a later chapter.

If the importance of a subject in public affairs were measured merely by the amount of attention and labour bestowed upon it, 120religion would occupy an inconspicuous place in the list of reforms of the Meiji era. Only to a limited extent, and then only as identified in a general way with progressive ideas of Western origin, can the measures taken in regard to religion be regarded as coming under the head of reforms borrowed from abroad. Apart from slight changes in the details of ceremonial observances at religious festivals, adopted later on, and designed to bring such popular celebrations more into keeping with Western notions of propriety and decorum, religious reform had from the first a merely negative character. It did not extend beyond the withdrawal of the anti-Christian measures that were a survival of the Christian persecutions of the seventeenth century. It is generally admitted that the anti-Christian feeling which then arose, and the cruel penal laws it inspired, were due to political more than to religious causes. In the toleration extended to Christianity, which found expression in the withdrawal of anti-Christian edicts, we again see the operation of political rather than religious motives. Political expediency, not religious animosity, was thus associated with the beginning and end of the anti-Christian movement. This is in accordance with all that we know of the Japanese character. All accounts of Japan, whether written by Japanese or foreigners, testify to the absence of anything approaching to religious fanaticism.

As for the other measures affecting religion taken by the new Government, they were not even progressive in intention, for they were avowedly a return to what had existed centuries before. They were, however, in accordance with the principles professed by the Imperialists at the time of the Restoration; and this was the reason for their adoption. It will be more convenient to consider these changes under the head of Religion, which will be treated in subsequent chapters.

On the return of the Iwakura Mission from abroad in 1873 its members became aware of the serious crisis in domestic affairs which had occurred in their absence. A difference of opinion had arisen on the subject of Korea. Since the ultimate failure of the Japanese invasion of that country, towards the close of the sixteenth century, which was due to the intervention of China at a moment when Japan had exhausted herself in the long struggle, the relations between the two countries had been restricted to the conduct of a trifling trade, 121and to formal missions of courtesy sent to announce the accession of a new Sovereign, or to offer congratulations on the occasion. This trade was carried on by the Japanese at the port of Pusan, on the southern coast of Korea opposite the Japanese island of Tsushima. Here there was a small commercial establishment doing business with the Koreans much in the same way as the Dutch had previously traded with the Japanese through their factory at Déshima (Nagasaki). There was a further resemblance between the former Dutch position in Japan and that of the Japanese in Korea in the fact that through ill-will, or lack of enterprise on the part of the Koreans, the trading operations of the Japanese merchants had become gradually more and more restricted. At the time in question the attitude of the Koreans towards the residents in the tiny settlement was the reverse of friendly, and the Japanese authorities had withdrawn from Pusan all but subordinate officials. According to Japanese accounts, the Koreans appear to have continued to send periodical missions of courtesy during the whole period of Tokugawa rule. But when the Restoration took place they refused to send the customary envoy to Tōkiō, and also declined to receive the envoy despatched by the new Japanese Government. Their refusal to have any further intercourse with Japan was based on the ground that by adopting a new and progressive policy she had shown herself to be in league with Western barbarians, thus abandoning the traditions of the Far East to which China and Korea remained faithful. This affront to Japanese dignity caused great resentment throughout the country. It came at a moment when there was already a good deal of friction and smouldering ill-feeling amongst the leading members of the Government, and the Cabinet, if we may so regard the inner political group which controlled affairs, became at once divided into two parties. One of these, led by the elder Saigō, Soyéshima, Itō Shimpei, Itagaki and Gotō, urged the immediate despatch of a strong remonstrance. Of this Saigō was anxious to be the bearer, a course which, as everyone who knew the then temper of the nation, and the character of the suggested envoy, was aware, must, if followed, lead to war. The other party, consisting of Chōshiū and other clansmen centred round the Prime Minister, though little disposed to condone any deliberate discourtesy on the part of a neighbouring State which had played so prominent a part in Japanese history, felt that the moment was inopportune for war. They also probably distrusted—and not without 122reason—the motives which actuated the advocates of an aggressive policy.

The matter was referred to Iwakura and his colleagues in the mission. Their influence turned the scale in favour of a peaceful solution of the difficulty, with the result that the leaders of the war party resigned their positions in the Government, their example being followed by many subordinate office-holders. Saigō and one or two others retired to their native provinces, the rest remaining in the Capital. This took place in October, 1873.

The rupture in the Ministry—the first to occur since the formation of the new Government five years before—had ostensibly arisen over the Korean question. But in reality there were other issues at stake. This much is clear from the Memorial presented to the Government in January of the following year by four of the retiring statesmen, Soyéshima, Itō Shimpei, Itagaki and Gotō, together with five other officials of lesser note, whose names do not concern us. Neither in the Memorial itself, nor in the joint letter in which it was enclosed, is there a word about Korea. The Memorialists complain in their letter of the delay of the Government in taking steps for the establishment of representative institutions. One of the objects of the Iwakura Mission was, it is pointed out, to gain information for this purpose. Since its return, however, the promised measures had not been introduced. The continued withholding from the people of opportunities for public discussion had created a dangerous situation, calculated to lead to grave trouble in the country.

It will be seen from this letter that the grievance of the Ministers who resigned—with the exception of the elder Saigō—related to the question not of war with Korea, but of the establishment of some form of representative institutions, as foreshadowed in the Imperial Oath. Their quarrel with the Government was based on the view that the latter had broken its promise to take steps in the desired direction.

The Memorial was a repetition of this charge in very prolix form. It dwelt on the right of the people to a share in the direction of public affairs, and on the urgency of establishing representative institutions.

The absence of Saigō’s signature both from the letter and Memorial is not surprising. He had no sympathy with popular reforms of Western origin. His association in the act of resignation 123with men whose political views were so different from his own, and with whom he could have little in common except dissatisfaction with the conduct of public affairs, simply indicates the existence of a general spirit of unrest.

The answer of the Government to the memorialists was not unfavourable. They were told that the principle of an assembly to be chosen by the people was an excellent one. The question of the establishment of local assemblies must, however, take precedence, and this matter was already occupying the Government’s attention.

When discussing in a previous chapter the effects of the abolition of feudalism it was pointed out what great hardship this measure inflicted on the military class. That the ex-samurai, or shizoku, to give them their new name, should as a class be dissatisfied with the sudden change in their fortunes was not surprising. It would have been strange if they had not resented the loss of their many privileges: the superior social status they enjoyed, their permanent incomes hereditary in the family; a house and garden free of rent; exemption from all taxation; and the advantage, appreciated by so poor a class, of being able to travel at cheaper rates than other people. In the course of the inevitable reaction which followed on the accomplishment of the common object which had united the Western clans, and which, it should not be forgotten, was the work of the military class, there was ample occasion for the shizoku to realize all that they had lost by the disappearance of feudalism. The haste, too, with which the new Government had embarked in their course of reform, copied from abroad, gave umbrage to the conservatives in that class who still outnumbered those who were in favour of progress. Nor was the engagement of foreigners, whose services were indispensable in the execution of these reforms, less unwelcome. The foreign experts needed were drawn from various countries. The assistance of France was invoked for the army, and for legal reforms; that of Germany for the army and for medical science; that of Great Britain for the navy, for railway construction, telegraphs and lighthouses, as well as for technical instruction in engineering; Americans were called in to help in the matter of education and in agriculture; while experts from Italy and Holland acted as advisers on questions concerning silk culture and embankments.

Speaking of the craze for imitating the West which prevailed at 124this period, the History of Japan, compiled under official direction for the Chicago Exposition of 1893, says: “During the early years of the Meiji era any knowledge, however slight, of Western science was regarded as a qualification for official employment. Students who had shown themselves intelligent were sent to Europe and America to inspect and report on the conditions existing there, and, as each of these travellers found something new to endorse and import, the mania for Occidental innovations constantly increased. To preserve or revere old customs and fashions was regarded with contempt, and so far did the fancy run that some gravely entertained the project of abolishing the Japanese language, and substituting English for it.”

Captain Brinkley, a friendly critic, in his History of Japan confirms this statement. “In short,” he says, “the Japanese undertook in the most lighthearted manner possible to dress themselves in clothes such as they had never worn before, and which had been made to fit other people. The spectacle looked strange enough to justify the apprehensions of foreign critics who asked whether it was possible that so many novelties should be successfully assimilated, or that a nation should adapt itself to systems planned by a motley band of aliens who knew nothing of its characters or customs.”

Nevertheless, in many respects the inner life of the people remained unaffected by the Western innovations so eagerly adopted. The nation was not called upon to make such sweeping sacrifices as appearances suggested. But the dissatisfied conservative of the former military class who watched the rapid progress of reform in the hands of enthusiastic reformers was not likely to make any fine discriminations; nor was it surprising if the zeal he witnessed, and perhaps also the employment of unwelcome foreigners at what to him seemed extravagant salaries, served to increase his dissatisfaction with the new order of things.

In January, 1874, a few days after the presentation of the Memorial above mentioned, the smouldering discontent burst into flame. Itō Shimpei, one of the memorialists, who had retired to Saga, the chief town in his native province of Hizen, collected there a considerable body of disaffected shizoku and made a successful raid on the prefectural offices. The Government quickly despatched troops against the rebels. Driven out of the town, they fled to Satsuma, hoping to receive assistance from Saigō. No aid, however, was forthcoming 125from this quarter, and Itō and the other insurgent leaders were arrested and executed.

The Hizen insurrection, and the existence of much discontent throughout the country, which showed itself, among other incidents, in the attempted assassination of Iwakura, suggested the advisability of finding some outlet for the mischievous energies of the disbanded samurai, and of diverting their attention from home politics. At this moment there arose an unlooked-for difficulty in connection with Loochoo, which furnished the desired opportunity.

Loochoo will be remembered as the place which Perry made his base of operations before negotiating the Treaty of 1853. The principality—for in those days there was a prince to whom his own subjects, the Chinese, and even the Japanese, gave the title of King—consisted of the large island of Okinawa and nine outlying groups which are situated some two hundred miles south of Japan, according to the latter’s geographical limits at that time. By a curious “Box and Cox” sort of arrangement, which lent itself to the relations then existing between Loochoo and her more powerful neighbours, and seems to have had the tacit sanction of each suzerain, the principality regarded itself as a dependency of both China and Japan, paying tribute to each as its “parents,” in the phraseology of the day. The payment of tribute to China dated from the fourteenth century; that to Japan from the beginning of the seventeenth, when the islands were conquered by the Satsuma clan. In the winter of 1872–3 some Loochooans who were shipwrecked on the coast of Formosa (then a part of China) had met with ill-treatment at the hands of savages in that island. When news of the outrage reached Japan, which was not for some months, the Japanese Government made representations at Peking. As the Chinese authorities refused to accept responsibility for the acts of the savages, an expedition was fitted out in Japan in May, 1894, with the object of exacting reparation from the offending tribe. General Saigō Tsugumichi, the younger brother of the ex-Councillor of State, from whom he was distinguished by his progressive views, was placed in command of the Japanese forces, which consisted of some three thousand men. China retaliated by sending troops of her own to Formosa, and for a time there was every prospect of a collision. The difficulty was eventually settled through the intervention of the British Minister at Peking. The Chinese Government agreed to pay an indemnity, 126and the expedition returned to Japan after an absence of six months.

The dispute with China over Loochoo was thus settled for the time being, but a few years later, in 1879, when Japan formally annexed the islands and the King was removed to Tōkiō, the Chinese Government impugned her action on the ground that Loochoo was a tributary state owing allegiance to China. The incident became the subject of lengthy discussion between Peking and Tōkiō, in the course of which the advice of General Grant, ex-President of the United States, who was then visiting Japan, is said to have been sought by Japanese Ministers; but in the end the matter was allowed to drop without any definite understanding being arrived at.

The difficulty with Korea, which had been the ostensible cause of the first rupture in the new Government, was also settled by a show of force without recourse to actual hostilities. In the summer of 1875 a Japanese surveying vessel was fired at whilst surveying the river leading to the Korean capital. General (later Count) Kuroda and Mr. (afterwards Marquis) Inouyé, who was a native of Chōshiū, were sent with ships of war to demand satisfaction. The Korean Government offered apologies, and the envoys concluded a Treaty which opened two Korean ports to Japanese trade.

An incident in Japan’s foreign relations occurring about this time, which calls for passing notice, is the arrangement made with Russia in regard to Saghalien. In the Treaty of 1858 between Russia and Japan the island was declared to be a joint possession of the two Powers. The Tokugawa Government subsequently proposed the 50th parallel of north latitude as the boundary between the two countries, but no final decision was arrived at. After the Restoration the Japanese Government reopened negotiations on the subject through the medium of the United States, proposing the same boundary. The Russian Government, however, would not accept this solution of the difficulty. Eventually the two Powers concluded an agreement at the Russian capital by which Russia gave the Kurile islands, to which her claim was doubtful, to Japan in exchange for Saghalien.

Neither the Formosan expedition, nor the resolute measures taken in regard to Korea, had any salutary effect upon the general discontent amongst the shizoku, the pacific settlement of both matters having frustrated any hopes which might have been formed of 127military employment in a foreign campaign. The settlement of the Korean question was denounced as a weak surrender, and the Ministry were condemned for making a Treaty on a footing of equality with a country which acknowledged the suzerainty of China, thus compromising the dignity of Japan. Nor, in spite of the appointment of prominent Satsuma men to the chief command of each expedition, and the inclusion of the Satsuma noble Shimadzu in the Government in the high position of Sadaijin, or second Minister of State, was there any improvement in the attitude of the clan.

In the course of 1876 there were two other risings, both promptly suppressed, in Chōshiū and Higo, and by this time the state of affairs in Satsuma caused great anxiety to the Government. The tone of semi-independence assumed, as has already been pointed out, by that clan during the Tokugawa rule was maintained after the Restoration. In other provinces the work of administrative unification had progressed quickly and smoothly, local officials being now frequently chosen from other parts of the country. But in Satsuma there was a refusal to accept any official who was not a native of the province. Some comfort there might be for the Government in the fact that the clan had abstained from making common cause with the rebellious clansmen in other provinces, and that the relations between the two chief leaders, Shimadzu and the elder Saigō, continued to be strained. But these considerations were outweighed by others.

Of all the measures introduced, or contemplated, by the new Government, those to which the strongest objection was felt by the shizoku everywhere were the establishment of conscription, the compulsory commutation of pensions, and the prohibition of the practice of wearing swords. The last of these measures came into force in January, 1877. That conscription should be viewed with disfavour by the former military class was only natural, if only for the reason that its adoption by opening a military career to all classes of the nation offended ancient prejudices, besides being a death-blow to any hope entertained by reactionary clansmen of reviving feudalism. The commutation of pensions had, as we have seen, been arranged in 1871, when feudalism was abolished. But the system then introduced was voluntary. Now it was made compulsory. Occurring when it did, it provoked resentment. The wearing of swords had also at the same date been made optional. The prohibition now enforced mattered little to the shizoku of the towns, many of whom 128had welcomed the opportunity of relinquishing a custom not without inconvenience to town-dwellers, and offering no longer any advantage. But to those in the provinces, with whose traditions and habits the wearing of swords was intimately associated, the change was most distasteful. It was, moreover, precisely in Satsuma and one or two neighbouring clans that the option of not wearing swords had been availed of least. To the Satsuma malcontents, whose military preparations included sword exercise, it might well appear that the prohibition was aimed specially at them.


Local Risings—Satsuma Rebellion—Two-Clan Government.

When mentioning in a previous chapter the occurrence of dissensions in the Ministry soon after the Restoration, attention was drawn to a point of some importance—the division of feeling which existed in several of the clans. This was most conspicuous in Satsuma, Chōshiū and Mito. Even before the Restoration the contentions of rival parties had led in Chōshiū to grave disorders, which had weakened that clan in its conflict with the Tokugawa Government; while in Mito the struggle of opposing factions, supporting, respectively, the Shōgunate, and the Court party represented by the old Prince of Mito, had resulted in prolonged and fierce fighting. Though in Satsuma the rivalry of individual leaders had stopped short of open hostilities, the division of feeling was not less marked. There, as has been pointed out, the situation was complicated by the existence of no less than three parties—two conservative groups led, respectively, by the old noble Shimadzu, the father of the young ex-daimiō, and by the elder Saigō, the latter being at once the most influential and most numerous; and a third—the party of reform—which looked for guidance, amongst other prominent men, to Ōkubo, Kuroda, Matsugata, Kawamura and the younger Saigō. After the Restoration the condition of things became less unsettled in Mito, and to some extent also in Chōshiū. But in Satsuma the division of feeling remained unaltered, a circumstance which, added to separatist tendencies that stood in the way of combined action, was, in the sequel, of much benefit to the Government.

We have touched on the general and special causes which brought about, first a rupture in the Ministry, then the earlier risings in Hizen, Chōshiū and Higo, and lastly the Satsuma rebellion. One other reason, not yet mentioned, was personal and clan jealousies and 130ambitions. What the disaffected clans and individuals wanted was a larger share of power. All, perhaps, over-estimated their share in the accomplishment of the Restoration. They had, they considered, paid the piper, and they wished to call the tune.

Ever since his retirement from office, and his withdrawal to his native province in 1873, the elder Saigō had remained in Kagoshima, the chief town of Satsuma. Here he had established an institution which, in order to disguise its object, was called a “private school.” In reality it was a military college. In its central quarters in that town, and in branches elsewhere, the youth of the clan received a military training. In the autumn of 1875 it was already in a flourishing condition, and in the course of the following year there were in Kagoshima alone some seven thousand pupils, or associates. By this time much uneasiness prevailed. Public apprehension found free expression in the Press, which said that the nation was divided into two parties, one being for the Government, the other for Satsuma, and asked what could be done to preserve peace.

The coming into force in January, 1877, of the edict, issued in the previous year, prohibiting the wearing of swords, was followed by Shimadzu’s resignation of the high office he held in the Ministry. In disgust at this latest move of a Government with which he had never from the first been in sympathy, he left Tōkiō. Not being allowed to travel by sea, he went back to Satsuma by land, following the historic route he and other nobles had so often taken before. The members of his retinue carried in cotton bags the swords they were no longer allowed to wear; and when, at the end of his journey, the gates of the yashiki at Kagoshima closed upon his palanquin, he may have realized that he had passed for ever out of the political life in which he had at one time played so conspicuous a rôle. In the hostilities which followed he took no part, being content to show his disapproval of the new régime by withdrawing into a retirement from which he never again emerged.

Early in 1877 the rebellion broke out. Some excitement had been caused in Satsuma by the rumour of a plot to murder Saigō, and the Government thought it prudent to endeavour to remove a part at least of the stores in the Kagoshima arsenal. The execution of this plan was prevented by cadets of the “private school,” and an officer sent from Tōkiō in the middle of January to arrange matters met with a hostile reception, and was obliged to return without landing. 131War was now certain. A few days later Saigō took the field, and, marching north rapidly, besieged the castle of Kumamoto, the chief town of the province of Higo. This step is generally held to have been fatal to his success. His proper course, it is thought, would have been to have crossed over at once to the main island and move straight on Tōkiō, trusting to the magic of his name to secure fresh adherents on his way. The rebels had some advantages on their side. Their preparations had been made; their leader was a popular hero; and the reputation of the clan for fighting qualities was unrivalled. So universal was the respect inspired by Satsuma swordsmen in those days that mothers in districts further north would quiet fractious infants by warnings of the coming of the dreaded Satsuma men, just as women in Europe in the last century made use, for the same purpose, of Bonaparte’s name. It was doubtful, moreover, what reliance could be placed on the mixed force sent by the Government to encounter the rebels. But in all other respects the Government was far better equipped for the struggle than its opponents. It had large military supplies, accumulated in anticipation of what was coming, besides money and credit. It had the exclusive use of railways and telegraphs, a small fleet, shipping facilities, and the command of the sea. The Crown, too, was on its side, an important point, as we have seen, in Japanese warfare; and it had the further and somewhat singular advantage of being assisted by the co-operation in army, navy, and civil administration of the picked men, intellectually speaking, of the rebel clan, who had thrown in their lot with the Government, and knew the Satsuma resources better, possibly, than the rebels themselves. One other factor in the struggle remains to be noted—the numerous recruits who flocked to the Imperial standard from districts which had formerly supported the Tokugawa cause. Amongst these Aidzu clansmen were conspicuous. Filled with hatred of their late foes in the Civil War of 1868–9, and eager to take revenge for the disaster which had then overtaken them, they fought with a dogged courage and tenacity, and, as swordsmen, in the close hand-to-hand fighting which was a feature of the war, they more than held their own against their redoubtable antagonists.

The investment of Kumamoto by the rebels gave time for the Imperial forces to concentrate, and the relief of that place in the early summer was the turning-point of the struggle. It closed in 132September of the same year with the death of Saigō in Kagoshima, to which place he had doubled back with a few followers through the Imperial lines. He died in true samurai fashion. Driven by shellfire from a hill fort in the Satsuma capital, he was retiring to another part of the town, when a bullet struck him in the thigh, inflicting a dangerous wound. He fell, calling on a friend at his side to cut off his head, so as to avoid the disgrace which, according to the military code of the day, would be incurred were it to come into the hands of the enemy. His friend did as he was asked, and made his escape with the head.

The war was a heavy drain on the Government exchequer. An official estimate of its cost, made in 1893, placed it as high as £82,000,000, an estimate which seems excessive. But the benefits resulting from the dangerous crisis through which the nation had safely passed far outweighed the sacrifice in lives and treasure. Nor is it easy to see how they could have been gained in any other way. The suppression of the rebellion was more than a mere victory for the Government. It meant the triumph of a progressive policy over the mediævalism of old Japan. The reactionary and disturbing elements in the country had been taught that the new order of things must be accepted. The new conscript army had dispelled all doubts of its efficiency and had demonstrated, to the surprise of everybody, that the fighting spirit was not the inheritance solely of the former military class, but that an army recruited from all classes of the people was an institution on which the State could safely depend. Moreover, the administrative organization having successfully passed the severest test to which it could have been put, the Government felt that it had acquired the confidence of the nation, and also of foreign Powers, to a degree unknown before. One result, therefore, of the rebellion was that the Government emerged from the struggle stronger and more compact than before. To this must be added another even more striking: the fact that the Satsuma influence in the Government remained unimpaired in spite of recent events. This may be explained partly by the circumstance, already noted, that the party in the rebel clan in favour of progress had never wavered in its allegiance to the Government, and, perhaps also, partly by the generosity shown to the vanquished by the victors. The liberal policy, quite opposed to the traditions and the spirit of that day, adopted by the Imperialists at the close of the war of the 133Restoration was again followed after the Satsuma rebellion. No stigma, when hostilities had ceased, attached to the men who had fought for the clan. The temple dedicated shortly afterwards to those who had fallen in the conflict was erected to the common memory of all, both loyalists and rebels. From that moment, too—though the tendency in this direction had shown itself earlier—the administration, instead of being, as after the Restoration, a government of the four leading clans, became frankly a government of the two clans of Satsuma and Chōshiū, a character it retains to-day.

The leading fact which emerges from the foregoing account of events is the grave difficulties with which the Government established after the Restoration had to contend. One sees the contest going on between old and new Japan, and the conflict of views which divided the men who carried out the revolution; one notices how tenaciously, in spite of edicts and regulations, old feudal instincts survived; and one realizes what courage and skill were needed to enable the Ministry of reformers to steer a middle course between those who wished to put back the hands of the clock and those who wanted the rate of progress to be still faster.

During the period of civil commotion, which ended with the suppression of the Satsuma rebellion, the work of reconstruction did not stand still altogether. To this period belong the birth of the Press and the formation of the Mitsu Bishi, the earliest Japanese steamship company; the first assembly of provincial governors, which, after the suppression of the Satsuma rebellion, became a yearly feature of administrative procedure; the issue of regulations which were the first step in the revision of local administration in towns and villages; and the creation of a High Court of Justice (Daishinin) and a Legislative Chamber, or Senate (Genrō-in), composed of officials, that continued in existence until 1890. The Imperial message delivered at the opening of the first session announced the desire to establish representative government gradually, and described the creation of the Senate as a first step in this direction. In some respects the functions of this Chamber were more those of an Advisory Council than a Senate of the character found in Western Constitutions. It had no power to initiate legislation, nor to give it final effect. But it filled a useful place as a provisional institution 134in the machinery of administration. It facilitated the work of government by drafting new laws, and by discussing and suggesting alterations in any measures submitted for its consideration. In the domain of foreign affairs, too, by the establishment of treaty relations with Korea, and the conclusion of an agreement with Russia regarding Saghalien and the Kurile islands, to which reference has already been made, controversies of a troublesome nature were definitely settled. With the restoration of order the work of reconstruction proceeded more rapidly. A Stock Exchange and a Chamber of Commerce were formed in the Capital, where also the first National Industrial Exhibition was held; a bimetallic system of currency was introduced; while the complications attending the double allegiance of Loochoo were put an end to by the annexation, already recorded, of that island. A further step was also taken in the direction of appeasing popular clamour for representative government by the promise made in 1878 of introducing prefectural assemblies at an early date.

It will be remembered that in its answer to the Memorials of impatient reformers in 1873, when the first rupture in the Ministry took place, the Government had explained that the introduction of prefectural assemblies must necessarily precede the creation of a National Parliament. Its attitude at that time in regard to the demands of the advanced section of reformers, who were agitating for the establishment forthwith of representative institutions, was clearly expressed in an inspired article which appeared in a Tōkiō newspaper. In this it was pointed out that outside of the official class there was very little knowledge of public affairs, that the immediate need of the country was education, and that the Government could work to better purpose by increasing educational facilities through the establishment of schools than by the hasty creation of a Representative Assembly. The definite promise now made after the lapse of five years was in accordance with the view then expressed as to the necessity of giving precedence to local assemblies, and was fulfilled two years later.

It seems desirable to explain more fully how the Government directed by the four clans which effected the Restoration became a Government of only two of these. When referring to the concentration of administrative authority, after the suppression of the Satsuma rebellion, in the hands of the two clans of Satsuma and 135Chōshiū, mention was made of an earlier tendency in that direction. This was in 1873, when dissensions in the Ministry first occurred. The opposition then encountered by the Government came from two opposite quarters—from reactionaries on the one hand, and, on the other, from the section of advanced reformers. In each case the jealousies and ambitions of clans and individuals played, as we have seen, a certain part. But whereas the aim of the reactionaries barred the door to compromise, since they were opposed to Western innovations of any kind, all that distinguished the views of the more eager reformers from those of the Government was the question of expediency—in other words, the rate at which progress on modern lines, equally the object of both, should proceed. The reactionaries relied on force to gain their ends. They were met by force, and were crushed. After the failure of local risings, and of the more formidable Satsuma rebellion, it became clear that the Government was not to be deterred from pursuing its policy of gradual reform by the open menace of armed forces. Thenceforth, beyond the isolated attacks of fanatical assassins, to one of which Ōkubo, one of the strongest of the new Ministers, fell a victim in the spring of 1878, the Government had nothing to fear from the reactionary elements in the country. There remained the weapon of political agitation, open to all who disagreed with the Government. To this the advanced reformers resorted.

The charge they brought against the Government of failing to fulfil the promise regarding the creation of representative assemblies made in the Imperial Oath was not wholly unfounded. There was, as we have seen, no obscurity in the wording of the Imperial Oath in this respect. For a document drawn up in a language which lacks the precision of European tongues, the Imperial announcement was singularly clear. It has been stated by more than one writer on Japan, who has dealt with this question, that the Imperial Oath did not mean what it said, and that it is a mistake to suppose that the establishment of representative institutions was seriously contemplated at that time. There is no reason, it is true, to credit the men to whose hands the shaping of the new Government was committed with anything but crude ideas of what the Imperial announcement was intended to convey; for the Oath was not a declaration of rights, but simply a statement of intentions, of the principles on which the new Government was to be conducted. Nor is it likely 136that at a time when the feudal system was in operation any clear-cut notions of popular rights, as they came afterwards to be conceived, could have existed. Without doubt, too, those responsible for the language of the Imperial Oath purposed to impose class restrictions on the deliberative rights to be granted. This much is clear from the character given to the deliberative element in the new administration. What, however, is equally certain is that in a general, though vague, way there was a hope widely entertained, and supported by the terms of the Imperial Oath, of broadening, and, in a sense, popularizing the basis of administration; and that the fact of representative government and public discussion being important features of administration in certain Western countries was well known to many leading Japanese, who understood them to be typical of advanced conditions of progress, and desired the early establishment of similar conditions in Japan.

From this point of view the action of the advanced reformers was not without some justification. The Government, on the other hand, in deciding to move cautiously in the matter of establishing representative institutions was probably guided by the conviction that the promise in the Imperial Oath made, as it was, in the first flush of revolutionary enthusiasm, should not, in the interests of the country, be construed too literally; and in the light of subsequent events the correctness of its decision was abundantly proved.

The views on the subject of representative government held by advanced reformers, amongst whom Tosa clansmen predominated, had, as we have seen, received substantial recognition from those in authority. A deliberative element had been introduced into the new administration formed after the Restoration; and the principle, thus recognized, had been retained throughout all subsequent administrative changes. After the rupture in the Ministry, which took place in 1873, the Government had again showed itself anxious to meet the wishes of the advanced reformers, who had, meanwhile, formed in the Capital the first political association in Japan, to which the name of “Association of Patriots” (Aikoku-tō) was given. About the same time the chief Tosa leader, Itagaki, had formed in his native province the first local political society called the Risshi-sha or “Association of men with a definite purpose.” In the chapter on “Political Parties” in Fifty Years 137of New Japan this society is described as a political school similar to the Cadet College established by the elder Saigō before the Satsuma rebellion. Early in 1875 overtures for a reconciliation had been made by the Ministry, and at a Conference in Ōsaka, attended by Itagaki, and by Kido who had resigned from office on another question in the previous year, an understanding was arrived at, both Itagaki and Kido rejoining the Government. So far as the former was concerned, one of the conditions of reconciliation was the creation of the Senate (Genrō-in), to which reference has already been made.

The reconciliation effected with the Tosa party was of short duration. At the assembly of prefects, already noted, which was held a few weeks later, the question of representative government was discussed. The opinion of the prefects was in favour of the Government’s previous decision, announced in its answer to the memorialists in 1873, that the establishment of prefectural assemblies must precede the creation of a National Parliament. The prefects’ endorsement of the attitude already adopted by the Government on this point, and the latter’s final decision not only to withhold from the Senate the elective character desired by the advanced reformers, but to restrict membership to officials only, caused much dissatisfaction in the Tosa party, and in March, 1876, Itagaki again severed his connection with the Government, to which he did not return until several years after parliamentary government had been established. Ever since the first rupture in the Ministry there had been much sympathy between the Tosa party and those Hizen clansmen who entertained similar advanced views on reform. Itagaki’s final withdrawal from the Government led to the establishment of still closer relations. From this moment dates the formation of a regular opposition party of advanced Radicals, and the commencement of a vigorous political agitation in favour of popular reforms, which continued, with intervals of quiescence, for many years.

As the estrangement of Tosa and Hizen clansmen from the Government grew more pronounced in the course of this agitation, the relations between the other two more conservative, and at the same time more warlike, clans, which supplied the military strength essential to the administration, became naturally closer. After the suppression of the Satsuma rebellion—which, as we have 138seen, in no way impaired Satsuma influence in the Ministry—a more definite understanding in regard to general policy was gradually evolved, with the result, already noted, that the direction of affairs passed into the hands of Satsuma and Chōshiū, where it still remains.


Japanese Religions before Restoration: Shintō and Buddhism.

In the previous chapter the outbreak and suppression of the Satsuma rebellion were recorded. An outline was also given of the course of events by which the administration assumed a new character, the direction of affairs passing into the hands of the Satsuma and Chōshiū clans. The point now reached, when the new Government is seen at length firmly seated in the saddle, seems to furnish a suitable opportunity for dealing with the subject of religion. Though not in all respects very closely connected with the development of Japan on modern lines, it was, as we have seen, indirectly associated with the work of reconstruction and reform; and this association continues, being noticeable from time to time in various ceremonial changes and other innovations.

In the moulding of Japanese life and character four religions have played a part, Shintō, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. To these a fifth, Christianity in different forms, has in recent times been added. There is nothing peculiar in this, for other countries have more than one religion. But in Japan the existence side by side of religions quite separate in character has had curious results. Not only have the four earliest of these different religions influenced each other in a marked degree, this interaction resulting in one case in a fusion of two faiths which might almost be classified as a fresh religion, or sect, but the singular habit of professing two religions at the same time has been evolved—a circumstance without parallel elsewhere. Every Japanese house, no matter whether the occupant is an adherent of the Shintō, or Buddhist, faith, has both Shintō and Buddhist altars, at which daily offerings are made. To the persons concerned this dual worship conveys no sense of incongruity, nor, strangely enough, is it regarded as incompatible with acknowledged adherence to one of the two faiths. When questioned as to the 140religion they profess, they will reply that it is Shintō, or Buddhism, as the case may be. And there the matter is left.

Referring to this point the Japan Year Book for 1915 admits that most Japanese are dualist in the matter of religion. “A new-born child,” it says, “is taken to a Shintō”—[the words “or Buddhist” should here have been added]—“temple to invoke the help of the guardian deity for its prosperity or success in life. When it dies, it is taken to a Buddhist temple for burial.”

The foregoing facts seem to confirm the statement made by the author of Fifty Years of New Japan as to the freedom of the Japanese people from sectarian prejudice. “Whereas in China,” Marquis Ōkuma says, “the co-existence of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism resulted in a war of creeds which weakened that empire, and was the cause of its present condition, the presence side by side of four different beliefs in Japan” [not counting Christianity] “gave rise to no sectarian strife whatever.” Marquis Ōkuma’s assertion applies, indeed, with more accuracy to present than to past times. He appears to overlook more than one instance in Japanese history where excess of religious zeal has caused not only sectarian strife, but popular commotion, which has led in its turn to interference on the part of the authorities. There can be little doubt, however, that the matter of religion has, on the whole, never been taken so seriously by the Japanese as by other peoples. It is equally clear that the authorities in their attitude towards religion have invariably been guided by political expediency, rather than by religious motives.

How far political considerations have affected religious development in Japan will be seen later on in the course of the next chapter, when it will also be more convenient to deal with the latest of Japanese religions, Christianity, as being specially identified with the nation’s modern progress. Let us first dwell briefly on the distinctive features of the religions themselves, as they existed before the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse, beginning with Shintō the native faith.

Originally a form of nature-worship, Shintō at an early date came to include ancestor-worship. This was due to the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism. The cult of natural deities known by the general designation of kami—a word of many meanings—was thus extended so as to include deified heroes, deceased sovereigns, 141and, finally, abdicated and reigning Mikados, as being of divine descent. Shintō ritual, as handed down from ancient times, is limited to formulas of prayer to natural deities; its ceremonial is concerned solely with purification for wrong-doing, or for defilement by contact, real or imaginary, with the dead. It had no authorized funeral rites, nor were there any Shintō cemeteries. It has no sacred books, no dogmas, no moral code. All these it was left to other religions, chiefly Buddhism, to supply. Notwithstanding the absence of these features, common to most religions, the author of a work on Buddhism, The Creed of Half Japan (the Rev. Arthur Lloyd), speaks of it as having “a slight flavour of philosophy, a vague but deepseated religiosity,” and as making “a strong appeal to Japanese pride.” The correctness of this last statement no one will be inclined to dispute, for to the influence of Shintō ideas regarding the semi-divinity of Japanese monarchs the unbroken character of the dynasty is largely due.

A peculiar feature of the Japanese native religion, namely, its connection with the worship of animals, is described by Mr. Aston in his “Shintō”:—

“Animals,” he says, “may be worshipped for their own sakes, as wonderful, terrible, or uncanny beings. The tiger, the serpent, and the wolf are for this reason called kami. But there are no shrines in their honour, and they have no regular cult. A more common reason for honouring animals is their association with some deity as his servants, or messengers. Thus the deer is sacred at” [the shrine of] “Kasuga, the monkey at” [that of] “Hiyoshi, the pigeon to the god (of war), the white egret at the shrine of Kébi no Miya, the tortoise at Matsunöo, and the crow at Kumano.... The pheasant is the messenger of the Gods generally. The best known case of the worship of an associated animal is that of Inari, the rice-god, whose attendant foxes are mistaken by the ignorant” [namely, the uneducated masses] “for the god himself, and whose effigies have offerings made to them.” The “Korean dogs,” he adds, seen in front of many Shintō shrines, are meant not as gods but as guardians, like the great figures on each side of the entrance to Buddhist temples.

Japanese writers fix the date of the introduction of Buddhism into Japan at about the middle of the sixth century. The Buddhism then introduced was that of the so-called Northern School, the doctrines of which are based on what is known as the “Mahayana 142Vehicle.” One of its earliest adherents was the Imperial Prince Shōtoku Taishi, who, though he never occupied the throne, virtually ruled the country for many years as deputy, or Vice-Regent, for his aunt the Empress Suiko. He it was who carried out the “Great Reform,” which revolutionized Japanese administration in imitation of Chinese models. He also did much to propagate Buddhism, which at that time was unsectarian. It was not till after his death in A.D. 620 that the first sects came into existence. By the end of the eighth century there were eight sects, of which two only, the Tendai and Shingon, now survive. The chief sects, in addition to these two, are the Zen, Jōdo, Shin and Nichiren, all of which were founded during the rule of the Hōjō Regents in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Into the question of the tenets which distinguish these different sects, one from another, it is unnecessary to enter. It will be sufficient to indicate the main characteristics of the three, the Zen, Shin and Nichiren sects, which have by far the most numerous adherents.

The Zen sect, the earliest of the three, which has six sub-sects, was established in the first years of the thirteenth century, its founder being the Buddhist priest Eisai Zenshi. It has, Mr. Lloyd tells us, always been more or less influenced by Confucianism, and is opposed to what its followers regard as the anthropomorphic tendencies of other sects. It recognizes a supreme being, but refuses to personify him, holding that personification of this kind is but a pious device to adapt the truth to the weakness of human intellect. Apart from actual doctrine, the main feature of the Zen sect is the practice of silent meditation for the purpose of acquiring by introspective contemplation a detached and philosophic habit of mind. Before the abolition of feudalism it was the favourite sect of the military class, and to this day it includes more naval and military men among its adherents than other sects, while its influence on Bushidō has been very marked.

The Shin sect, which has also six sub-sects, was founded by the priest Shinran Shōnin. The position which it holds in regard to other Buddhist sects is in some respects similar to that of Protestantism in regard to Roman Catholicism. Its followers eat meat, and the clergy are free to marry. The chief point in its doctrine is salvation by faith through the mercy of Buddha, and, in Mr. Lloyd’s opinion, the whole system of the founder “savours strongly of Nestorianism,” which was propagated in China as far back as the seventh century.

143There remains to be noticed the Nichiren sect. This, the most active and indeed aggressive, and, it may be added, the noisiest in the conduct of religious festivals, of all Buddhist sects, was established by the priest Nichiren. His object, as we learn from the author previously quoted, was to purge Japanese Buddhism from the errors which, in his view, had crept into it, and restore the primitive character imparted to the Buddhist faith by its Indian founder. The ardour with which he pursued his object led him to trench on political matters, and brought him into collision with the authorities. He was a fierce opponent of the Zen sect, and its Confucian tendencies, describing it as “a doctrine of demons and fiends.”

Owing to the circumstances attending its introduction the traces of Chinese influence in Japanese Buddhism are naturally very marked. This influence was increased by the frequent visits paid by Japanese monks to China, where they came into direct contact with Chinese religious thought. Nevertheless, the fact that the three sects most prominent to-day owe their origin and development to Japanese priests is evidence of a certain tendency towards national independence in religious matters. Buddhism, it may be added, has more adherents in Japan than Shintō, though the difference in numbers is not great.

The fusion of Shintō and Buddhism under the name of Riōbu Shintō, which, according to the best authorities, took place in the ninth century, is generally regarded as the work of the Shingon sect of Buddhists, though the Tendai sect appears to have been associated in the movement. By this fusion, which seems to have been copied from earlier attempts in China to amalgamate Buddhism and Confucianism, the Shintō Kami, or deities, were—by a pious fraud known to Japanese Buddhists by the term hōben—received into the Buddhist pantheon as avatars of ancient Buddhas. Its Buddhist character is sufficiently indicated by the qualifying prefix in its name of Riōbu, which means “two parts,” namely, the two mystical worlds that figure in the doctrine of the Shingon sect; its Shintō connection is shown by the worship of Shintō deities under Buddhist names. “Despite its professions of eclecticism,” says Mr. Aston in his book already quoted, “the soul of Riōbu Shintō was essentially Buddhist.” He speaks, also, of the movement as the formation of a new sect, a view in which Professor Chamberlain in his Things Japanese does not seem altogether to concur. The point may be left to Shintō 144and Buddhist scholars to determine. The result of the fusion, in any case, was that most Shintō shrines became Riōbu Shintō temples. In many of these Buddhist priests alone officiated, but in some cases such temples had separate establishments of Shintō and Buddhist clergy, who conducted services alternately in the same buildings.

Although Confucianists can point to the existence of a temple of that religion in Tōkiō, neither Confucianism nor Taoism—both of which came to Japan with the adoption of the written language of China—had ever quite the status of established religions. It would be difficult to overestimate the part played by Confucian ethics in the development of Japanese character and thought. Those, moreover, who have studied the subject profess to see both in Shintō and Buddhism the impress of Taoist philosophy. In both cases, however, the influence of these cults on the Japanese people has been exercised indirectly, by the infiltration of Confucian and Taoist principles into other faiths, and not directly, as would have been the case had they operated in the character of separate and distinct religions.


Japanese Religions after Restoration: Christianity—Bushidō—Religious Observances.

The political considerations which have affected religious development in Japan are chiefly, though by no means entirely, connected with her modern progress. Under the Tokugawa administration matters concerning religion were entrusted to official dignitaries called Jisha-bugiō who, as their name, “Controllers of Buddhist and Shintō temples,” implies, took charge, in addition to other and more important administrative duties, of all business connected with these two religions. Both religions were thus recognized by the State, and were equally matters of concern to the Tokugawa Government, though its leanings were towards Buddhism. The Imperial Court, on the other hand, during this period favoured Shintō. This it had not always done. Until the advent to power of the military ruler Nobunaga in the middle of the sixteenth century Buddhism had for several centuries been the dominating religion. The Jesuit missionaries who then reached Japan found Buddhism at the high tide of its power. At the Imperial Court, and everywhere throughout the country, it exercised a supreme influence. Its military strength, too, at that time was formidable. The abbots of Buddhist monasteries in the vicinity of the Capital and elsewhere, like militant bishops in the Middle Ages in Europe, kept garrisons of fighting monks, which constituted a serious menace to administrative authority. A ruthless campaign conducted by the ruler in question put an end to this state of things. From the blow then dealt to it the Buddhist militant clergy never recovered. As a result of the movement in the eighteenth century, known as “The Revival of Pure Shintō,” to which reference was made in a previous chapter, Buddhism for a time came under a cloud. But its influence was subsequently re-established, Shintō sinking back again into the secondary place it had occupied before.

146When the Restoration took place the respective positions of the two religions were entirely changed. The professed aim of the revolution being to restore the system of direct Imperial rule, the new Government naturally adopted every means of accomplishing this object. And, as belief in the divine descent of the Mikados was a part of Shintō doctrine, the encouragement of the native religion became an important point in the programme of the reformers. In the organization of the new administration, therefore, formed on an ancient bureaucratic model, prominence was given to religion in the single form of Shintō by the creation of a separate department of State for the control of Shintō affairs. To this the name of Jinji-jimu-Kioku, shortly afterwards changed to jingikwan, was given. Shintō thus became a synonym, as it were, for religion; while Buddhism was left out in the cold, and, as a Church, was practically disestablished. Nor did the zeal of the reformers, who had thus in effect created a State religion, end here.

A form of abdication of frequent occurrence in Japan had been retirement into the Buddhist priesthood. The custom was common to the whole nation, and its practice by Mikados, princes of the Imperial House, Court nobles and the feudal aristocracy, had increased the prestige of Buddhism, while enriching the sects whose temples were thus favoured. The new Government prohibited this custom, so far as the Imperial House and the nobility were concerned; all Riōbu Shintō temples were restored to their ancient status of Shintō shrines; and at the same time many Buddhist temples throughout the country were deprived of the lands from which their revenues were largely drawn. This act of spoliation served a double purpose. It benefited the depleted national exchequer and discouraged the adherents of the ex-Shōgun, whose family had always patronized Buddhism.

An innovation introduced at this time, with the object apparently of popularizing Shintō and bringing it into line, so to speak, with religions elsewhere, was the institution of Shintō funerals; the performance of funeral rights, as well as the care of cemeteries, having been entrusted hitherto to Buddhist priests.

That these steps were dictated by policy, and were not due to sectarian feeling, is evident from the whole course of subsequent action in regard to religious matters. In 1871 the jingikwan was abolished, and Shintō ceased to be the only State religion, though 147retaining to some extent its privileged character. The place of the defunct department which had ranked with the Council of State was taken by the Kiōbusho, or Department of Religion, in which both Shintō and Buddhism enjoyed official recognition, as before. For convenience of administration a distinction was made between secular matters and religious worship, the latter being placed under the control of a Bureau of Rites and Ceremonies. This distinction is still maintained. The official recognition enjoyed by each religion has been tacitly extended to Christianity; but the principle of State policy regarding Shintō survives. It is still par excellence the Court religion, though the fact that on the accession of a new Sovereign his robes are blessed at a certain Buddhist temple in Kiōto shows that Buddhism has still an accepted position at Court. There is a Shintō bureau in the Imperial Household Department, and a Shintō shrine stands in the Palace.

The services in the Palace shrine at which the Emperor personally officiates, and the worship by members of the Imperial family, or their proxies, at the chief shrines in the country, secure for the Shintō faith the first place in public esteem. The erection, moreover, in the Capital, since the Restoration, of a national shrine to the memory of all who have died fighting at home, or abroad, has established a new centre of Shintō worship, where the native religion, in direct association with military and patriotic sentiment, gains a fresh hold on popular sympathy. More recently, too, the functions of the Shintō clergy have been extended so as to include the ceremony of marriage, which was formerly unconnected with religion of any kind, while since the annexation of Korea a Shintō shrine has been established in Seoul.

The purely national character of the Japanese native religion excludes the idea of its propagation in foreign countries. No such obstacle exists in the case of Buddhism. After the Restoration several Buddhist sects turned their attention to missionary effort abroad. A more or less active propaganda has since then been carried on in Asiatic countries, and the right of Japanese subjects to engage in missionary work in China is recognized in the Treaty concluded with that country in 1905 after the Russo-Japanese War. The activity of the Buddhist clergy in recent times has shown itself in two ways quite unconnected with religious propaganda. Extensive journeys in Central Asia for political and scientific purposes have been undertaken 148by Buddhist travellers, who in the course of their wanderings have gained much valuable information; while others have done useful work in supplying the spiritual needs of Japanese communities abroad.

The reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse added another to the list of Japanese religions, though it was not till after the withdrawal of the anti-Christian edicts in 1870 that the Japanese people were permitted to adopt openly the new faith. If the progress Christianity has made since then compares unfavourably with its rapid spread when first introduced in the sixteenth century, this is explained by the less favourable circumstances attending its reintroduction. When introduced by Jesuit missionaries, it was regarded in some places as being simply a new form of Buddhism, the authorities being misled by a certain resemblance in ritual. On its later reintroduction it had to contend against official and popular prejudice due to the previous persecution, while, instead of being preached, as formerly, in the single form of Roman Catholicism, it came under several forms, the number of which increased as more missionaries arrived. A somewhat similar advantage, however, marked its introduction on each occasion. Just as Christianity, when introduced under Jesuit auspices, was at first encouraged for the sake of the trade which came with it, so, on its reintroduction, it was welcomed as a means of learning English. This advantage it still retains. An account, written in 1917, of the religious work carried on by the “Young Men’s Christian Association” since its establishment in the Capital in 1880 contains the following statement: “One of the most fruitful phases of the movement has been the securing of Christian college graduates from Canada and the United States to teach English in Japanese schools. While these teachers are appointed and salaried by the schools, they are free to use their leisure for Christian work among the students. There are now twenty-seven such teachers.” Evidence, moreover, of the close connection between Christianity and the modern progress of Japan, and of the benefit derived by the former from the increased study of foreign languages, which is one of the results of this progress, is supplied by a Japanese bishop, the Rev. Y. Honda, and Mr. Y. Yamaji in the chapter on Christianity contributed by them to the book already mentioned, Fifty Years of New Japan.

149Opinions differ as to the future of Christianity in Japan. The Reports of foreign missionary societies furnish encouraging data regarding the results of missionary efforts during the last half century. Nevertheless, a feeling of uncertainty regarding the prospects of Christianity prevails both in Japanese and foreign circles. There is a tendency to regard the eventual Christianization of the country as doubtful, though the progress already made is freely admitted. To enter into the various considerations which influence opinion on this point would require more space than is at our disposal. An idea, however, which is entertained by not a few attentive observers is that, in the event of Christianity becoming in the distant future the dominant religion of Japan, it will be Christianity in a new form evolved by the people for themselves. They will do, it is thought, with Christianity as they have done with the Buddhism imported from abroad, and mould it to suit their own taste. This view derives some support from the two separate movements—one towards independence, namely, freedom from foreign control; the other towards amalgamation—which have taken place in recent years in several Japanese Christian churches. A notable instance of the first of these movements occurred some years ago in the case of the Congregationalist University in Kiōto. In that case the agitation for independence resulted in the control of the college passing into the hands of the Japanese directors, the American missionaries connected with the institution remaining simply as advisers. American influence predominates to-day in foreign missionary enterprise, the outstanding feature in the work of American missions being the establishment of educational institutions on a Christian basis. According to official statistics for 1917 the number of Japanese Christians amounted in that year to a little over 200,000.

No account of Japanese religions can be complete without some mention of Bushidō, the religion of the warrior, as its name implies. A product of Japanese feudalism, round which a good deal of romantic sentiment, and still more philosophical literature, has grown up, it may be described as an unwritten rule of conduct to be observed by members of the military class. Its best known exponent is Yamaga Sokō, whose lectures and writings in the middle of the seventeenth century on Bushidō, Confucianism and military strategy, as understood in those days, gained for him a great reputation. Ōishi, the famous leader of the Forty-Seven rōnin, was one of his pupils. The 150virtues on which stress was laid in Bushidō ethics were chiefly feudal loyalty, self-sacrifice, filial piety and simple living, all of which might, perhaps, be summed up in the one word duty. The endeavour of the samurai who was true to Bushidō ideals was to live a life of self-restraint, so as to be ready to answer the call of duty at any moment. This explains the attraction for the adherents of Bushidō which lay in the Zen sect of Buddhism with its practice of silent meditation. It helped them to cultivate the austere and detached habit of mind that was supposed to be essential to the proper observance of the Spartan rules of Bushidō. At the same time the strong, though unacknowledged, influence of the Sung school of Confucianism on Zen doctrine indirectly affected Bushidō ideas, imparting to them a tinge of the abstruse philosophy of that school. The association of the Zen sect, moreover, with the quaint ceremonial of tea-drinking known as “Cha-no-yu,” resulted in the practice of this ceremonial being widely adopted in Bushidō circles. In no sense a religion in the strict meaning of the word, despite its connection with Buddhism and Confucianism, Bushidō in the course of its later development came to be identified with patriotism. It is this aspect of it which has been most conspicuous since the disappearance of feudalism. Constant reference is made by modern Japanese writers on the subject to the Yamato Damashii, or Japanese spirit, which it is considered to represent; and though much of what is said is far-fetched, and possibly meant for foreign consumption, the simple precepts of Bushidō have undoubtedly served a useful purpose in stimulating in all classes of the people the exercise of the virtues it inculcates. Quick to recognise the usefulness of its ethical teaching, the Japanese Government has availed itself of the services of Bushidō, in conjunction with Shintō, to strengthen the fabric of monarchy. Its action in this direction, due, apparently, to motives similar to those which influenced German policy before the Great War in encouraging a creed of State worship, was criticized shrewdly, though somewhat harshly, a few years ago in a magazine article entitled “The Invention of a new Religion.”

The Japanese people may, as has been suggested, be disposed to take religion less seriously than other nations. As to the great part, nevertheless, which it plays in the national life, in the shape of pilgrimages and religious festivals, there can be no question. At certain periods of the year, regulated by custom so as to cause the least interference with agricultural operations, thousands of pilgrims 151of both sexes, not content with visiting less remote shrines, make long journeys to noted shrines throughout the country. The pilgrim who has thus visited the Great Shrine at Isé, ascended one of Japan’s many sacred mountains, or worshipped at other distant shrines, not only “acquires virtue” thereby, but gains social prestige in his home circle in town, or village, much in the same way as the Mussulman hadji who has been to Mecca, or the Russian peasant who has seen the sacred places in the Holy Land. These pilgrimages also serve indirectly an educational purpose. Among the countless religious festivals which vary the monotony of daily life in Japan, the flower fairs are those which are most typically Japanese. On every evening of the year a flower fair, associated with the festival of a local shrine, takes place in some quarter of the city of Tōkiō. Nor are these fairs peculiar to the Capital. They are to be seen in most provincial towns of importance, though the smaller number of urban shrines precludes their daily occurrence. Neither pilgrimages nor religious festivals, it should be noted, are due entirely to religious sentiment. They appeal to the love of ceremonies, and the passion for sight-seeing, which distinguish the nation.

Before leaving the subject of religion it may be well to emphasize a point which has received only passing attention. In all the three religions which have had most to do with the moulding of Japanese character and thought, Buddhism, Shintō and Confucianism, the principle of ancestor-worship is imbedded. The result has been that a closer, a more intimate, association of the past with the present, of the dead with the living, is, perhaps, possible in Japan than elsewhere. The beautiful Buddhist festival of departed spirits; the simpler, if more primitive, services at Shintō shrines in memory of deceased relatives; the daily worship at family altars decorated with ancestral tablets; the careful keeping of the anniversaries of deaths; the religious care bestowed on graves; and the idea, not to say belief, in the participation of departed spirits in National Festivals—all tend not only to keep fresh in men’s minds the memory of their dead, but to encourage the feeling of their continued existence in spirit land. Thus the mischief wrought by time is lessened, while death is robbed of a part of its terrors.


Political Unrest—The Press—Press Laws—Conciliation and Repression—Legal Reforms—Failure of Yezo Colonization Scheme—Ōkuma’s Withdrawal—Increased Political Agitation.

When the main thread of our narrative was interrupted in order to enable the reader to form some idea of Japanese religions, and their relation to the modern progress of the country, the train of events which resulted in the concentration of authority in the hands of the Satsuma and Chōshiū clans, and the formation of a regular opposition party of advanced reformers, had been briefly described. At this time, as was pointed out, there was no great difference of principle, so far as domestic reforms were concerned, between progressive politicians in the Government and those outside. Both were agreed on the importance of widening the basis of administration and of associating the people in the work of government. The idea, also, of what was meant by the people had grown so as to include all classes of the nation. The point of disagreement was simply the rate at which progress in the shape of reform on Western lines should proceed. As between moderate and advanced reformers, therefore, matters should have been open to compromise. But the situation was not so simple as it appeared to be. One circumstance that stood in the way of compromise between the two sections of reformers was the large number of disbanded samurai which the abolition of feudalism had thrown upon the country, and for the absorption of which in other occupations under the new order of things there had not yet been time. Many men of this class had really nothing in common with the advanced reformers save in the matter of discontent. Idle and impecunious, they were ready for mischief of any kind, and joined eagerly in an agitation for things of which they were mostly ignorant. Moved by the mere desire to fish in troubled waters, these people did much harm to the cause they espoused, giving to it a character of turbulence which 153excited the apprehension of the authorities. A further consideration which may have influenced the situation was the reaction following upon the troubled period through which the country had passed. Fully alive to the serious nature of the crisis it had successfully surmounted, and, at the same time, conscious of its newly found strength, the Government was probably in no mood to brook any opposition, however well-intentioned, to its now settled policy of gradual reform. The fact, too, that the Ministry was now one of two clans, and not, as originally, of four, sharpened the line of cleavage between those who directed affairs and those who, perforce, looked on from outside. Clan feeling embittered the movement set on foot by the advanced reformers not only at the outset, but throughout its whole course. Much of the sympathy and support they received from many quarters, as the agitation progressed, had little connection with their declared objects, being due largely to dislike and jealousy of the continued predominance of men of these two clans in the Ministry, which was nicknamed the “Satchō Government.”

The final withdrawal of Itagaki from the Government in the spring of 1876 has been mentioned as the moment from which the organized agitation for representative government may be considered to have commenced. It is difficult to assign exact dates for political movements of this kind. It may with equal correctness be considered as having begun in 1873, when the Tosa leader first resigned office, which is the view taken by Mr. Uyéhara in The Political Development of Japan. The point is of small importance, but it seems permissible to regard the agitation as not having assumed the form of an organized movement until after Itagaki’s final secession from the Ministry.

Before that happened the Government, doubtless well informed of the intentions of the advanced reformers, had taken the first step in a series of repressive measures designed to check the agitation. This was the Press law promulgated in July, 1875. It is difficult to see how the Government could at this time have done otherwise, and remained in power. The attempted assassination of Iwakura by Tosa malcontents had revealed the danger to be feared from extremists of a dangerous class, whose dissatisfaction at the pacific settlement of the Korean difficulty had, it was known, been shared by the Tosa leader. The disturbed condition of the country had also been shown 154by the abortive provincial risings, and was to be demonstrated still more clearly by the Satsuma rebellion.

Up to that time there had been little interference with the Press. The first newspapers had appeared in the late ’sixties. These were of an ephemeral kind, but a few years later the press in its more developed and permanent form came into existence. It increased very rapidly, while its vitality may be gauged by the fact that some of the papers which then made their appearance are in circulation to-day. In the Capital alone there were soon six or seven daily papers of some standing, all of which, with one exception, lent their aid to the agitation. Into the crusade for popular rights the young Press flung itself with enthusiasm, finding its advantage in the very circumstances which were embarrassing to the Government. Amongst the former military class—the educated section of the nation—which the abolition of feudalism had left stranded with but scanty means of subsistence, there were many men of literary attainments, as such were understood in those days. From these the Press could draw an ample supply of writers, all with real or fancied grievances, some with a bias in favour of popular reforms, others again with a veneer of Western knowledge which did duty for learning. The political articles which appeared in the newspapers of that time were hardly of the quality noticeable to-day. They were full of quotations from European writers on the subject of equality and the rights of man, interspersed with phrases from the Chinese classics, which were the stock-in-trade of all journalists; and, strange as was the contrast presented by materials culled from sources so different, they were all equally effective for the purpose intended, which was to denounce what was described as the tyrannical policy of the Government.

Educational influences, other than those working through the medium of the Press, lent force to the agitation. The fusion of classes, one of the first results of the Restoration, had the effect of opening public and private schools alike to all sections of the people, thus bringing within reach of everyone the education which before had been the privilege only of the military class and Buddhist clergy. By teachers in these schools, by educationalists writing for the express purpose of disseminating Western ideas, and by lecturers, the work of educating the nation proceeded apace.

By none were greater services rendered in this direction than by Fukuzawa Yūkichi. Conspicuous in each of these rôles, as schoolmaster, 155author and lecturer, as well as in the double capacity of founder of a school, which has attained the dimensions of a university, and chief teacher therein; and as the proprietor and editor of one of the best Japanese newspapers, the Jiji Shimpō, his name will always be famous in the history of his time. The “Sage of Mita,” as he was called from the quarter of the city in which he lived, will be remembered as one who, besides helping the cause of education, strove from the first to give effect to the fusion of classes by encouraging a spirit of independence in those sections of the people whose self-respect had been weakened by centuries of feudalism. For purely party politics Fukuzawa had little taste, owing perhaps to the fact that he had no clan connection with political affairs, nor was his newspaper ever identified with any political association. But it was an active champion of popular rights, and his voluminous writings, the popularity of which was so great that of one book more than three million copies were printed, gave much indirect encouragement to the agitation for popular reforms.

The public indignation excited by the Press law was succeeded by consternation at the rigorous manner in which it was enforced. Imprisonment of editors for what would now be regarded as trifling infringements of the law was of common occurrence, while journals publishing any matter considered by the authorities to be objectionable were promptly suspended. To such lengths was interference with the Press carried that at one time more than thirty journalists were in prison in Tōkiō alone. The constant depletion of the staffs of newspapers which incurred official displeasure resulted in the evolution of a class of dummy editors, whose duty it was to be the “whipping boys” of the papers they represented, and undergo the sentences of imprisonment imposed. The agitation, nevertheless, continued unabated, and political associations, in whose programmes a demand for representative government—never very clearly defined—occupied the first place, sprang up in various places. A leading figure in the movement, who came into notice soon after its inception, and for several years took a prominent part, in company with Itagaki both as a lecturer and in the formation of political clubs, was Kataoka Kenkichi, also a native of Tosa. His arrest and that of other members of the party at the height of the political disturbances which culminated in the Satsuma rebellion, brought about a temporary cessation of agitation, and checked for a time the growth of 156political clubs. But with the restoration of order in the country the agitators resumed their activity. The leaders made tours of the provinces to stimulate local effort, as a result of which twenty-seven provincial associations, representing some 90,000 members, were formed; and at a meeting held in Ōsaka these were amalgamated under the name of “Union for the establishment of a parliament.” The Government replied by promulgating in 1880 the Law of Public Meetings, which restricted considerably the rights hitherto enjoyed by the public in this respect. But the agitators continued to work with undiminished energy, and the fact that, in spite of the issue of this law, a meeting held in Tōkiō in the autumn of the same year was attended by representatives from more than half of the prefectures into which Japan was then divided shows how strong a hold on the country the movement had by this time acquired.

We have seen how the work of reconstruction carried on by the Government, though hindered, never stopped during the period of civil commotions. It was the same during the long course of popular agitation which followed it. Side by side with repression there went always reform. Steady progress was made with the long and difficult business of land-tax revision. Involving, as it did, a resurvey and the valuation of all land, as well as the investigation of titles to land, and boundaries, this was a task of the first magnitude. At the same time attention was given to the reorganization of local government. This included, besides the readjustment of local taxation, the arrangements necessary for the eventual establishment of the prefectural and other local assemblies, forming part of the general scheme of local self-government, which, it was considered, must necessarily precede the creation of a national parliament. It was not until after the restoration of order, when it was at length possible for the task of reconstruction to proceed more rapidly, that the results of this tedious and little-noticed work became apparent.

In the spring of 1878 the first of these results was seen in the completion at the second conference of Prefects, to which reference has already been made, of drafts of the “three great laws,” as they were called at the time. These, which conceded a large measure of local autonomy, concerned local taxation, prefectural assemblies, and similar smaller bodies to be created in urban and rural districts, towns and villages.

157The law establishing prefectural assemblies came into force in 1880; the arrangements relating to smaller bodies not until some years later. These measures will be referred to again when we come to deal with the whole question of the revision of local government.

It has been said that in the earlier stages of agitation for popular reforms no concession was ever made by the Government till it was compelled to do so by the force of circumstances. And the assertion has been supported by the suggestion of a connection in point of time between certain manifestations of popular feeling, and some of the liberal measures adopted by the Government. The attempted assassination of Iwakura was certainly followed shortly afterwards by the decree establishing the annual conferences of Prefects. On the other hand the completion of the drafts of the three laws above mentioned at the second of these conferences occurred only a month before Ōkubo’s assassination. In that case there was no possible connection. Nor in subsequent years does it seem possible to establish any connection of the kind suggested. If traceable at all, it may be regarded as due simply to coincidence.

A somewhat similar view as to the pressure put upon the Government by the agitation is taken by Mr. Uyéhara, the author already quoted, who does not conceal his sympathy with the advanced reformers. He speaks of the movement as being from its inception a struggle for constitutional reform, in which the agitators were successful, and regards the introduction of representative government when it came as a proof of their success. It is indeed more than probable that the agitation they conducted for so long, fortified as it was by an increasing measure of support from the public, hastened in some degree the establishment of the representative institutions for which they clamoured. But the impression one derives from studying the course of action adopted by the Government is that, while not hesitating to control the agitation by repressive measures, as occasion demanded, they were ready to conciliate public feeling by meeting the views of the advanced party whenever it seemed expedient to do so; thus pursuing on the whole, consistently, under circumstances of unusual difficulty, the policy of gradual reform which it had marked out for itself. Assuming the correctness of this impression, the progressive stages by which the establishment of representative government was eventually reached may 158with more reason be regarded as a successful vindication of that policy, than as a triumph for the agitators. It is important to bear in mind that the latter were not the only advocates of reform. The Government itself was a government of reformers, who had more than justified their title to be regarded as such. Some of its members had thought of representative institutions even before the Restoration. The men in power were in a better position than others to estimate correctly the extent of preparation, the spade-work which was necessary before any step of practical reform could be accomplished; and if they were reluctant to move as fast as more eager, and, possibly, ill-balanced enthusiasm desired, their hesitation may not unfairly be ascribed to prudent statesmanship.

Nevertheless, in the adoption by the Government of this twofold policy of conciliation and repression the influence of the conservative element in the Ministry should not be overlooked. It doubtless modified earlier ministerial impulses towards a more advanced programme; increased the hesitation to make what were regarded as dangerous experiments in view of the nation’s recent emergence from feudalism; and created the tendency which ultimately showed itself in the decision to look for guidance in framing representative institutions, as well as in other matters of administrative reorganization, to countries less governed by democratic ideas than those from which the leaders of the Restoration movement had drawn their first inspiration. Another reason for the cautious trend of ministerial policy may also be found in the experience gained by some, at least, of the members of the Government in studying the growth and development of the Western institutions it was proposed to copy.

The year 1880 saw the completion of the first legal reforms. In the course of that year a new Penal Code, and a Code of Criminal Procedure, in the preparation of which the services of a French jurist, Monsieur Boissonade, had been utilized, were promulgated. The first steps in the framing of these important laws, based, it should be noted, on French models, had been taken seven years before, when a committee of investigation had been formed in the Department of Justice. Both of these Codes came into operation early in 1882. The Code of Criminal Procedure was replaced by a later Code in 1890. The Penal Code also underwent subsequent revision, coming into force in its revised form in 1908.

159In the autumn of 1881 the ranks of the advanced party were reinforced by the retirement from the Ministry of Ōkuma. Since the rupture of 1873, when the leading Tosa and Hizen politicians withdrew from office, he had been the sole representative of the province and clan of Hizen. Rumour assigned more than one reason for his withdrawal. Disagreement on various questions with Chōshiū statesmen, whose influence was increasing; umbrage at the conduct of affairs by two clans; the holding of views on reform which were in advance of those of the Government as a body; and intrigues with the Court were points to which prominence was given in the political gossip of the day. That Ōkuma’s liberalism was of a more pronounced type than that of his colleagues seems very probable in the light of after events. Personal considerations, however, had possibly something to do with his leaving the Government. The force of character, coupled with exceptional and versatile talent, which marked him out as a leader, made it hard for him to accept the leadership of others, and detracted from his usefulness as a colleague.

Shortly before his resignation an administrative scandal had occurred in connection with the abolition of the Board for the development of the Hokkaidō, to which reference has already been made. Its abolition involved the disposal of Government property, and in the course of the examination of a scheme for this purpose which had been submitted to the Government grave official irregularities were disclosed. The scheme, which he had been among the first to condemn, was consequently abandoned, but the incident brought discredit on the Ministry.

The retirement of Ōkuma was followed almost immediately by the issue of a decree fixing the year 1890 as the date for the establishment of a Parliament.

This definite promise at this juncture of a Parliament was interpreted in some quarters as a concession necessitated by the discredit which the Government had incurred through the administrative scandal, and from its position being weakened by Ōkuma’s retirement. But the almost simultaneous issue of the law imposing restrictions on public meetings, and freedom of speech, seems to justify the view that both measures were simply an illustration of the twofold policy of repression alternating with reform which the Government was pursuing.

160With the important concession now made by the Government the first period, so to speak, of the agitation for popular rights may be regarded as drawing to its close. The chief features of this period have been noted; the outbreak and suppression of grave disorders, which at one time threatened to put a stop to all national progress; the creation of a strong Government of two clans; the growth of a political movement which derived a large measure of support from public feeling; and the measures taken for its control by the Government. We have also seen how little homogeneous in its character was the opposition party conducting the movement; how it comprised genuine reformers, others actuated mainly by clan jealousy, disappointed politicians, and impecunious shizoku, the wreckage of the feudal system, who were long a disturbing element in politics, and developed later on into the class of political rowdies known as sōshi.

For all of these ill-assorted associates the demand for popular rights was a convenient rallying cry. To the opposition thus formed, which grew gradually more compact as it shed its less desirable elements, the withdrawal of Ōkuma from the Ministry meant the accession of a powerful ally, though his independence of thought and somewhat uncompromising temperament never allowed him to identify himself too closely with the views of other politicians. With the energy and versatility that marked all his actions he threw himself into the movement led by the advanced reformers, and soon appeared in the new rôle of educationalist. Following the example set by Fukuwaza fifteen years earlier, he established the Waséda College, now a University, which remains a monument to his abilities. Like his predecessor, he was a voluminous author, never, however, writing himself but dictating to an amanuensis, and founded a daily paper which is still in circulation. Like him, again, he could lay claim to having trained a very large number of those who now fill official posts in Japan.

The political creeds of the advanced reformers, with whom Ōkuma was to be associated for the seven years during which he remained in opposition, were necessarily shaped to some extent by the foreign influences with which the Japanese people first came into touch after the reopening of the country to foreign intercourse. Western political literature of all kinds, in which the product of advanced American thought figured largely, was then eagerly studied by a 161people shut out for centuries from contact with the outside world. Under these circumstances it is only natural that the republican atmosphere of Japan’s nearest Western neighbour—the first to enter into Treaty relations with her—should have coloured in some degree the political aspirations of those who were clamouring for popular reforms, and have even affected the studies of students in the educational institutions to which attention has been drawn.


Promise of Representative Government—Political Parties—Renewed Unrest—Local Outbreaks.

The decree announcing the Imperial decision to establish a Parliament in 1890 was issued on the 12th October, 1881. In this decree the Emperor refers to his intention from the first to establish gradually a constitutional form of government, evidence of which had already been furnished by the creation of a Senate (Genrō-in) in 1875, and the drafting, three years later, of the laws concerning local government-measures designed, it is explained, to serve as a foundation for the further reforms contemplated. Conscious, His Majesty proceeds to observe, of his responsibility in the discharge of his duties as Sovereign to the Imperial ancestors, whose spirits were watching his actions, he declares his determination to proceed with the work of reform, and charges his Ministers to make preparations for the establishment of a Parliament at the time appointed; reserving to himself the task of deciding, later on, the questions of the limitations to be imposed on the Imperial prerogative, and the character of the Parliament to be created. The decree dwells on the undesirability of sudden and startling changes in administration, and concludes with a warning to the people, under pain of the Imperial displeasure, not to disturb the public peace by pressing for innovations of this nature.

Although the granting of a Constitution was not expressly mentioned in the decree, the reference in it to the limitations to be imposed on the Imperial prerogative clearly implied that the creation of a Parliament, and the granting of a Constitution, would go together. That the latter, when promulgated, would be a written Constitution was also clear both from the circumstances of the time and from the methods already followed by the Government in carrying out its policy of legislative reforms.

163No time was lost in beginning the preparations mentioned in the Imperial announcement. In March of the following year, as we read in the reminiscences contributed by him to Fifty Years of New Japan, the late Prince (then Mr.) Itō was ordered by the Emperor to prepare a draft of a Constitution, and on the fifteenth of the same month he set out, he tells us, on “an extended journey in different constitutional countries to make as thorough a study as possible of the actual workings of different systems of constitutional government, of their various provisions, as well as of theories and opinions actually entertained by influential persons on the actual stage itself of constitutional life.” In the prosecution of this enquiry into constitutional matters, which occupied his attention for eighteen months, Prince Itō was assisted by a numerous staff of assistants.

By the definite promise of a Parliament, to be accompanied by a Constitution, the position of the agitators was changed. With the disappearance of their chief grievance the ground had been cut from under their feet. It was no longer a question of whether there should be a Parliament or not, but what sort of Parliament the one to be established in 1890 should be. Neither on this point, however, nor on the framing of the Constitution, was there any intention of consulting the nation. The decree had expressly stated that these questions would be reserved for the Imperial decision later on. While the Government, therefore, proceeded with its preparations for the establishment of representative institutions, it was incumbent on the leaders of the opposition party to prepare on their side for the time when constitutional government of a kind would be an accomplished fact, and complete their organization in readiness for the Parliament, whose opening would furnish them with the desired field for their activities. Thus, the effect of the Imperial decree was to hasten the development of political parties. For these, when formed, there was little to do until representative institutions came actually into operation; and their restricted sphere of utility was still further reduced by the increasing severity of the repressive measures adopted by the Government. Nevertheless, the same things which had previously assisted the progress of the agitation for popular reforms now encouraged the development of political parties. These were: the magic of the expressions “public discussion” and “public opinion,” first heard at the time of the Restoration, which had captivated the public ear all the more, perhaps, from their being 164imperfectly understood; and the novelty, always attractive to the Japanese people, of the methods adopted by the advanced reformers in the shape of public meetings and public addresses which were a new phenomenon in the history of the country.

Political associations had, as we have seen, been formed before, in connection with the agitation for popular reforms, both in the Capital and in the provinces. Owing their creation chiefly to the leader of the Tosa party and his lieutenants, most of them had led a rather precarious existence, flourishing or dying down in response to the degree of severity characterizing the measures of control taken by the authorities. Neither in point of organization, nor in definiteness of aim, could they be regarded quite as political parties. The latest and most important of these associations had been the Union for the establishment of a Parliament, formed in 1880, which, as already mentioned, represented between twenty and thirty societies in various parts of the country. Out of this unwieldy body the first political party grew, taking the place of the parent society which was dissolved. This was the Jiyūtō, or Liberal Party, established by Itagaki in October, 1881, a few days only after the issue of the Imperial decree. Its birth was signalized by collision with the authorities, a misfortune which might not incorrectly have been interpreted as an omen of a stormy career. The party managers had, it seems, omitted to give notice to the police of gatherings of the party, thereby infringing the Law of Public Meetings. For their omission to do so the managers were fined, and a further result of the infringement was that, though actually founded on the date above mentioned, the party did not receive official recognition until July of the following year. Itagaki was elected President of the party, and one of the four Vice-Presidents was Gotō Shōjirō, whose connection with the resignation of the last of the Shōguns will be remembered.

The programme of the Liberal Party was comprehensive, if rather vague. Its intentions, as announced in the manifesto issued, were “to endeavour to extend the liberties of the people, maintain their rights, promote their happiness and improve their social condition.” The manifesto also expressed the party’s desire “to establish a constitutional government of the best type,” and its readiness to co-operate with all who were inspired by similar aims. Its President, Itagaki Taisuké, had from the first been the prime mover in the agitation for popular reforms, which without his inspiration and 165guidance would never have attained the dimensions it did; both in and out of season he had pressed upon the attention of the Government and the country the desirability of broadening whenever and wherever possible the basis of administration; and he shared with Ōkuma the distinction of being a pioneer in the organization of political parties in preparation for the Parliament to be established and a successful party leader after representative institutions had come into operation. Lacking the versatility of his Hizen contemporary and colleague, he was nevertheless a leading figure in political circles, where his sincerity and tenacity of purpose commanded much respect. The public indignation excited by the unsuccessful attempt on his life made in the spring of 1882 was a tribute to his popularity, and the words he is said to have uttered when stabbed, “Itagaki may die, but not liberty,” are still quoted. Had he, like other politicians of his time, lived more in Tōkiō and less in his native province, he might have been better known outside of Japan.

In the spring of 1882 two other political parties came into existence. One of these was the “Rikken-Kaishintō,” or Constitutional Reform Party, which was established by Ōkuma with the co-operation of a number of well-known men who had followed him into retirement when he left the Ministry in the previous year. Prominent among these ex-officials were Shimada Saburō, a distinguished writer, who afterwards became President of the House of Representatives; Yano Fumiō, another distinguished writer, who later on filled the post of Japanese Minister to China; and Ozaki Yukiō, who was afterwards Minister of Education, as well as Mayor of Tōkiō, and now occupies a foremost position as speaker, writer and parliamentarian. The programme of the Kaishintō was more definite than that of the Liberal Party. Besides the usual stock phrases as to upholding the dignity of the Throne and promoting the happiness of the people, it dwelt on the necessity of internal progress as a preliminary step to “the extension of national rights and prestige,” and advocated the development of local self-government, the gradual extension of the franchise pari passu with the progress of the nation, the encouragement of foreign trade, and financial reform.

The points of difference between the Liberal Party and the Kaishintō, or Moderate Liberals, as we may call them, were of the kind that distinguished the two party leaders from each other. The greater culture and refinement, as well as the moderation, of the 166Hizen statesman were reflected in the more sober views of his party, which appealed to a more educated section of the people than the cruder and more radical doctrines and methods of the Jiyūtō.

The third party established at this time was the Rikken Teisei-to, or Constitutional Imperialist Party. Fukuchi, editor of the Nichi Nichi Shimbun, which was then a semi-official organ, took an active part in its formation. Its raison d’être was support of the Government, which the other two parties opposed. It was, therefore, usually known as the Government party. Some of the items of its elaborate programme were in themselves a sufficient indication of its official sympathies. Approval was expressed of the date (1890) fixed for the establishment of a parliament; of whatever form of Constitution might be decided upon by the Government with the Imperial sanction; of there being two Chambers; of the necessity of qualifications for members; and of the final decision in all matters resting with the Emperor. But other points in the programme suggested some independence of opinion. The party favoured the separation of the army and navy from politics; the independence of judges; freedom of public meetings in so far as was consonant with national tranquillity; as well as freedom of public speech, of publication and of the Press within legal limits, and financial reform.

The same spirit which led to the formation of these three political parties in the Capital inspired the birth of many more in the provinces. More than forty of these sprang up like mushrooms, and the confusion naturally attending the sudden appearance of so many was increased by the rule which made it necessary for each to be registered as a separate organization, even when name and associations clearly indicated its connection with the parent party in the Capital. Almost every prefecture could boast of its own political party, usually affiliated to one of the three chief parties in Tōkiō, whose example was generally followed in the inclusion of the word “Constitutional” in the title, a fact which shows what importance was attached to constitutional principles as a basis of government. Occasionally, too, the dearth of fixed political ideas was shown by the comprehensive vagueness of the name chosen. An instance of this occurred in the case of the political party formed in the province of Noto, which assumed the non-committal designation of the Jiyū-Kaishintō, which was intended to mean the Party of Liberty and Reform, but lent itself to the interpretation of being the Liberal 167and Moderate Liberal Party. In this, as in many other instances, the name was a mere label without much meaning.

In spite of the flourish of trumpets which accompanied the formation of these three political parties, and their numerous branches—for such they mostly were—in the provinces, the movement collapsed as suddenly as it arose. Before eighteen months had passed one of the three, the Imperialist Party, had decided to dissolve. A year later its example was followed by the Liberal Party; while the third, the party of Moderate Liberals, led by Ōkuma, though it escaped dissolution, was by the end of 1884 in a moribund condition, without either president or vice-president.

For this sudden blighting of the hopes of the newly formed class of politicians there were several reasons. In the first place, in pursuance of what had been termed its settled policy of alternate conciliation and repression, the Government, after the issue of the Imperial decree promising a parliament, had embarked upon a course of further repressive legislation. The law restricting the right of public meeting and speech, which had been issued in 1880, was in 1882 revised and made much more stringent. Under this revised law the powers of the police for inquisitorial purposes were increased; political parties were bound to furnish full particulars concerning the rules of association and lists of members; no meeting could be held unless permission from the police had been obtained three days before; it was forbidden to advertise the subjects of political lectures and debates, or to invite attendance at a meeting; political associations were not only debarred from having branches in other places, but from holding communications, or carrying on any kind of relations with other political parties—a provision which was said to be inspired by fear of the amalgamation of parties opposed to the Government; and, on the simple ground of its being necessary for the preservation of the public peace, the police had power at any time to close a public meeting. And yet, strange to say, the Government which did these things, which left no stone unturned in its efforts to thwart the designs of suspected politicians, was itself a Government of reformers, and betrayed at moments no little sympathy with the popular cause it was fighting.

The severity of the policy adopted by the Government extended to the Press. In the spring of 1883 the Press law of 1875, the operation of which had given rise to a special class of “prison editors,” 168was revised in a spirit of increasing harshness. In cases falling under what was known as the “Law of Libel,” not the editor of a paper only, as before, but the proprietor and manager also, were held jointly responsible; the law itself was construed so as to leave no loophole of escape for the suspected offender; and the conditions imposed on journalistic enterprise made it almost impossible to start a newspaper or to carry it on when started.

The newly formed political parties were also at a disadvantage as regards the place which was of necessity their centre of operations. We have seen how before the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse Tōkiō, then called Yedo, had for nearly three centuries been the seat of administration; how with the gradual decay of Tokugawa authority the centre of political activity had shifted for a time to the former capital, Kiōto; and how after the Restoration of 1868–9 Tōkiō, now called by its changed name, had more than regained its position, becoming as the new Capital the place where the new life of the nation and its interests were focussed. Its position was now stronger than ever, for the abolition of feudalism had put an end to all separatist tendencies, and provincial towns had lost much of their former importance. The change was not without its effect on the organization of political parties. However great the local influence of the leaders might be, it was in Tōkiō that the constitution of parties took place. The provinces counted for little. They might supply the leaders, but the Capital was the centre of operations. There, as being the seat of administration, the Government was at its strongest, while the party politicians on the other hand were at a disadvantage. Beyond the reach of the local ties in clan or province, on which they depended for support, they worked in strange and uncongenial surroundings. Moreover, the enforcement of the rule forbidding the formation of provincial branches and combination with other political bodies, condemned them to a position of comparative isolation.

Another difficulty with which political parties had to contend was the absence of any concrete and well-defined issues upon which politicians could concentrate. As, in the early ministerial rupture of 1873, in which political parties had their genesis, no broad question of principle, so far as reforms were concerned, had divided the retiring statesmen from their colleagues who remained at the head of affairs, so it was with political parties at this time, and for many 169years afterwards. No clear line of demarcation separated one from another. All alike were in favour of progress and reform, all anxious, though not altogether in equal measure, for the extension of the people’s rights. It is true that the programmes issued by the different parties at the time of their formation, as well as the speeches of party leaders, showed some divergencies, but the views therein expressed were pious opinions, and nothing more. They dealt with things in the abstract, not with practical issues, which had not yet arisen. It is not surprising, therefore, that in the absence of more material concerns time should have been wasted in vague and futile controversy on such abstract subjects as sovereign rights and their exercise; the Liberals declaring that sovereignty lay with the people, the Imperialists that it rested with the Sovereign; while the party of Constitutional Reform contended that it resided in something representing both, namely, a parliament, which had as yet no existence. Under such circumstances popular enthusiasm declined, and even serious politicians lost interest in the welfare of their party.

Much mischief was, also, caused by disunion, the result of inexperience and lack of discipline. This was aggravated in the case of the Liberal Party by the departure on a tour of observation in Europe and America of its president, Itagaki, and Gotō, one of its vice-presidents. The Government was accused of arranging this tour with the double object of weakening the Jiyūtō by depriving it of the services of its ablest politicians, and of creating discord between the Liberals and the Party of Constitutional Reform. If this was its plan, it certainly succeeded. Not only was the Jiyūtō weakened by internal dissensions, but the relations of the two parties became at once estranged. The one accused the other of receiving bribes from the Government, and when they both practically disappeared from the scene, the feud was bequeathed to their successors.

One reason alone, however, in the absence of any others, would probably have sufficed to render futile this first experiment at party making for parliamentary purposes. There was no parliament, and no one knew what sort of parliament there would be. In these circumstances the proceedings of political parties lacked reality, and gave the impression of a stage performance.

The results of the political activity of the nation in the direction we have described were certainly not encouraging. All that was left of the three parties after two or three years of strenuous endeavour 170was a shattered and leaderless remnant of one, the other two having melted away altogether; and of their work nothing survived save a faint tracing of lines along which the subsequent development of political parties proceeded.

More than once in the preceding pages attention has been called to the embarrassment and danger caused to the country by the large numbers of ex-samurai with little means and less occupation, whom the abolition of the feudal system had left stranded, and who now lay like a blight upon the land. For some of the better educated of these former members of the military class the rapidly developing Press had furnished employment. The restless energies of the remainder had found occupation for a time in the movement for the formation of political parties. As soon, however, as the first impulse of the movement had spent its force, and before the actual dissolution of any of the parties, their attention was diverted to other channels of political activity which promised more immediate results; and the occurrence of several outbreaks and plots following one another at short intervals, testified to the serious mischief still to be apprehended from this unruly class.

The first of these to call for the intervention of the authorities was a rising which took place in 1883 in a prefecture to the north of the Capital. The cause of the trouble was a dispute between the officials and the people of the district in regard to the construction of roads. Into the question of road construction, as into that of all other public works, entered the question of the corvée. This was an important feature of rural administration, dating back to ancient times, and consisted of personal service, or its commutation by a money payment. It opened the door to many abuses, but, if imposed in the form of personal service at seasons when there was little outdoor work to be done, it was preferred by the peasant to other modes of taxation. In the case in question there was no objection in principle to the corvée, but the action of the authorities was resented on the ground that the roads it was intended to construct were not required. Consequently, when the governor called for labour on the roads, the people refused to work, and the disturbances which ensued became so serious as to require the use of troops for their suppression. In pre-Restoration days the trouble would not have extended beyond the compass of a simple agrarian riot. What made it more important, and gave it a political aspect, was the admixture of the 171shizoku, or ex-samurai, element, which in feudal times could never have occurred. One of the ringleaders in this rising, who escaped with a term of imprisonment for an offence which a few years before would have cost him his head, afterwards became President of the House of Representatives. In this capacity he speedily earned fresh notoriety by headstrong action leading to the immediate dissolution of Parliament, and the extinction of his parliamentary career.

Other risings and plots which had no connection with local grievances, but were the outcome of discontent and lawlessness, occurred in various parts of the country. The most singular, as it was the last of the series, was a fantastic attempt made in 1885 to stir up trouble in Korea, in the hope that this might react on the political situation in Japan, and hasten the establishment of representative government. Those concerned in the plot were all of samurai origin, and subsequently took a prominent part in the proceedings of parliamentary parties.

The complicity of many members of the Liberal Party, both before and after its dissolution, in these insurrectionary movements is admitted by Japanese writers, who are disposed to attribute it mainly to the excessive severity of the measures of repression taken by the authorities.


Framing of Constitution—New Peerage—Reorganization of Ministry—English Influence—Financial Reform—Failure of Conferences for Treaty Revision.

With the return of the Itō mission in September, 1883, the task of framing a Constitution was commenced. By that time the conservative tendencies in the Ministry had become more marked. They were to increase still further as a result of the study of Western political systems in which the mission had been engaged. Most of its time had been spent in Germany. The rapid progress of that country since its expansion into an Empire, the bureaucratic basis of its administration, the conservative bias of its rulers, and the personality of Bismarck, were presumably reasons that pointed to the adoption of German models in constitutional, as well as other administrative matters, as those best suited to a nation which had just emerged from feudalism. For a Government, too, which wished to retain as much power as possible in the hands of the Crown, a Constitution, such as those of German States, under which the Sovereign and his ministers were independent of Parliament, had a natural attraction. And there may have been a conviction of the necessity of some counterpoise to the democratic ideas derived from intercourse with republican countries, and from Western literature of an advanced type, whose mischievous effects had been shown in the extreme views, and still more extreme methods, of the political agitators who clamoured for representative institutions.

In the spring of 1884 Itō became Minister of the Imperial Household, and a special bureau was formed in that department for the purpose of drawing up a Constitution under his direction. The choice of the Household Department for this task was determined by political considerations. It was desired to emphasize the point that the constitution was granted of his own accord by the Sovereign, 173not wrested from him by his subjects. There was also a wish to impress upon the nation the fact that the Throne was the source of all authority. The arrangement had also the advantage of disarming criticism, while the privacy associated with the proceedings of a department representing the Court removed all risk of interference from outside.

Soon after Itō’s appointment as Minister of the Household new orders of nobility were created, the model adopted being that of the continent of Europe. With the fall of the Shōgunate, and the abolition of the feudal system, all territorial titles had disappeared. Gone also were the empty Court, or official, titles, so eagerly sought, the bestowal of which had been one of the last surviving prerogatives of the Crown.

An account of these ancient titles has already been given. Many of them had become hereditary in the families which held them, and their disappearance had been viewed with regret in many quarters. The creation of the new orders of nobility, therefore, gained much popularity for the new Minister of the Household. There was indeed a special reason for the measure. It was the first step towards the establishment of a constitutional régime. A House of Peers was to be a leading feature of the Constitution now in course of preparation, and it was essential to create a new nobility before the institution of which it was to form a part came into operation. Some five hundred peers in all were created, the number including 12 princes, 24 marquises, 74 counts, 321 viscounts and 69 barons. The recipients of these new titles were the ex-Kugé, or Court nobles, the ex-daimiōs, who under the feudal system had constituted the territorial nobility, and ex-samurai, still in office, who had rendered eminent service to the State at the time of the Restoration. Not unnaturally the lion’s share of the titles received by commoners fell to Satsuma and Chōshiū men. Assuming the number of ex-Kugé to be 150, and that of the ex-daimiōs to be 300, it will be seen that the number of commoners ennobled amounted to only one-tenth of the whole. The disproportionately large number of viscounts created is explained by the fact that there was little difference in the positions of most of the territorial nobility, although each had his fixed place in the table of official precedence. It was, therefore, difficult to make any discrimination in these cases when the old system of things was translated into the new. It would 174appear, moreover, that this was also the case with the old Court nobility. Among the ex-samurai to be ennobled were the Chōshiū statesmen, Itō, Yamagata and Inouyé, and three Satsuma members of the Government, Kuroda, the younger Saigō, and Matsugata, all of whom became Counts. The services of other ex-samurai who had distinguished themselves at the time of the Restoration, but were in opposition when the new nobility was created, were recognized some years later, Ōkuma, Itagaki and Gotō then receiving the same title of Count.

In the reorganization of the administrative system which took place in the following year the hand of the new Minister of the Household could again be seen. The previous reorganization of the Ministry had occurred in 1871. The changes then made had been of two kinds: the substitution in the new Government of the leading spirits of the Restoration in place of representatives of the feudal aristocracy, thus strengthening the progressive element in the Ministry; and the separation of the Central Executive into three branches directed by the three chief Ministers of State (the Daijō Daijin, or Prime Minister, the Sadaijin, or Minister of the Left, and the Udaijin, or Minister of the Right). Under this system, which, in its main outlines, had continued ever since, there was no clear division between the different departments of State, nor had the Prime Minister, in whose name all decrees were issued, proper control over the ministers in charge of them, who were all independent of each other. The effect of the change now introduced, in imitation of the German Cabinet system, was to give increased importance and authority to the post of Premier who received the new designation of Minister President of the Cabinet. By the creation of a new Department of Agriculture and Commerce the number of State Departments was increased to nine. The Ministers of these Departments, together with the Minister President, constituted the Cabinet. The Imperial Household formed a separate department, the Minister of the Household not being included in the Cabinet. Under the new arrangement the Premier virtually directed the policy of the State, and was eligible for a portfolio, if he chose to hold one. Like the German Chancellors under Hohenzollern rule, he was responsible for the whole administration, while exercising a general control over all Departments. The changes involved in this administrative reorganization, which is still in existence, had also another and 175deeper signification. They meant the final triumph of Western ideas, and the open assumption of the reins of Government by the men who had up to that time been working behind the scenes.

Other changes effected about this time, and due to the initiative of the same statesman, were the creation of the office of Lord Keeper of the Seals (Naidaijin) who presided over a body of fifteen Court Councillors (Kiūchiū-Komonkwan), whose duties were to give advice regarding Court ceremonies and usages; and the establishment of a system of competitive examinations for employment in the Civil Service. This reform, which one is tempted to regard as the application of one of the principles mentioned in the Imperial Oath, though the motive may have been simply the same that prompted other Western innovations, put an end to much of the favouritism which had previously influenced official appointments, and had furnished political agitators with a useful cry. A further indication of progressive tendencies was furnished by the adoption of English as a subject of study in primary schools. This step was an official recognition of the influence it had exercised and was still exercising upon the modern development of Japan. That influence has been fully recognized by Japanese writers. In Fifty Years of New Japan, a book to which reference has been made more than once in these pages, Professor Haga, speaking of the effects of the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse, tells us that it has always been through books in the English language that the Japanese people formed their conceptions of things European, and obtained glimpses of the general features of the outside world. Elsewhere in the same work Professor Nitobé, who studied chiefly in the United States, remarks that “the effect of the English tongue on the mental habits [? mentality] of the Japanese people is incalculable”; and he adds that “the moral influence of some of the simple text-books used in our schools cannot be overrated.”

The year 1886 is associated with a financial reform of the first importance—the resumption of specie payments, in other words, the substitution of convertible for inconvertible paper money. When dwelling for a moment in a previous chapter on the financial difficulties confronting the new Government that was formed after the Restoration, mention was made of the confused state of the monetary system at that time, and more especially the chaotic condition of the paper money then in circulation. From a History 176of the Currency published by the Government in the above mentioned year we learn that the money in use at the beginning of the Meiji era (1868) included four kinds of gold coins (one being a coin not in general use); two kinds of silver coins, besides bars and balls of silver of fixed weights; six kinds of copper, brass and iron coins, known by the general term of zeni, or “cash” (one of these being merely a money token, and not an actual coin); and no less than 1600 different currencies of paper money. Much of the coinage was debased. The paper currencies emanated partly from the central Tokugawa Government and partly from the local feudal authorities. More than two-thirds of the 270 odd clans then in existence, and eight hatamoto territories, had paper currencies of their own, and in many cases issues of different dates were in circulation together. This paper money, too, was of various kinds. There were gold notes, silver notes, sen notes, notes representing fixed amounts in copper, brass and iron “cash,” as well as rice notes representing definite quantities of rice, and used in the payment of taxes, which were levied chiefly in kind. There were also what were called “credit notes”—issued in return for money deposited by the commercial establishments which did duty for banks in those days—representing gold, silver, cash, or rice, as the case might be. The mischief was intensified by the erroneous ideas then held as to the proper ratio between gold and silver, and between these two metals and copper, which enabled the foreign trader to make illegitimate profits, and caused great loss to the country. The steps taken by the Government, after the establishment of a mint, and the abolition of the feudal system, to remedy this state of things included the withdrawal of current issues of coin and paper money, and the issue of other currency in their place. The first effect, therefore, of these measures was to increase the existing confusion. The issue of the new coinage struck at the Ōsaka mint also tended to obscure the situation. Though the standard adopted was nominally a gold one, in its working it became bimetallic; for in 1878 the Government allowed one-yen silver coins to come into general and unrestricted circulation, a step which was tantamount to changing the monometallic standard into a bimetallic one.

Prince Itō.

Took an active part in the Government formed after the Restoration; he was the chief framer of the Japanese Constitution and parliamentary institutions, and founder of the Seiyūkai. His last post was that of Governor General of Korea.

177Meanwhile, by the establishment in 1872 of National Banks, empowered to issue notes in a certain proportion to their capital, it was sought to facilitate the withdrawal of the old paper money, encourage banking enterprise on a modern system, and place matters generally on a more satisfactory footing. At the end of four years only four National Banks, the pioneers in Japan of modern banking, having come into existence, it was found necessary to revise the National Bank regulations. The revision had immediate effect. Within five years the number of National Banks had increased from four to one hundred and fifty-one, many of which, however, as Baron Shibusawa, the well-known banker, explains in his chapter on banking in Fifty Years of New Japan, were local undertakings of limited importance. One of the objects of the establishment of National Banks, the encouragement of banking enterprise, had thus been achieved. Progress had also been made in the attainment of another object, the redemption of previous paper currencies by the issue of Paper Money (Kinsatsu) Exchange Bonds and Pension Bonds, which the National Banks were allowed to hold as security for their note issue. But the permission given to the National Banks to issue notes had been made use of too freely, with the result that paper money depreciated considerably in value; and when during the Satsuma rebellion the Government had recourse to a further large issue of notes in order to meet increased expenditure, a further fall in value occurred. The lowest level in the price of paper money was reached in the spring of 1881, when it stood at a discount of over 70 per cent. The creation of the Bank of Japan in the following year furnished the country with a banking centre independent of the National Banks, in a position to exercise a check on their operations, and empowered to issue convertible notes on the basis of a specie reserve which the National Banks were required to deposit with it; and a year later the then Minister of Finance, Mr. (afterwards Marquis) Matsugata, introduced a scheme for the cessation of the privilege of issuing notes given to these banks, the gradual withdrawal of their note issue in circulation, and the alteration of their status to that of private banks. The adoption of these and other steps, into the details of which it is unnecessary to enter, rendered it at last possible to effect specie resumption on a silver basis. A Notification to this effect was issued in June, 1885, and the measure came into force on the 1st January, 1886. The gold standard now in existence was not established until eleven years later.

The same year (1886) witnessed a revival of political agitation. This had, as we have seen, died down after the failure of the first 178attempt to organize political parties in preparation for the promised parliament, and the extremist members of the now numerous party of advanced reformers had been tempted to employ more violent methods to attain their ends, with results already described. In September of that year a meeting of politicians of all shades of liberal and radical opinion was held in the Capital to concert measures for the taking of united action. Simultaneously with this renewed activity the field of operations was extended. Ever since the agitation had assumed a more or less organized form the politicians conducting it had confined their attention almost exclusively to domestic affairs. Now, however, an important foreign question came before the public in a shape more definite than before. This was the question of Treaty Revision.

It has already been explained in a previous chapter, in connection with the mission of Iwakura to Europe and America in 1872 for the ostensible purpose of obtaining a revision of the treaties with foreign Powers, how soon after the reopening of foreign intercourse, and how strongly, the Japanese nation resented the exemption of foreigners from Japanese jurisdiction under the treaties of 1858; what importance was attached by the Japanese Government to a revision of those treaties which would do away with extra-territorial privileges; and what disappointment and ill-feeling, as well as other unwelcome results, were caused by the failure of the mission to persuade the foreign Governments concerned to enter into negotiations on the subject. It will be more convenient to give this important question a place to itself later on, when the course of our narrative has reached the point at which the object of the long-continued negotiations was at length successfully accomplished. For the present it will be sufficient to mention that the question was not allowed to drop because of the ill-success of the Iwakura Mission: that negotiations were reopened by the Japanese Government in 1882, when a Preliminary Conference was held in Tōkiō; that a further and more formal Conference took place in the same Capital four years later; and that on neither of these occasions was a definite result reached.

Such was the position of affairs when in the course of the revival of political agitation this question, so embarrassing to the Government, and so irritating to the susceptibilities of the nation, came to play a more prominent part in public controversies. A national grievance of this kind felt by all educated persons was naturally 179shared by politicians. It was rendered more acute by the recognition of the fact, now become common knowledge, that the absence of any fixed term for the duration of existing treaties constituted a serious obstacle to their revision. Treaty revision, therefore, became a chief feature in the programme of political agitators, and increased importance was given to it by the failure of the second Conference to achieve any definite results, and by the resignation, as a result of this failure, of the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count (afterwards Marquis) Inouyé, who, as chief Japanese delegate, had presided over its meetings.

Some increase of confusion in the country, and a general sense of instability, were caused too at this time by the pro-foreign tendencies which for some years had characterized the policy of the Government. Associated in its origin with a desire for the revision of the treaties which should relieve Japanese susceptibilities, and with the well-grounded conviction that the adoption of Western institutions, laws and customs would enlist the sympathies of foreign countries, and thus assist the attainment of the end desired, the movement assumed such proportions in official and Court circles in the Capital as to lead to the supposition that nothing less than the Europeanization of Japan was intended. More serious than some in its character, and in its effects more lasting, it ran its course like other similar movements, the recurrence of which is a testimony to the impulsive character of the people; and when it died out the process was so silent and gradual that no reactionary wave came to swell the normal tide of anti-foreign sentiment.

The failure in 1887 of the second Conference, which had lasted more than a year, furnished a welcome opportunity to political agitators. The moment was favourable for the stirring up of trouble. The renewal of political activity was signalized by the formation of a confederation of men of all parties, including even a sprinkling of conservatives, under the name of General Agreement Union (Daidō-Shō-i Danketsu), a title which was intended to convey the meaning that it was an association of persons whose opinions agreed in the main and differed only in non-essentials. It was not a political party in the strict sense of the term, but a loose conglomeration of persons united only by dissatisfaction with the Government. Encouraged by the birth of this new and powerful association, the class of political rowdies increased in numbers; the law which imposed 180restrictions on the organization of political parties was evaded by the formation of secret societies; and eventually the condition of affairs became so serious that the Government took the strongest step adopted since the Restoration and issued what are known as the Peace Preservation Regulations (Hō-an Jōrei). These regulations prohibited under severe penalties the holding of secret meetings, the formation of secret societies, and the publication of books or pamphlets of any kind of a nature to disturb the public peace. They also armed the authorities with power to arrest and banish for three years from the district in which he lived any person suspected of disturbing the public peace who resided within a radius of seven miles from the Imperial Palace in the Capital.

The regulations were put into force on the date of their promulgation, the 25th December, 1887. More than five hundred persons were arrested and banished at twenty-four hours’ notice from the Capital and its neighbourhood, the number including several prominent men, who afterwards filled high positions as Cabinet Ministers or Presidents of the Lower House. The precautions taken by the authorities did not end here. The garrison of Tōkiō was increased, the departments of State and the official residences of Ministers were guarded by police patrols, and the Ministers themselves never ventured out without an escort of two or three armed detectives. The nature of the precautionary measures taken indicates that it was not popular disorders so much as dangerous political trouble that was feared. That they were needed is proved by the fact that during the year 1889 one Cabinet Minister was murdered, while another was dangerously wounded by political malcontents.

As before, conciliation went hand in hand with repression. Three days after the Peace Preservation Regulations were promulgated the issue of a new and more lenient Press law encouraged the freer expression of popular views. And in February of the following year (1888) public opinion was further conciliated by the inclusion in the Cabinet of Ōkuma, whose views on constitutional questions had always been in advance of those of the Ministry which he rejoined. His return to the Cabinet was of great service to the country at a critical time, helping the Government to tide over an uncomfortable interval which still remained before the promulgation of the Constitution.


Imperial Authority—Privy Council—Local Self-Government—Promulgation of Constitution—Imperial Prerogatives—The Two Houses of Parliament—Features of Constitution and First Parliamentary Elections.

The Peace Preservation Regulations provided, as we have seen, amongst other things, for the removal of persons suspected of designs to disturb the public peace from areas in the Capital, and its suburbs, within a radius of seven miles from the Imperial Palace. This mention of the Imperial Palace shows how strong the force of habit was, and still is, in Japan. The maintenance of “the security of the Throne,” a phrase borrowed from the Chinese classics, was for centuries a leading idea in Japanese administration. The expression, usually to be found in association with another classical phrase, “the tranquillity of the people,” recurs from an early date in all official literature, in Decrees, Memorials and Manifestos. As remarkable as the continuity of the dynasty, of which the nation is not unnaturally proud, this constant solicitude for the Imperial welfare, this manifestation of what to foreign eyes may seem a somewhat excessive degree of reverence for the Throne, was often in inverse ratio to the authority it wielded. We have seen, for instance, how the policy of the founder of the Tokugawa line of Shōguns was to increase the outward respect paid to the Court by surrounding it with an enhanced semblance of dignity, while at the same time its authority was sensibly diminished. At no time was the ceremonial governing relations between what was left of the Court and the Shōgunate more elaborate than under the rule of the Shōguns of this line; never, perhaps, was the authority of the Throne less effective. This was, however, the effect of deliberate policy, in which may be traced a desire to hoodwink the nation, and conceal the ambitious designs of its rulers. When in the closing years of Shōgunate rule its prestige declined, the reassertion of Imperial 182authority was accompanied by a tendency to lay additional emphasis on the immemorial respect due to the Throne. It was this feeling which led the Court party before the Restoration to insist on no “treaty port” being opened in the five “home provinces” because of the vicinity of Kiōto, where the Emperor resided. When the opening of the port of Hiogo could no longer be withstood, the same feeling inspired the narrowing of “treaty limits”—the name given to the area in the neighbourhood of a “treaty port” in which foreigners were allowed under the treaties to make excursions—in the direction of the old Capital; now, several years later, after the personal rule of the Sovereign had, in name at least, been re-established, we notice the same anxiety for the security of the Throne still closely connected with the maintenance of public tranquillity. And evidence of the same exalted respect for the Throne will be seen in the Constitution which was shortly to be promulgated, and in the official “Commentaries” which accompanied its promulgation. But the unusual context in which the indirect allusion to the Throne appeared in the Peace Preservation Regulations showed that a further reason lay behind this mention of the Imperial Palace. It was customary then, as now, for the official measurement of all distances from the new Capital to be taken from a central point in the city. This was the Nihonbashi, or Bridge of Japan, situated in the centre of the old town. It being generally understood, however, that all distances were measured from this centre, it was considered unnecessary to mention the point. The fact that in the present instance the point from which distances were to be measured was mentioned at all, coupled with the substitution of the Imperial Palace for the bridge in question, could not fail to attract attention. The public was thereby reminded both of its duty in the matter of solicitude for the security of the Throne, and of the Imperial authority that supported the course adopted by the Government. Throughout the stormy times which followed the establishment of parliamentary institutions in Japan, the invocation of the Imperial authority, either directly or indirectly, served as a political barometer by which the seriousness of a political crisis might be definitely gauged.

In April, 1888, two months after the return of Ōkuma to the Ministry with the title of Count, the Privy Council (Sūmitsu-in) was established. The decree announcing its creation stated that the Emperor found it expedient “to consult personages who had rendered 183signal service to the State” in regard to important matters, thus making it clear that the functions of the Council would be of a purely advisory nature—a point confirmed later on by the Constitution—and that its members would be chosen from officials of wide experience. The scope of its duties, as defined in the rules governing its organization, covered a wide field, including, amongst other matters, the drafting and consideration of new administrative measures, the revision of existing laws, amendments to the Constitution, the presentation of its views on treaties with foreign countries and financial questions.

With functions in some few respects similar to those of the corresponding body in Great Britain, the Japanese Privy Council fills a larger place in the political machinery of the State and takes a more active part in legislation, though it has no judicial functions. Even more so than with us is it the final goal to which all public servants aspire, and where their services are still available for the State. But it is something else, too. It has a political influence which does not exist in the case of our own institution of the same name; its members are eligible for re-entry into the Ministry or for other State employment; and they are in constant and close touch with public affairs.

The need for something of the kind in Japan was far greater than in Europe. To realize its necessity it must be remembered that the same tendencies in Japan which encouraged the system of figure-head government favoured the existence of advisory councils, whose duties were to suggest or offer an opinion on administrative policy, the carrying out of which was entrusted to executive officials. When the whole system of government was reorganized on a Western basis, the opportunity of introducing this feature of Western administrative systems was eagerly seized, as it was felt that it would in some sense fill the embarrassing gap caused by the disappearance of the groups of advisers which had played so leading a part under the old régime.

Prompt use was made of the services of the new Council. The Constitution had by this time been drafted, and was ready for the consideration of the Privy Council. Accordingly, within a fortnight of its coming into existence the new Privy Councillors were, in accordance with the duties assigned to them, discussing the draft Constitution at a series of meetings, to which the attendance of the Emperor gave an increased importance.

184The year 1888 was marked by the enactment of another important measure. This was the local Self-government Act, known as the Law of Cities, Towns and Villages (Shi-chō-som-pō). The first step in the reform of local government, by which a representative character was given to it, had been taken in 1878, when drafts of the “Three Great Laws,” as they were popularly called, were prepared by the Conference of Prefects. One of these, the law creating Prefectural Assemblies, came into force, as we have seen, two years later. The operation of the other arrangements drafted at the same time, and affecting smaller areas of local administration, had been postponed. These now came into force in the spring of 1889, some changes having in the meantime been made. In the following year these arrangements, as well as the whole system of local government, underwent further revision. The revised system then introduced is now in operation in forty-five of the forty-six prefectures into which Japan proper is divided, the exception being Loochoo, known since its annexation as the Okinawa prefecture. The basis of the present system is the separation of local administration into two main branches, urban and rural. Each of these prefectures—three of which (Tōkiō, Kiōto and Ōsaka) have a separate status as urban prefectures (Fu), the rest being rural prefectures (Ken)—is now divided into urban districts, or “cities” (Shi), and rural districts, or counties (Gun). A rural district, or county (Gun), is again subdivided into towns (Chō) and villages (Son). The classification of a town as an urban district, or “city” (Shi), or a “town” (Chō), depends on its population. Unless otherwise determined by the Minister of the Interior, with whom the final decision rests, all towns of over 25,000 inhabitants have the status of “cities,” enjoying as such a somewhat larger measure of self-government than those not in this category. In each prefecture there is a prefectural assembly (Kenkwai or Fukwai, as the case may be), and an executive council (Sanjikwai). Similar assemblies and executive councils exist in each rural district and “city,” but towns and villages, though they are provided with assemblies, have no executive councils, the duties of these latter bodies being entrusted to the mayors.

Marquis Matsugata.

Took an active part in the Government formed after the Restoration. As Finance Minister he carried out specie resumption on a silver basis in 1886, and introduced the present gold standard in 1897.

Field-Marshal Prince Ōyama.

Rendered distinguished services in the war with China, and was Commander-in-Chief in the Russo-Japanese war.

185The system of election to local administrative bodies is more or less the same in each administrative unit. In prefectures where the population does not exceed 700,000 an assembly has thirty members. Where the population is larger another member may be elected for each additional 50,000 inhabitants. “City” assemblies contain more members, the number varying from thirty to sixty, the latter number being the maximum. The Sanjikwai, or executive council, of a prefecture consists of ten councillors chosen by the assembly from amongst its members. The prefect presides, and is assisted by two prefectural officials. In rural districts the presiding official is the Gunchō, or district administrator, who, as in the case of prefects, is appointed by the Minister of the Interior. In “cities” the mayor of the city presides, being assisted by a deputy, or deputies, as the case may be. The chief duty of all these assemblies is to regulate expenditure, and apportion the taxation required to meet it. In the scheme of local taxation the corvée still occupies a prominent place, though, except on occasions of emergency, substitutes may be provided, or money payments made in commutation. In the election of members voting is by secret ballot. The property qualification for electors, and for those eligible as members, is determined by the annual amount of national, or Imperial, taxes paid by an individual. The age qualification is fixed at twenty-five years, the legal age at which majority is attained. The possession of civil rights is also necessary.

The legislative activity displayed in the series of administrative measures above mentioned shows how wide an effect was produced by the decision to create a Parliament, to which a Constitution became under the circumstances an essential corollary. In some cases this legislation was the direct offspring of that decision. The new peerage, the reorganization of the Ministry, the Privy Council, all had their separate places in the scheme of the Constitution. In other cases the connection, though not so close, was still obvious; for it was not possible to make a Constitution and fit it into the existing framework of government, put together, as the latter had been, piece by piece, without some sensible alterations of administrative machinery. From this point of view it will be seen that the reform of local government, and even the institution of Court Councillors, who might be chosen to sit in the Upper House, had a definite, albeit indirect, bearing on the Constitution, and on the National Parliament about to be established.

The Constitution having been considered and approved by the Privy Council, to whose deliberations on the subject an increased dignity had, as we have seen, been given by the attendance of the 186Sovereign, was promulgated by the Emperor in person on the 11th February, 1889. The ceremony took place in the Throne Room of the newly built palace in Tōkiō, a building of Japanese architecture, modified in some of its features by a slight admixture of foreign designs. The Emperor and Empress occupied daises of unequal height at one end of the hall, which was filled with the dignitaries of the Empire, and officials of senior grades. Seats outside the Court circle were arranged according to the new rules of precedence. The three first places were assigned to the ex-daimiōs of Satsuma and Chōshiū and to the new head of the Tokugawa family, in the order named, all three having the rank of princes in the new nobility. The head of the Tokugawa House was the cousin and adopted heir of the ex-Shōgun Kéiki, and succeeded to the headship of the family on the enforced retirement at the close of the civil war of the last of the Shōguns. The dignitaries and officials present all wore modern Court costume of European style, with the marked exception of Prince Shimadzu of Satsuma, whose appearance in Japanese costume, with hair dressed in the old-fashioned cue, bore witness to the ingrained conservatism of the clan he represented. Never before in the country’s history had a scene more impressive occurred, nor, indeed, one less in keeping with Japanese traditional ideas. Great as had always from time immemorial been the reverence felt by all classes of the people for the Crown, it was a reverence tinged with political expediency, which showed itself in the fixed policy of screening from public view the object of veneration. The atmosphere of mystery and seclusion which surrounded the monarch had naturally extended to the palace and its precincts, and in a still greater degree, for reasons common to all Oriental countries, to the person of the Imperial Consort. Now for the first time the palace was thrown open to a gathering so large as to deprive it of any very select or exclusive character, and the tradition of centuries was broken in a manner contrary, not to say repugnant, to all previous ideas by the attendance of the Sovereign and his Consort in person, the former taking an active part in the proceedings. The ceremony, therefore, in a certain sense symbolized the new spirit which inspired the nation, ushering in a different order of things. Apart from the pomp and magnificence of its surroundings, it set the seal on the new departure in State policy, and represented the final bridging of the gulf between old and new Japan.

187The speech read by the Emperor on this occasion was couched in the vague and grandiloquent style common to all utterances from the Throne. It spoke of the Constitution as “an immutable fundamental law,” and described the foundations of the Empire as having been laid by the Founder of the Imperial House and other Imperial ancestors, with the help of their subjects, on a basis that was to last for ever, an achievement due to the glorious virtues of the Imperial ancestors and the bravery and loyalty of the people; and it expressed the hope that the same loyal co-operation between Sovereign and subject would for ever secure the stability of the fabric of State bequeathed by the Imperial ancestors.

The Imperial Decree, or Rescript, issued on the same day as that on which the Constitution was promulgated, and bearing the sign-manual of the Sovereign and the signatures of the nine Ministers of State, appears as a Preamble in the official English text of the “Commentaries on the Constitution,” though it is not found in the original Japanese text. It provided that the Imperial Diet (the name given to the new Parliament) should be convoked for the first time in 1890, and that the date of its opening should be that on which the Constitution should come into force. The date thus fixed was the 29th November, 1890. In this Decree, which contained a reference to the promise of a Parliament made in 1881, the Emperor stated his intention to exercise his Sovereign rights in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, for the execution of which the Ministers of State would be responsible. Stress was also laid on the important condition that any proposal for the amendment of the Constitution in the future must proceed from the Throne, and that in no other way would any attempt on the part of the Emperor’s descendants, or subjects, to alter it be permitted.

Additional solemnity was given to the promulgation of the Constitution by an Oath taken by the Emperor in the Shintō Shrine (called the “Sanctuary” in the English official text of the “Commentaries”) attached to the palace. In this Oath—the second of its kind, the first having, as we have seen, been taken in 1869—the Emperor bound himself “to maintain and secure from decline the ancient form of government,” and, while acknowledging the help received from the Imperial ancestors in the past, implored the continuance of their support in the future.

The Constitution, as promulgated, consisted of seventy-six articles 188divided into seven chapters, dealing, respectively, with the position and prerogatives of the Sovereign, the rights and duties of the people, the functions of the Diet, the relations between the Cabinet and the Privy Council, the judicature and finance; and one of the supplementary rules attached to it provided for its revision, a point reserved, as we have seen, for the initiative of the Crown. Simultaneously with its promulgation various accessory laws were enacted. These were the Imperial House Law, mentioned in the Imperial Oath, the Imperial Ordinance concerning the House of Peers, the Law of the Houses, the Law of Election of the members of the House of Representatives and the Law of Finance.

The general lines of the Constitution follow those of the Bavarian Constitution, which was taken as the model. Its leading principles are the small limitations placed on the Imperial prerogative and the independence of the Cabinet, which is responsible to the Sovereign alone, and not in any way to the Diet. No mention either of the Cabinet, or of the Minister President, occurs in the Constitution, though they are referred to in Prince Itō’s “Commentaries.” But Article LXXVI of the Constitution provides that all existing enactments, in so far as they do not conflict with it, shall continue in force. The enactment of 1885 reorganizing the Ministry comes under this rule. Consequently the position of the Minister President, and of the Cabinet over which he presided, remained unaltered after the Constitution came into operation.

The enumeration of the Imperial prerogatives occupies much space in the Constitution. The chief points to be noted are that the Sovereign exercises the legislative powers with the consent of the Diet; that his sanction is necessary for all laws; that he is empowered on occasions of emergency which arise when the Diet is not sitting to issue “Imperial Ordinances” which have provisionally the force of law, but which require the approval of the Diet at its next session, when, if not approved, they cease to be operative; that he determines the peace standing of both army and navy; and that the authority to declare war, make peace, announce a state of siege and conclude treaties rests with him. All of these matters are removed from the control of the Diet, which has also no voice in any future modifications of the Law of the Imperial House. The remarkable reverence for the Throne which is characteristic of the people is illustrated by the declaration, in one of the early articles, of the 189sacredness and inviolability of the person of the Emperor. This, we are told in the “Commentaries,” is a consequence of his divine descent. He must, indeed, it is explained, “pay due respect to the law, but the law has no power to hold him accountable to it”—a statement which seems to involve a contradiction in terms, for it is difficult to understand how a Sovereign who is not accountable to law can be bound to respect it.

Among the duties of Japanese subjects, as defined in the Constitution, is liability to service in the army or navy. It should be explained, however, that whereas service in the army is based on conscription alone, recruiting for the navy is, in practice, based on the volunteer system, supplemented by conscription. Their rights include immunity from arrest, trial or punishment, except in accordance with the provisions of the law; similar immunity in the matter of the entry or search of houses, and as regards private correspondence; and freedom of religious belief. With regard to the omission to place on record the fact that there are two officially recognized religions, Shintō and Buddhism, one may, after reading the explanations on this point given in the “Commentaries,” be tempted to think that the last word has not been said on the subject. At the same time it will be recognized that the course adopted represents the simplest solution of the question.

The Diet, or Parliament—for Japanese writers, when writing in English, use both terms indifferently—comprises two Chambers, a House of Peers and a House of Representatives. The House of Peers is composed of members of five different categories: (1) Members of the Imperial family who have attained majority, fixed in such cases at twenty years; (2) princes and marquises who have attained legal majority, namely, twenty-five years; (3) other members of the nobility chosen by their respective orders; (4) distinguished persons specially nominated by the Emperor; and (5) persons (one for each urban and rural district) elected by and from the highest taxpayers. Those coming under the first, second and fourth categories are life members; those coming under the third and fifth categories are elected for seven years. The number of members of the House of Representatives, as originally fixed by the Constitution, was 300, and there was a property qualification for membership. They are elected by voters who have attained legal majority, and pay annually direct national taxes amounting to about £1. Under the revised Electoral 190Law which came into force in 1902 there is no longer any property qualification for membership, the only conditions now being an age limit of thirty years and the possession of civil rights. The same law reduced both property and age qualifications in the case of electors, this extension of the franchise resulting in the number of electors being increased to 1,700,000; substituted the secret ballot for open voting; and raised the number of members of the Lower House to 381, urban districts returning 73 and rural districts 308. The large majority of members in this Chamber have always belonged to the agrarian class. The natural term of the House of Representatives is four years. Dissolution, which is one of the Imperial prerogatives, applies only to the Lower House. When it occurs, the Upper House (or House of Peers) is prorogued. New elections must take place within five months from the date of dissolution, the next session of the Diet becoming what is known as an Extraordinary Session.

The Imperial House Law contains various provisions relating to the succession to the Throne, which is limited to the male line; the appointment of a Regent, for which post in certain circumstances the Empress, Empress Dowager and other ladies of the Court are eligible, and, during the minority of the Sovereign, of a governor, or guardian; and the age (18) at which a Sovereign attains majority. A point to be noted is the restriction of the custom of adoption in the case of the Imperial Family, no member of which is allowed to adopt a son.

In concluding this brief sketch of the Constitution and accessory laws, it may be well to mention a point which has an important bearing on the practical working of the Japanese parliamentary system, namely, the control exercised by the Diet over the Budget. This to some extent remedies the weakness of parliamentary opposition parties—as compared with similar parties elsewhere—which arises out of the fact that the Cabinet is independent of the Diet. When conflicts over the Budget take place, the Diet may by withholding supplies force a dissolution. In these cases by the terms of the Constitution the Government is obliged to substitute, in place of the rejected Budget, the Budget of the previous financial year passed in the preceding session. Any new financial programme, therefore, to which the Government may have committed itself in the rejected Budget is consequently held up, and cannot be proceeded with until a fresh Budget has been passed in a subsequent 191extraordinary session of Parliament. This means a delay of at least several months. The Government is, however, not necessarily always the sufferer financially thereby, for, as Marquis Ōkuma points out in his book already referred to, the effect of dissolutions occurring through this cause has usually been to reduce expenditure rather than revenue.

The first parliamentary elections were held in the summer of 1890, the first session of the Diet taking place in the following autumn.


Working of Representative Government—Stormy Proceedings in Diet—Legal and Judicial Reform—Political Rowdyism—Fusion of Classes.

The simultaneous creation in Japan of a Parliament and a Constitution offers a contrast to the sequence of political history elsewhere. There is no essential connection between the two. Some countries have enjoyed parliamentary rights of various kinds before being endowed with Constitutions. In others, again, the order of precedence has been reversed. The fact that in Japan the two came together may be regarded as the natural outcome of the decision of the new Government formed at the Restoration to reorganize the general administration of the country on Western lines. The establishment of parliamentary institutions of some kind was the fixed idea of all reformers. The working of this leading idea may be traced throughout the whole course of administrative reconstruction. Reference to it was made in the Imperial Oath of 1869—spoken of by Japanese, when writing in English, as the “Charter Oath of the nation.” It is seen in the introduction of a deliberative element into the otherwise archaic form given to the new administration; in the subsequent creation of a Senate (Genrō-in); in the creation of prefectural assemblies in 1880; in the definite promise of a Parliament, to be accompanied by a Constitution, in 1881; in the creation in 1890 of smaller local assemblies on the same representative basis as the prefectural assemblies; and, finally, in the promulgation in 1889 of the Constitution which came into operation in the following year, simultaneously with the Diet, signalizing the accomplishment of the purpose in view from the first. That the Constitution, when promulgated, was of a less liberal kind than that which had been originally intended, and was still desired by advanced reformers, was due to the pressure of reactionary influences already described. This, as well as the short space of years covered by the 193transition from feudalism to constitutional government, of the working of which the nation had no experience, save what little had been acquired in connection with the revision of local government, accounts to a large extent for the stormy character which marked the proceedings of the Diet for several years after it came into existence.

The final establishment of representative government was accompanied in the same year by evidence of further substantial progress in the direction of legal and judicial reform. The Code of Civil Procedure and the Commercial Code were completed. Of these, the first came into operation immediately; the latter not until eight years later, by which time it had undergone careful revision. The law of the organization of Judicial Courts was also promulgated, and the Criminal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which had been in force since 1882, appeared in new and revised forms. In the preparation of all these laws, as in the framing of the Constitution and other subsidiary measures, much assistance was rendered by foreign jurists, amongst whom the names of Mr. (now Sir Francis) Piggott and the late Mr. Feodor Satow may be mentioned.

The interval of nearly two years which elapsed between the promulgation of the Constitution and its coming into operation was a period of increased political agitation and unrest. On the very morning of the promulgation of the Constitution the Minister of Education, Viscount Mōri, whose pro-foreign tendencies had caused much irritation in reactionary circles, was murdered by a Shintō priest in the presence of his guards as he was stepping into his carriage to proceed to the Palace. It was to his initiative that the addition of the English language to the curriculum of elementary schools had been due. It was reported at the time that his assassination was the result of some real, or fancied, slight on the part of the deceased statesman when paying an official visit of inspection to the national shrines at Isé. What truth there was in this rumour will probably never be known.

The resumption at this time of negotiations for the revision of the treaties with foreign Powers led to further agitation also on this subject. When it became known that in the new proposals put forward by the Japanese Government the appointment of foreign judges was contemplated, popular indignation at what was regarded as a slight to the dignity of Japan found vent in an attempt in the autumn of the same year on the life of the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, 194Count (afterwards Marquis) Ōkuma. Though escaping with his life, he was so severely injured by the explosion of a bomb thrown by a political fanatic, a native of his own province of Hizen, that he was forced to resign. Nor did the opening of the first session of the Diet have any calming effect on the general unrest which prevailed. So serious, indeed, was the recrudescence of anti-foreign feeling that in the spring of 1891 the late Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, who, as Crown Prince, was on a visit to Japan, had a narrow escape from injury at the hands of a policeman on duty, who attacked him with a sword. If, however, the state of things both on the eve of the opening of the Diet, and after parliamentary institutions were in full operation, wore a disquieting aspect, the anxieties of the Government were lessened by the want of unity among the various political factions in opposition. The dissolution of the General Agreement Union, one of whose prominent leaders, Count Gotō, rejoined the Government, showed that internal dissensions were stronger than the motives which brought its adherents together, and its example was followed by other equally ephemeral associations. In the reconstruction of political parties which subsequently took place the Jiyūtō was revived under the leadership of Count Itagaki, its numbers being reduced to very small dimensions; the General Agreement Union reappeared in the form of an organized political party, a character it had not possessed before, and under the changed name of the Daidō Club; while the Kaishintō which had narrowly escaped dissolution, retained its original constitution, but without its most prominent leaders.

Meanwhile the first elections for the Diet had taken place in the summer of 1890. The result was in accordance with what might have been anticipated in view of the confusion of ideas then existing in the political world, and the local feeling which stood in the way of combined action. The members who were returned to the first Parliament owed allegiance to ten different political groups, the most numerous of all being the free lances, who belonged to no party and were grouped together under the name of Independents. It was not, therefore, an organized nor, in any sense, a united Opposition which confronted Ministers in the Diet; but, much as they might differ among themselves on questions of the day, the various groups were capable of forming temporary alliances, which, owing to the uncertainty resulting from the large number of independent members, caused no little embarrassment to the “Two-Clan” Government 195which had called them into parliamentary life. The general tone of the first House of Representatives was unmistakably democratic.

Buckle, in his History of Civilization, makes some remarks on the social conditions prevailing in France on the eve of the French Revolution which are applicable to those existing in Japan at the time of which we are speaking. In the latter country, however, these conditions were the result, not the forerunner, of revolution. “As long,” he says, “as the different classes confined themselves to pursuits peculiar to their own sphere they were encouraged to preserve their separate habits; and the subordination or, as it were, the hierarchy of society was easily maintained. But when the members of the various orders met in the same place with the same object, they became knit together by a new sympathy. The highest and most durable of all pleasures, the pleasure caused by the perception of fresh truths, was now a link which banded together those social elements that were formerly wrapped up in the pride of their own isolation.” And he goes on to point out how the new eagerness for the study of science at this time in France stimulated democratic feeling.

In Japan the separation of pursuits, to which Buckle alludes, had been a striking feature of pre-Restoration days. Not only were there the class distinctions, rigidly maintained, between the samurai, the farmer, the artizan and the merchant; but two of these classes, those of the merchants and artizans, were split up into guilds of an exclusive character. The towns, moreover, like those of mediæval Europe, were divided into quarters inhabited by those following the same trade, or handicraft. The fusion of classes had begun even before the Restoration. The first impulse in this direction had arisen out of the economic situation which existed towards the close of the Tokugawa administration. The distress of the farmer, and the poverty of the samurai, caused breaches in the barriers separating class from class, and notably in those which divided the two classes mentioned from the rest of the nation. These were, however, only premonitory symptoms. The real fusion of classes came after the Restoration, when the abolition of feudalism put an end to the privileged position of the samurai, diminishing at the same time, though not wholly extinguishing, class prejudice. The various reforms which followed: the establishment of schools and colleges which brought education within the reach of everyone; the measures affecting land 196tenure and taxation; the codification of laws; and conscription—to name only a few—all tended to promote uniformity; the final factor in the process being the creation of parliamentary institutions, which supplied a meeting-ground for all sections of the nation, and a common field of interest for all.

An increase of democratic feeling was thus a logical consequence of the policy of reform on Western lines, on which the Government had embarked after the Restoration. When the Monarch and his Ministers proclaimed with one voice their intention to associate the people in the work of government, when local autonomy was by degrees introduced, when a Constitution was in operation, and a Parliament in session, it would have been strange indeed if the general stream of popular tendencies had not set in the direction of democratic ideas. Nor were such tendencies incompatible with Imperialist sentiment, the feeling that had counted for so much in the overthrow of the previous régime. For this latter feeling was simply a habit of mind, a passive tradition, a principle which, so far as politics were concerned, had rarely been translated into practice, though it formed the groundwork for a more active, if somewhat artificial, loyalty, and an exaggerated patriotism.

With the coming into force of the Constitution the ancient monarchy entered upon a new phase in its existence. During the long period of Tokugawa ascendancy the Crown had slumbered, as before, in complete security, its repose guarded by the Shōgunate. Removed from all contact with outside influences, it was free from all possibility of collision with the people. Although after the Restoration the severity of its seclusion was relaxed, the personality of the Monarch made little or no impression beyond the select inner circle of statesmen who constituted the governing oligarchy. The representative institutions now established, while limiting Imperial prerogatives, enabled the Sovereign to come more prominently into view, and to be brought into direct association with his people within the forms prescribed by the Constitution.


Working of Parliamentary Government—Grouping of Parties—Government and Opposition—Formation of Seiyūkai—Increasing Intervention of Throne—Decrease of Party Rancour—Attitude of Upper House.

The stage now reached in our narrative seems to be a suitable moment for giving a sketch of the main features which marked the proceedings of the Diet from the date of its first session up to the present time. By the adoption of this course, instead of adhering strictly to chronological sequence, it may be possible to convey a clearer idea of the character and working of parliamentary government in Japan.

We have seen that the results of the first elections were unfavourable to the Government, the majority of successful candidates belonging to one or other of the Opposition factions. While no single party could point to any decisive numerical superiority as evidence of the favour of the electors, three of the groups—the Daidō Club, the Kaishintō, or Progressives, and the Independents—were nearly equal in numbers, the others being much less strongly represented. Between the date of the elections, however, and the opening of Parliament a further reconstruction of parties took place. Both the Daidō Club and the revived Jiyūtō were dissolved, to reappear in an amalgamated form under the name of Constitutional Liberals. A Conservative Party supporting the Government was also organized. It is unnecessary to refer to the various party manifestos issued at this time further than to say that they covered a wide range of subjects; reduction of expenditure, naval and military policy, finance, questions of local government and taxation constituting the chief points on which attention was concentrated. Owing to the sudden changes which had altered the constitution of parties since the elections, when the Diet met, the new Association of Constitutional Liberals, whose ranks had meanwhile been further 198strengthened by the adhesion of many independent members, became by far the strongest party in the House of Representatives, the only two others of any prominence being the Progressives and the Conservatives. By the time, therefore, that the first Parliament had settled down to business the members of the Lower House were divided into three main groups: the Liberals, the Progressives, and a Conservative Party, without much cohesion, which supported the Government. This grouping has, in spite of kaleidoscopic changes occurring with bewildering frequency, in membership, nomenclature and political programmes, survived more or less to this day, although both the Liberal and Progressive parties are now known by other names, while the foundations on which they rest have to some extent shifted.

The first session of the Diet passed without a dissolution. Early in its proceedings the question which has furnished the predominant note of all parliamentary sessions, that of finance, came to the front. The Opposition attacked the Budget. In the debates which ensued a crisis was only averted by a compromise involving a recasting of the Budget and a large reduction of expenditure. It was Japan’s first essay in parliamentary government; the new order of things was on its trial. Both sides, therefore, were probably disinclined to push matters to extremities. In the remarks on the Constitution made in a previous chapter it was pointed out that the comparative weakness of parliamentary Opposition parties in Japan was in some degree remedied by the control over the Budget exercised by the Diet, which could force a dissolution by refusing to vote supplies. This is what happened in the second session. No such moderate counsels as those which had led to a compromise before prevailed on this occasion. The Budget was again attacked, the attitude of the Opposition being so hostile and uncompromising that the House of Representatives was dissolved soon after the opening of Parliament. This was the first instance of dissolution. The first Japanese Parliament had thus lasted for only two years.

The history of these two earliest sessions—a record, that is to say, of sustained conflict—is the history of many others, and, indeed, viewed in not too critical a light, it is the history of thirty years of constitutional government. We see the same tactics pursued by the Opposition on each occasion, financial questions being almost invariably the issue which is raised; and the attacks are met in one of 199two ways—by dissolution or compromise. The aims of popular parties also continue from year to year with little change. Financial retrenchment, taxation, naval and military establishments, education, as well as constitutional reform in the shape of party government and the responsibility of Ministers to the Diet, all figure repeatedly in party programmes; but, with the gradual rise of Japan to the position of a world Power, foreign politics, and the development of national resources, come to occupy a larger share of the Diet’s attention.

Although the conflicts which occurred between the Diet and the Government in the first two sessions continued to be a constantly recurring feature of parliamentary proceedings, in the course of a few years a marked change in the relations between the Government and parliamentary parties took place. The Government began to display more tolerance of popular views which did not altogether coincide with their own, while resistance to Government measures on the part of the Opposition became less uncompromising. The reason for this change of attitude on both sides lay in the fact that the statesmen in power had begun to realize that, in spite of the Constitution having been framed on the principle of the responsibility of Ministers to the Sovereign and their independence of the Diet, as a matter of practical politics the maintenance of this principle on too rigid lines was attended by serious disadvantages. In other words, the position of the Government might be rendered very uncomfortable, and the conduct of affairs seriously hampered, by the constant antagonism of an unfriendly Diet. Consequently from the time of the eighth session (1894–5) a tendency on the part of one of the Opposition parties to draw nearer to the Government was observable, and in the course of the next session the Liberals announced the conclusion of an understanding with the Ministry, and appeared openly as its supporters. From the original standpoint the Government had occupied to reliance on the support of a political party was a significant advance. Two years later the normal routine of parliamentary government was interrupted by a still more significant departure in administrative policy. The two chief Opposition parties, which the Government had, as we have seen, succeeded in holding in check by playing off one against the other, combined against it. Confronted by an overwhelming hostile majority in the Lower House, the Ministry resigned, the formation 200of a new Cabinet being entrusted to the leaders of those parties, Counts Ōkuma and Itagaki. Since the reconstruction of the Ministry in 1873 the direction of affairs had rested with the Satsuma and Chōshiū clans, this policy being continued without change after the Constitution came into operation. Now, for the first time since the year in question, the government of the country was placed in the hands of men of other clans. But with the important reservation that the control of the army and navy was still confided to Satsuma and Chōshiū clansmen, and that decisions on important questions of State still rested with the inner circle of statesmen who guided affairs. The experiment, for such it was, was not successful. Within a few weeks after the new Ministers entered upon their duties serious dissensions broke out, and the Coalition Cabinet resigned in the autumn of the same year before the opening of Parliament, although the result of the General Elections had assured it of a majority not less than before.

The desire to establish party government has been mentioned as one of the aims kept constantly in view by the parties in opposition. By party government was meant the party system of government as it exists in Great Britain and elsewhere. It is interesting to note that, while the Government in the building up of modern Japan went to Germany mainly for its materials, there was all the time in unofficial circles a noticeable undercurrent of opinion in favour of British ideas and institutions. The establishment of party government would, of course, involve an amendment of the Constitution, nor would it be possible so long as the principle of clan government in its present form survived. Of this the Opposition leaders have always been well aware, and in making the question of party government so prominent a point in their programmes their object has probably been to carry on indirectly a persistent crusade against the two chief obstacles which lie in their path. Although Japanese Cabinets are in theory independent of the Diet, they have, as we have seen, from time to time, like German Cabinets, found it necessary to rely on parliamentary support, the withdrawal of which has usually resulted in the fall of the Ministry. Further than that, however, and the occasional replacement of the outgoing Ministry by one with stronger democratic leanings, the influence of political parties has never extended.

An event of great importance which lent a new aspect to parliamentary 201affairs was the reconstitution in 1900 of the Liberal Party as the “Society of Political Friends” (Seiyūkai)—a name which it still retains—under the leadership of Prince (then Marquis) Itō, with the avowed object of perfecting constitutional government. The Yamagata Ministry had just resigned, and had been succeeded by a Ministry in which Prince Itō occupied the position of Premier. Coming as it did from one who was the framer of the Constitution, and had identified himself with the doctrine of ministerial independence of Parliament, though he was the first to recognize the necessity of working in the Diet with party support, the step thus taken by Japan’s leading statesman was a surprise to the country. Its futility in the face of existing conditions of administration was evident from the moment his Ministry was formed, for the control of the army and navy being reserved, as before, for the two dominant clans, those departments were virtually independent of the Cabinet. The new Ministry, in fact, found itself in much the same position as that formed in 1898. Its success was scarcely greater. It survived, it is true, one session of Parliament, but it remained in office for only eight months, its resignation being hastened by the hostile attitude of the Upper House. Marquis Itō was not more successful in opposition in the next two sessions than he had been when combining the functions of Premier and Leader of the Seiyūkai; and in the summer of the year 1903 he withdrew from the party he may be said to have created and resumed his former post of President of the Privy Council.

A feature of some importance in the prolonged constitutional struggle which has characterized parliamentary government in Japan has been the increasing tendency of the Government to have recourse to the intervention of the Throne for the solution of ministerial crises arising out of conflicts between the Cabinet and the Lower House, or out of questions that indirectly affect the Diet. This intervention has taken the form of Imperial Decrees recognizable through the circumstances attending their issue as being more or less measures of emergency. Though, as we have seen, the influence of the Throne, as a silent factor in affairs, had counted for much in the Restoration movement, and in the consolidation of the new Government which came into being, the direct intervention of the Sovereign was but rarely invoked. It was otherwise after the Constitution came into operation. The difficulties accompanying parliamentary 202government rendered appeal for the direct support of the Throne more necessary than had been the case before, although the Government was doubtless fully aware that the influence of the Throne must inevitably diminish in proportion to the frequency of its invocation. The most recent instance of direct Imperial intervention took place when the third Katsura Ministry was formed. The grave crisis then occurring, which had defied all other remedies, was brought about by the resignation of the previous Ministry in consequence of the resistance of the military party to certain projected economies in the Budget.

A very noticeable feature of Japanese parliamentary government is the increasing tendency towards moderation observable in the political world—shown, that is to say, at elections, in parliamentary proceedings, and in the Press. During the earlier years of the Diet’s existence elections were conducted amidst scenes of violence and disorder. Party polemics both inside and outside of Parliament were carried on with an absence of decorum and self-restraint which augured badly for the future working of parliamentary institutions; political passions were inflamed by the recriminations of party journals; and a new class of political rowdies, called sōshi, stood ready to intervene whenever their services might be required. Bands of these rowdies carrying wooden clubs escorted popular leaders in the Lower House through the streets of the Capital, and during two or three of the stormiest sessions the precincts of the Diet presented the singular spectacle of rows of gendarmes and police confronted by regiments of sōshi. The political rowdy of those days is fast disappearing, his occupation, like that of his predecessor, the rōnin, having gone; while turbulence, riotous conduct, and intemperate writing are no longer regarded as the necessary accompaniments of parliamentary life. One of the moderating influences in Japanese public life has been the existence usually of a general understanding, more tacit, perhaps, than expressed, between the Government and people on broad questions of national policy. Another may be found in the rapid progress of the nation. A people so busily engaged as the Japanese have been in making up for the time lost by centuries of seclusion is disinclined to pay too much attention to such matters as jealousy of “clan government,” or objections to naval and military expansion, more especially if the policy pursued in both respects is attended with success, as in Japan’s case.

203From this brief sketch of Japanese parliamentary history it will be seen that circumstances have conspired to focus attention on the proceedings of the Lower House. It is there that the struggles between rival factions, and between the Diet and the Government have chiefly been conducted, and issues involving the fate of parties and of Cabinets decided. Although, however, the Upper House has consequently played a less conspicuous part in parliamentary affairs, this has not been due to any hesitation to assert its authority when necessary. It has never shrunk from joining issue with the Lower House in regard to matters within its competency, pushing its claims so far as to assert successfully its right to amend money bills. Differing from the other Chamber in its composition, in the grouping of its members which has no relation to parties in the Lower House, and in its greater exposure, through the class of Imperial nominees, to powerful bureaucratic influences, the Upper House has never concealed the fact that its sympathies are with the Government; and it was its whole-hearted support that brought the latter safely through the parliamentary crisis of 1901 and 1902.

In view of the short interval which separated the establishment of representative institutions from feudalism, and the unsettled condition of affairs that prevailed for some years after the Restoration, the nation has good reason to be satisfied with the results which have so far attended the working of parliamentary government.


Treaty Revision—Great Britain Takes Initiative—Difficulties with China.

The year 1894 marks a memorable stage in the rise of Japan to the position in the world she has since attained. It witnessed two events of far-reaching importance: the revision of the Treaty between Great Britain and Japan, which, though only the first of a series, practically solved the long-pending question of Treaty revision; and the outbreak of war with China. The new Treaty with Great Britain was signed on the 16th July, and within a fortnight of its signature Japan was at war with her continental neighbour. Both events, it may be noted in passing, had a calming effect on parliamentary proceedings, the Diet then in existence, though not actually in session, being the only one which lasted for the full constitutional term of four years.

The question of the revision of the treaties with foreign Powers has been referred to more than once in previous chapters. These treaties, as we have seen, formed part of a series of Conventions concluded between the years 1858 and 1869, which were framed on the same lines, while their effect was rendered uniform by the “most-favoured-nation” clause contained in each. As has already been pointed out, the features of the treaties which caused dissatisfaction in Japan were the concession of extra-territoriality, and the absence of any fixed period for their duration. Revision being subject to the consent of both parties, it was felt that Japan might be indefinitely deprived of tariff autonomy and the right of exercising jurisdiction over foreigners in her own territory. It was not unnatural that the Japanese Government, while overlooking the many disadvantages attaching to foreign residence and trade in what was a mere fringe of the country, should, as soon as it became aware that the character of the treaties was different from that of those made by Western Governments with each other, 205have taken an early opportunity to protest against conditions which were regarded as derogatory to the dignity of the nation, nor that it should have made repeated attempts to secure their removal by negotiation with the Powers concerned. We have seen how the failure of these efforts roused popular feeling, supplied political agitators with a weapon used with effect in the campaigns they directed from time to time against the Government, and eventually led to a serious recrudescence of the anti-foreign feeling of pre-Restoration days; so that by the time that the Constitution came into operation Treaty revision was no longer regarded as a mere matter of departmental policy, with which the public at large had little concern, but had become, so to speak, a national question.

In view of the importance which this question gradually came to assume in public affairs, affecting as it did both domestic policy and foreign relations, it may be well, at the risk of some repetition, to give a succinct account of the lengthy negotiations on this subject, asking the indulgence of the reader, should he be taken over ground traversed before.

Undeterred by the failure, already recorded, of Prince Iwakura’s mission in 1872, the Japanese Government made another attempt two years later to negotiate a new Treaty which would, it was hoped, be the forerunner of others. The relations between the United States and Japan were at this time, if anything, more friendly than those of Japan with other Powers. This was to a great extent the natural result of circumstances. By taking the initiative in the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse, America had given evidence of an intention to pursue an independent policy in regard to foreign questions. Having been the first Western Power to appear on the scene, her influence had been the first to be felt in Japan. Moreover, her great commercial expansion being still in its infancy, she had fewer interests to protect in Japan than older countries. American representatives were thus spared much of the friction with the Japanese authorities which fell to the lot of other foreign representatives. Influenced probably by these considerations, it was to the United States that the Japanese Government addressed its overtures on this occasion. They were favourably received, and a new Treaty was negotiated with little difficulty. But the Treaty remained a dead letter owing to the inclusion of a clause providing 206that it should come into operation only when similar treaties had been concluded with other Powers.

For several years no further steps were taken by the Japanese Government in the matter of Treaty revision. Ministerial dissensions and the disturbed state of the country, which culminated in the Satsuma rebellion, called for the concentration of attention on domestic affairs. Foreign questions, therefore, ceased for a time to be a subject of public interest. By this time also it is probable that the Government began to realize more clearly than before the nature of the objections entertained by foreign Powers to the revision of their treaties with Japan; and to understand that, so far as the point of extra-territoriality was concerned, the unwillingness of foreign Governments to accede to Japanese demands was based on the reasonable ground that, until some substantial evidence of progress in the direction, at least, of legal reforms, was forthcoming, they must naturally hesitate to make their subjects amenable to Japanese jurisdiction. The energy and determination with which the Japanese Government set to work to carry out legal and judicial reforms showed that it was alive to the necessity of meeting the objections of foreign Powers in the direction indicated. One result of the progressive spirit displayed was, as we have seen, the promulgation of a Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, framed in accordance with Western ideas, which came into operation early in 1882. In the autumn of that year negotiations for Treaty revision were reopened, and a preliminary conference of the representatives of Japan and the leading Treaty Powers was held in Tōkiō. No definite result was then reached, but the ground was cleared for subsequent discussion, which took place four years later, the Japanese Capital being, as before, the seat of negotiations. At this second and more formal conference, at which no less than seventeen Treaty Powers were represented, and which lasted from May, 1886, to June, 1887, definite progress was made. In the end, however, negotiations were abruptly broken off by the Japanese delegates, in consequence, as was understood at the time, of popular dissatisfaction with the proposed employment of foreign judges in Japanese Courts of First Instance and Courts of Appeal in cases where foreigners were defendants. In 1889 negotiations were again reopened in Tōkiō. The proposals then submitted by Count (afterwards Marquis) Ōkuma, as Foreign 207Minister, were accepted by the American and Russian Governments; but public feeling again showed itself hostile to the appointment of foreign judges, even on the reduced scale contemplated by the new proposals. The attempted assassination of the Minister who had brought them forward once more put a stop to negotiations, and arrangements were made for the cancellation of the two treaties that had been concluded.

On all these occasions discussion had centred chiefly round the question of Japanese jurisdiction over foreigners. The main difficulty had always been the same: to reconcile the natural desire of foreign Governments to secure such guarantees in the matter of the administration of justice as would safeguard the surrender of extra-territorial privileges with the equally natural wish of Japan to recover the right of jurisdiction over foreigners in her territories. And it will be seen that even when a compromise satisfactory to both negotiating parties had been, or was about to be, reached, the sensitiveness of the public in Japan concerning any point which it regarded as detrimental to Japanese dignity prevented its acceptance by the nation.

In the following year Lord Salisbury presented to the Japanese Government in Tōkiō proposals for Treaty revision which were based on the results achieved during the second conference, and on the general experience gained in the long course of negotiations. These British proposals conceded the principle of territorial jurisdiction on the condition that all the new Japanese Codes of Law should be in operation before the revised Treaty came into force, and offered an increase of 3 per cent in the Customs Import Tariff. The period of duration of the proposed Treaty and tariff was fixed at twelve years, at the end of which time Japan would recover complete tariff autonomy. The proposed Treaty further provided for the opening of the whole of Japan to British trade and intercourse, and for her adhesion to the International Conventions for the Protection of Industrial Property and Copyright. This latter provision was called for by the frequent imitation of foreign trademarks, and the issue of cheap copies of foreign publications. In order to avoid offending Japanese susceptibilities careful attention was given to the form in which these proposals were framed. It might have been expected that proposals so liberal could not fail of acceptance. The fact that they were so far in advance of the 208views regarding Treaty revision entertained by the majority of foreign Governments implied a recognition of the progress made by Japan, and confidence in her future, which could hardly fail to be gratifying to the Government to which they were presented. The favourable impression they at first produced justified the hope that negotiations might result in an agreement on this long-pending question. Again, however, popular agitation stood in the way of a settlement. Objection was raised to the ownership of land by foreigners, a point which had figured in all previous schemes of Treaty revision, and the matter was quietly shelved without ever reaching the stage of negotiations. One explanation of the attitude assumed by Japanese Ministers at this time may be found in the jealousy prevailing in political circles which made it difficult for any single statesman, or party, to gain the credit of disposing of a problem, which had defied solution for so long. Any official jealousy of this kind which may have existed would tend to encourage agitation on the subject irrespective of the merits of the question at issue. Another reason likely to influence public opinion in a nation in whose character pride is so predominant a trait may have been the feeling that it was desirable for the country’s prestige that proposals which should furnish the basis of the new treaties should emanate from Japan.

Treaty revision had thus become a national question in which political parties, as well as the Press, took an active interest, and in succeeding years the Diet was frequently the scene of animated discussions, which caused no little embarrassment to the Government. Fortunately for both Government and people, and for relations between Japan and foreign Powers, the long looked-for solution came in sight in 1894. In the spring of that year negotiations were resumed by the Japanese Government in London. The proposals then submitted to the British Government were practically the same both in form and substance as the previous British proposals, the chief difference lying in the substitution of a right of lease only in place of the right of ownership of land by British subjects. The Japanese Government had reason subsequently to regret this alteration, for it gave rise to a controversy, which, on being referred for arbitration to the Hague Tribunal in 1905, was decided against Japan. The negotiations proceeded smoothly, and ended in the signature on the 16th July of that year of a new 209Treaty and Protocol, some minor matters being regulated by an exchange of Notes. By the new Treaty arrangements consular jurisdiction was abolished, and the whole of Japan was opened to British trade and intercourse. It was also provided that before the new Treaty came into operation the new Japanese Codes should have been brought into force, and Japan should have notified her adhesion to the International Conventions for the Protection of Industrial Property and Copyright. It was also agreed between the two parties that the new Treaty should not come into operation before the expiration of five years from the date of signature, the object of this stipulation being to allow time for the negotiation of similar treaties with other foreign Powers. The ad valorem duties in the tariff accompanying the agreement were subsequently converted into specific rates by delegates of the two Governments who met in Tōkiō for that purpose.

It is not surprising that the new Treaty should have met with scanty approval from the British mercantile community in Japan. In the wide areas over which the interests of the British Empire are spread it is inevitable that there should at times be some points of divergence between Imperial policy and local views, between the appreciation of a situation by the Government with its wider outlook and far-reaching responsibilities in matters of Imperial concern, and by British communities abroad. Nor was it unnatural for British residents in the Far East, accustomed by long experience to regard extra-territorial privileges in Oriental countries almost as part of the British Constitution, to view with unwillingness their surrender. But there can be no doubt that the time had come for a concession of this kind to be made. The progress of Japan in the thirty-six years that had elapsed since the treaties of 1858 had been attended by evidences of stability in administration and policy which invited the confidence as it evoked the admiration of the world. The conditions of foreign residence in Japan compared more than favourably with those in other countries where there was no exemption from territorial jurisdiction. Nor in any case would it have been right, or even, under the circumstances, possible, from the point of the position which Japan had already attained, for Treaty revision to be longer deferred. Subsequent events have established the wisdom of the course taken by Great Britain. It is true that Great Britain gained little material advantage from 210the agreement. But Japan had very little to offer in return for what she received. Circumstances precluded anything in the nature of a bargain. The opening of the whole country—already rendered accessible to travellers, and indirectly to merchants, by means of a passport system—was of little, if any, benefit to British commerce, which was unlikely to diverge from the trade routes already established. But by being the first to revise her Treaty on terms practically identical with those she had herself offered two years before, Great Britain showed her frank recognition of the changed conditions resulting from the steady progress of more than thirty years. And she thereby retained her position as the leading Western Power in the Far East, and gained the goodwill of Japan, thus paving the way for the future Anglo-Japanese Alliance.

Lest it should be thought that in the foregoing account of Treaty revision too much importance has been attached to it, and possibly too close a connection traced between negotiations on this subject and the development of Japan on Western lines, it may be well to conclude these remarks with a quotation from a speech delivered by Viscount Chinda, then Japanese Ambassador in London, at the Sheffield University on June 29th, 1918.

In the course of his speech Viscount Chinda said: “Perhaps no one except a Japanese will be able to appreciate truly and fully the great importance attached to the question of Treaty revision. For the Japanese, however, the question was a matter of paramount importance, connoting as it did nothing less than a national emancipation. The first treaties of Japan with foreign Powers were signed while the nation was still in a state of torpor from a long slumber of seclusion, and in the circumstances amounted almost to duress.... So defective indeed were these treaties that Japan was in effect deprived of the two essential attributes of a Sovereign State. The redemption of her judicial and fiscal autonomy became henceforth the dream of Japanese national aspiration, and her policies, both foreign and domestic, ever shaped principally with this one supreme end in view. Innovation after innovation, often involving sacrifices of traditional sentiments, were introduced for the purpose of assimilating the country and its institutions to the standard of Western civilization.”

211Similar language has been held by other prominent Japanese statesmen, notably by Viscount Kato, at one time ambassador in London, and now the leader of a powerful political party, whose experience as a Cabinet Minister qualifies him to speak with authority on the subject.

The outbreak of war with China within a few days of the signature of the revised British Treaty has already been mentioned. To foreign residents in the Far East, who had opportunities of observing the relations between Japan and China during the previous years, the event caused little surprise. At no period of history had their relations been cordial, except perhaps for a time in the seventh century, when China became the model on which Japan remoulded her institutions. The Mongol invasions of Japan in the thirteenth century had left unpleasant memories in both countries, and relations were not improved by the intervention of China in support of Korea when the Japanese in their turn invaded that country. On neither side, however, was the recollection of past hostilities allowed to stand in the way of the customary intercourse between neighbouring Oriental States, which was limited to the despatch at irregular intervals of complimentary missions, and the occasional visits of Chinese traders. By the time that Japan embarked on a policy of seclusion, in consequence of the domestic troubles which arose in connection with the first efforts of foreign missionary enterprise, Chinese traders had, as we have seen, established a small centre of commerce in the south-west of Japan. There, after the country was closed, they, and the Dutch traders, were allowed to remain, though under conditions which deprived the privilege of much of its value, and eventually reduced the commerce thus conducted to small and rapidly dwindling proportions. Prior to the issue of the edict which put an end to maritime enterprise the Japanese had shown no lack of seafaring spirit. Even then, however, the pursuit of trade as a definite object never seems to have attracted the nation, the visits of Japanese vessels to the mainland of Asia being undertaken more with an eye to the prosecution of piratical raids than the conduct of peaceful commerce.

With the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse the situation 212underwent a complete change. The establishment of “treaty ports” and the development of Japanese trade with foreign countries had the natural effect of drawing Japan and China more closely together, though for some years circumstances conspired to prevent the growth of more intimate relations between the two peoples. Much of the new commercial intercourse between them was conducted not directly between Chinese and Japanese merchants, but indirectly through the medium of merchants of other nationalities, who acted as the middlemen of foreign commerce in the Far East. Incompatibility of temperament, moreover, and of ideas—the result of a fundamental difference in conditions of national development—acted as a barrier between the two peoples. Nor was the state of affairs in either country such as to favour a recognition of the common interests which pointed to the desirability of a closer understanding. The decay of China under spiritless Manchu rule had already begun. Resting in fancied security on the traditions of past greatness, and unconscious of her own decadence, she was too proud to make advances to a smaller though near neighbour, whose existence she had hitherto found it convenient to ignore. Japan, for her part, in the throes of a revolution which was to usher in a new order of things, was too busy for a time to pay much attention to intercourse with China, of whose attitude towards herself she was, nevertheless, well aware.

It was not until after the Restoration that the relations between the two countries were placed on a formal Treaty basis. The Treaty concluded at Peking in 1871, on the initiative of the new Japanese Government, was framed on simple lines, something both as to form and substance being borrowed from the treaties in existence between the two nations and Western Powers. By the most important of its stipulations it was arranged that the Consuls, or “administrators,” as they were termed, of each country should exercise supervision and control over their nationals resident therein; that these officials should endeavour to settle amicably all disputes that might arise between the subjects of the two countries; and that, failing a settlement in this manner, the questions at issue should be referred to the Consuls and local authorities for joint decision—the latter having, moreover, the right of arrest and punishment in all criminal cases. Trade regulations 213and an ad valorem tariff were attached to the Treaty, but no period of duration was mentioned.

Not long after the conclusion of this Treaty the friendly relations thus formally established between the two countries were disturbed, as we have seen, by the quarrel which arose out of the ill-treatment received by natives of Loochoo in Formosa. The adoption by Japan of Western innovations had already given offence to the Chinese Government, which viewed with strong disapproval this departure from the traditional policy hitherto followed by Far Eastern States. The forcible measures taken by Japan in connection with this incident to obtain redress caused both surprise and irritation. These feelings were intensified by the controversy which took place a few years later over the annexation of Loochoo by Japan. On this occasion China contented herself with making a formal protest. No definite understanding was effected in the course of the negotiations that ensued, and the incident was closed by China’s tacit acquiescence in the new situation. Thenceforth, however, the relations between the two countries assumed a character of estrangement, which only needed the stimulus of some further dispute to ripen into hostility.

This further cause of quarrel was supplied by Korea.


China and Korea—War with China—Naval Reform—Defeat of China—Treaty of Shimonoséki—Peace Terms.

Those who are at all familiar with Chinese history will scarcely have failed to notice one persistent feature of it—the suzerainty that China has either exercised, or claimed to exercise, over neighbouring States which at one time or another have fallen under her domination. This has been the common experience of nearly all countries whose situation on the frontiers of the Chinese Empire has exposed them to invasion by their restless and powerful neighbour. At the time of which we are speaking some of these States had already recovered their independence, which was not, however, always recognized formally by China; in others Chinese suzerainty had been replaced by that of another Power; while in a few instances China, in the wish to evade the responsibilities of a protectorate, had of late years allowed her suzerainty to become almost nominal. This last-mentioned position was that of Korea, when Japan in 1876 concluded the Treaty with that country, to which reference has already been made. For many years previously Chinese suzerainty had ceased to be effective, but it was still asserted by China, and acknowledged by Korea. The despatch from time to time of missions to Peking bearing presents, which the Chinese were justified in regarding as tribute, the form given to correspondence between the two countries, and the ceremonies observed on official occasions, constituted an admission of the status of vassalage. With this acknowledged status the Treaty of 1876 was inconsistent, since its first Article contained the declaration that Korea was an independent State; and in 1882—when Great Britain and America followed Japan’s example by negotiating treaties with that country—China, with an inconsistency equal to that displayed by Korea, weakened her own position as suzerain by making a Treaty 215with her nominal vassal on the lines of those already concluded between Korea and the three Powers above mentioned. This false step on the part of China strengthened the attitude adopted by Japan in declining to recognize Chinese suzerainty. At the outset, therefore, of Japan’s new relations with Korea the situation as between herself, Korea, and the latter’s nominal suzerain, China, was anomalous and contradictory. In this fact alone lay the seeds of future trouble. Nor was the aspect of affairs in Korea itself such as to offer any assurance that the difficulties which there was every reason to anticipate would not shortly occur.

Its condition was that of an Oriental State in complete decay. Long years of misrule had broken the spirit of the people; the occupant of the Throne was a nonentity in the hands of unscrupulous and incompetent Ministers, who were supported by rival factions struggling with each other for power; there were no regular forces, nor police, worthy of the name; intrigue and corruption prevailed everywhere unchecked; and the resources of the country were wasted by swarms of rapacious officials intent only on enriching themselves.

In these circumstances the appearance on the scene of two neighbouring Powers, each bent on obtaining a predominant influence in the peninsula, could only result in making matters worse than they were before. The introduction of foreign elements into the intrigues of contending factions gave fresh force to domestic quarrels, until increasing disorder in the country culminated in anti-foreign disturbances, in the course of which the Japanese, against whom popular feeling was chiefly directed, were driven out of Seoul, and their Legation destroyed. The puppet King, accused of favouring Japan, was also compelled to abdicate, his father, the Tai-wön-kun, one of the few Koreans who possessed both character and ability, assuming charge of the administration. Thereupon China intervened. Exercising her acknowledged authority as suzerain, she sent a military force, supported by some men-of-war, to Korea to restore order. The Korean capital (Seoul) was occupied, and the Tai-wön-kun arrested and taken to China. This was in 1883. It was then that Yuan Shih-kai, afterwards President of the Chinese Republic, first came into public notice on his appointment as Chinese Resident in Seoul. For a short time after the reassertion of her authority by China, and the restoration of order in the Korean capital, affairs 216remained quiet, both the Chinese and Japanese Governments maintaining garrisons in Seoul; but in the following year a conspiracy fomented by the pro-Japanese party led to the outbreak of further disturbances, in the course of which a collision occurred between the Chinese and Japanese garrisons, the latter, which was greatly outnumbered, withdrawing to the port of Chemulpo.

The critical situation produced by this collision between the troops of the two Powers in the Korean capital impressed on both Governments the necessity, if further and more serious trouble were to be avoided, of arriving at some understanding in regard to action in Korea. With this object negotiations were opened early in 1885, and in the spring of that year a convention was signed at Tientsin between China and Japan, by which the independence of Korea was recognized. Both Governments agreed to withdraw their forces from Korea, leaving only small detachments as guards for their Legations, and to give each other previous notice “in writing,” should the despatch of troops by either to that country become necessary at any time in the future. A further stipulation provided that the King of Korea should be asked to organize an armed force for the preservation of order and public security, and to engage the services of foreign military experts for this purpose from a foreign country other than China and Japan.

This was still the position of affairs in 1894 under the modus vivendi established by the Tientsin Convention. Though by that agreement China had abandoned her pretensions to suzerainty, the rivalry between the two Powers continued unabated. The interval since 1885 had been marked by constant strife among Korean factions, and the prosecution of busy intrigues between the latter and the Chinese and Japanese, to which the growing interest now taken by Russia in the affairs of the peninsula gave fresh impetus. The Chinese representative in Korea retained the title of Resident, which conveyed, as was intended, the impression of the superiority of his position to those of other foreign representatives; and the influence of China at the Capital—exercised through the masterful Queen, who did not conceal her pro-Chinese sympathies—was predominant. Nevertheless, what advantage China enjoyed in these respects over her rival was more than counterbalanced by the political and commercial activity displayed by Japan. Proof of this had already been given by the prompt action of the Japanese Government in obtaining redress for the results of the disturbances of 1882 and 1884, and by the steadily increasing volume of Japanese trade.

Field-Marshal Prince Yamagata.

Distinguished himself in the Restoration campaign; took an active part in the Government subsequently formed, in the reorganization of the Japanese army, and in the wars with China and Russia; he wielded throughout great influence in State affairs.

217In the spring of 1894 the value of the arrangement under which the two Powers had agreed to conduct their relations with Korea was put to the test by the outbreak of an insurrection in the south of Korea. The Korean troops sent from the Capital to quell the revolt having been worsted in several encounters with the insurgents, the Min party, to which the Queen belonged, appealed to China for assistance. The Chinese Government responded to the appeal by sending troops to Asan, the scene of the revolt, informing Japan at the same time, in accordance with the terms of the Tientsin Convention, of its intention to do so. The Japanese Government replied by taking similar action. The tenour of the correspondence that ensued between the two Governments gave little hope of an amicable settlement of the difficulty, China reasserting the suzerainty she had previously waived, and seeking to impose limits upon Japanese action; while Japan insisted on her right to interfere, and supported it by reinforcing the troops she had already despatched. China at once took similar measures, but the reinforcements sent never reached their destination. The British vessel conveying them, under convoy of Chinese men-of-war, was met and sunk at sea by a Japanese squadron commanded by Admiral (then Captain) Tōgō. A day or two later the Chinese and Japanese forces at Asan came into conflict, with the result that the Chinese troops were defeated and were withdrawn to China. Hostilities had, therefore, already commenced on land and sea when simultaneous declarations of war were made by both Governments on the 1st August.

These first encounters were a true presage of what was to follow. The war thus begun was disastrous for China. By the wide extent of her territories, her vast population, her seemingly inexhaustible resources and her traditions of conquest, not to mention her industrial and commercial activities, she had for centuries filled a big place in the world. Japan, on the other hand, was a comparatively small country, little known, that had just emerged from a long era of seclusion, and was regarded abroad with feelings which at the best, apart from the interest her art inspired, did not extend beyond sympathetic curiosity.

It was quite natural, therefore, that foreigners outside Japan who knew little of the silent progress made since the Restoration should 218have wondered at her audacity in challenging a neighbour who in all respects appeared to be so much more powerful than herself. In reality, however, the prospects of success for China were hopeless from the first. She was in an advanced stage of decadence. Her foremost statesman, Li Hung Chang, and the whole official hierarchy were notoriously corrupt, the arrogant policy the Government still pursued serving as a cloak to hide the real weakness that lay behind. Her ill-paid army, led by incompetent officers, was without training of a modern kind, or discipline; while her navy was a house divided against itself, the southern squadron refusing to fight on the ground that the war was not a national war, but one into which the country had been drawn through the self-seeking policy of Li Hung Chang. To the Japanese there was nothing that savoured of audacity in confronting an adversary of whose weakness they were well assured. Into the policy of reform which the Government had steadily pursued since the Restoration many considerations had entered. The course of recent events in China had been an object-lesson by which it had profited. Having realized that a chief cause of China’s troubled relations with Western Powers lay in her military inefficiency, it set to work to reorganize the army. This work was entrusted to Marshal Prince Yamagata (then a young officer), who had distinguished himself in the fighting which took place at the time of the Restoration. He and the younger Saigō (afterwards created a Marquis) were the chief members of a mission appointed to enquire into military matters which visited Europe in 1870. The results of this mission were the engagement of foreign military instructors and the establishment of conscription, which came into operation for the first time in 1873. A few years later the discipline and fighting qualities of the new conscript troops were tested to the satisfaction of the Government in the Satsuma rebellion. In 1884 a second military mission, at the head of which was the late Marshal Prince Ōyama, visited Europe. It was then that the services of a Prussian officer, the late General Meckel, were secured. The improvement in the Japanese army which showed itself from that time is generally ascribed to the ability and energy which that officer brought to the performance of his duties as military adviser. In consequence of the sedulous attention thus paid for several years to military organization, Japan, when military operations against China commenced, had at her disposal a conscript army of over 200,000 219men, with a corresponding strength of artillery and a supply of efficient officers. Against an army of this quality, and of these dimensions, China, who was content to rely on troops recruited on the voluntary system, could do little, even had she not laboured under other disadvantages already mentioned.

For obvious reasons the development of the Japanese navy had lagged behind that of the army. The finances of the country did not permit of any large expenditure on both services. While the feudal system had kept alive the warlike spirit of the nation in spite of a prolonged period of peace, the closing of the country to foreign intercourse, accompanied as it was by the rigid limitations imposed on the size of vessels, had stifled maritime enterprise. Japanese naval training, therefore, had to begin with the rudiments of a sailor’s education. Service at sea did not at first appeal to a people whose military class, before it disappeared with the abolition of feudalism, had been brought up mainly in traditions of land fighting. There was another reason. Partly by design, partly, also, as the result of circumstances, the military control exercised by the two clans which virtually governed the country soon after the Restoration had from the first been arranged so as to give Chōshiū clansmen the larger share of army administration, the direction of the navy, on the other hand, being left chiefly to Satsuma clansmen, whose intelligence and energy fell short of the standard of their colleagues in the Government.

The same year (1872) in which the reorganization of the army began saw the first steps taken in the direction of naval reform. In that year the single department which had hitherto been responsible for the administration of both army and navy was replaced by separate departments for each of the two services. It was, as already noted, to Great Britain that Japan turned for assistance in the measures subsequently taken for the building up of a navy. British naval advisers and instructors, amongst whom were the late Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas and Admiral Ingles were engaged, and the first vessels of the new Japanese navy were constructed in England. In 1892 the determination of the Government to persevere in the task of creating a navy was shown by the Emperor’s decision to contribute £30,000 annually for eight years towards naval construction, the funds required for this purpose being obtained by proportionate reductions in the expenditure of the Court. When 220war was declared, it was the Japanese navy that struck the first blow. It then consisted of twenty-eight ships, aggregating roughly some 57,000 tons, besides twenty-four torpedo-boats. The day of destroyers had not yet come. The Chinese fleet at this time was stronger numerically than that of Japan, and had also an advantage in the fact that it included one or two ships of a more powerful class than any Japanese vessel. But this superiority was counterbalanced by the refusal of the Chinese Southern Squadron, for the reason already given, to take any part in hostilities; and early in the war the portion of the Chinese fleet which came into action showed that it had little stomach for fighting.

Though the war lasted for eight months—from August 1st, 1894, till the conclusion of an armistice on the 30th March in the following year—its result was never in doubt. The Chinese troops in the south of Korea had, as we have seen, been withdrawn to China after their defeat at Asan. Further north the Japanese at once made the port of Chemulpo the base of preliminary operations, and having, on the strength of a treaty of alliance, concluded at the outset of hostilities with the Korean Government, occupied the Korean capital, compelled the Chinese forces remaining in Korea to retire towards the frontier. The only engagement of any consequence in this early stage of the campaign occurred at Ping-yang, a town occupying a position of some strategic value in the north-west of the peninsula sixty miles from the Yalu river, which formed for some distance the boundary between China and Korea. This place was held in strength by the Chinese forces, and its capture by the Japanese on the 17th September involved some severe fighting, in the course of which a Chinese Mohammedan regiment distinguished itself by a stubborn resistance, which was in marked contrast to the behaviour of other Chinese troops. On the same day the Chinese northern fleet was beaten in the only important naval action of the war. In this engagement the two Chinese battleships, each more than a match for any Japanese vessel, suffered little damage, but the Chinese lost several smaller vessels, while no Japanese ships were damaged beyond repair. The beaten Chinese fleet made its way to Ta-lien-Wan, which lies at the neck of the Kwantung peninsula. There it stayed for some weeks until the landing of a Japanese army close to that port, which the Chinese made no attempt to defend, obliged it to take refuge in Weihaiwei. Thence it never again 221emerged, thus leaving to the Japanese until the end of the war the undisputed command of the sea.

The further course of the war is well known, the general control of operations remaining, as before, in the hands of Marshal Prince Yamagata. Nowhere were the Chinese forces able to offer any effective resistance to the Japanese advance, their experience, whenever they tried to make a stand, being a repetition of what occurred at Ping-yang, where their losses, as compared with those of the enemy (6000 to 200), told their own tale. Towards the end of October the two Japanese divisions operating on parallel lines in Korea crossed the Chinese frontier, driving before them the Chinese forces, which made but a feeble resistance. The Japanese divisions (some 40,000 strong), which had early in November driven the Chinese from Ta-lien-wan and occupied the isthmus of Chinchou, thus severing communications between the Kwantung peninsula and the northern portion of the Fêng-t’ien province, proceeded to invest Port Arthur. Later on in the month a Chinese army moving from the north was completely defeated in an attempt to relieve the fortress. On the 21st November, Port Arthur was stormed with small loss to the Japanese, considering the natural strength of the position, and its powerful fortifications. Early in December the Japanese forces operating from Korea, assisted by a third division detached for the purpose, continued their advance, occupying successively the towns of Kaiping and Haicheng. In the course of February and March, 1895, this army, now under the command of General (afterwards Prince) Katsura, pushed still further west, defeated the Chinese in three successive engagements in the neighbourhood of Newchwang and occupied that port, the Chinese retreating northwards along the course of the Liao river. Meanwhile an expeditionary force despatched from Ta-lien-wan in January had landed in Yung-chêng bay to the east of Weihaiwei, and, acting in co-operation with the Japanese fleet, had laid siege to that place. Its gallant defence by Admiral Ting was for China the only redeeming feature of the war. On 16th March it surrendered, after a siege of three months, its gallant defender dying by his own hand. The fall of Weihaiwei, and the uninterrupted success of the Japanese armies on the Liao river, convinced China of the hopelessness of further resistance, though she had still large military reserves in the vicinity of the Capital. An armistice was accordingly concluded on the 30th March. 222The Chinese Government had previously made informal overtures for peace through a foreign adviser in the Chinese Customs service, but these had come to nothing owing to Japan’s insistence upon treating directly with the responsible Chinese authorities. The peace negotiations which followed the armistice resulted in the signature of the Treaty of Shimonoséki on the 17th April. In the course of these negotiations a slight modification in its demands was granted by the Japanese Government as reparation for a fanatical attack made on the Chinese Plenipotentiary, Li Hung Chang, who fortunately escaped without serious injury.

The main provisions of this Treaty, some of which were altered by the subsequent intervention of Russia, France and Germany, were the recognition by China of Korea’s independence; the cession to Japan of the southern portion of the province of Fêng-t’ien, Formosa and the Pescadores; the payment by China of an indemnity of 200,000,000 Kuping taels—equivalent, roughly, at the then rate of exchange, to £40,000,000; and the opening to foreign trade of four new towns in China. These were Shasi, Chungking, Soochow and Hangchow. The Treaty also established the right of foreigners to engage in manufacturing enterprises in China, and provided for the subsequent conclusion of a Commercial Convention, and of arrangements regarding frontier intercourse and trade. And it was agreed that Weihaiwei should be occupied by Japan until the indemnity had been paid. Under the Commercial Convention, duly concluded three months later, Japan secured for her subjects extra-territorial rights in China, but these were withheld from Chinese subjects in Japan. In the following October a supplementary Protocol of four articles was added to this Commercial Convention.

It will be seen that Japan in making with China this one-sided arrangement regarding extra-territorial rights, which limited their enjoyment expressly to the subjects of one of the contracting parties, followed the example of Western Powers in their early treaties with Japan, which were still in existence, the revised Treaty with Great Britain not coming into operation until 1899. Apart from the question whether this caution on her part was justified or not by the conditions of Chinese jurisdiction, it is not easy to reconcile her action in this respect with her repeated protests against the extra-territorial stipulations of her own treaties with Western Powers and with the national agitation for their revision which resulted therefrom.


Militarist Policy—Liaotung Peninsula—Intervention of Three Powers—Leases of Chinese Territory by Germany, Russia, Great Britain and France—Spheres of Interest.

The origin of the activity displayed by Japan in the reorganization of her army and navy, the efficiency of which was so strikingly demonstrated in the war with China, may be traced to the military tendencies of the two clans which had practically governed the country since the Restoration. It was the military strength of these clans which was, as we have seen, the determining factor in the struggle preceding the Restoration; it was this, again, that carried the new Government safely through the earlier internal troubles, and enabled it to pursue successfully in the face of many difficulties its policy of gradual reform. In the process of surmounting these difficulties, and even more, perhaps, in the very work of reconstruction, in so far as this related to naval and military reorganization, it was only natural that the tendencies in question should be developed. Other influences which worked in the same direction were the desire to attain equality with Western Powers, to assert the independence of the nation, still impaired, in public opinion, by offensive Treaty stipulations, and the wish to be in a position to act vigorously in matters concerning the nation’s intercourse with its neighbours on the continent of Asia. Even, therefore, before the war with China something very near to a militarist spirit had become apparent in administrative circles. The signal success achieved by both army and navy in the course of the campaign favoured the growth of this feeling. It became clear to all attentive observers that henceforth the existence of a militarist party in the country was a factor to be reckoned with in any estimate of the future course of Japanese policy. The leading exponents of this militarist policy were, of course, to be found amongst naval and 224military officers, but their views were shared by the Japanese statesmen who had taken a prominent part in military reforms; by others, whose declarations on foreign policy from time to time were tinged with a Chauvinism that deepened with the increase of Japan’s position in the world; and by a section of the Japanese Press.

During the Shimonoséki negotiations the influence of the military party, fresh from its success in the war, had been exerted to secure an even larger cession of territory on the mainland than that eventually agreed upon. The discussions which took place on this point between the military leaders and the Japanese plenipotentiary, the late Prince Itō, whose enemies could never accuse him of any leaning towards Chauvinism, resembled those which took place between Bismarck and von Moltke at the close of the Franco-German war of 1870. In this instance Prince Itō’s more moderate views prevailed, with the result recorded in the Treaty.

Had the Japanese Government been gifted with a prescience enabling it to anticipate the series of aggressive acts on the part of European Powers for which its attempt to annex territory on the Chinese mainland gave the signal, the attempt might, possibly, never have been made. Had it even foreseen the determined opposition of certain European Powers to the cession of even this extent of Chinese territory on the mainland, it is probable that its demands would have undergone still further modification. The ambition of the German Emperor to play a more active part in foreign questions, and to secure for Germany an influence abroad commensurate, as it seemed to him, with its dignity as an Empire, not to mention the steps he was taking about this time to give effect to his intentions by commencing the construction of what was soon to become a powerful navy, had not escaped the attention of Japanese Ministers. Nor had his warning in regard to what he described as the Yellow Peril passed unnoticed. Of the general trend of European diplomacy they were not ignorant, but of its special bearing on Far Eastern matters they were, apparently, not fully aware, in spite of the indication of Russia’s interest in Manchuria furnished by her Circular Note to the Great Powers in February, 1895, and the warning of impending trouble said to have been given by Germany to Japan in the following month before the armistice was concluded. The possible extension to the Far East of the mischievous activity of the Kaiser, the designs of Russia, and the results which might be expected to follow the 225conclusion of the recent Entente between that Power and France, were points that seem to have been insufficiently realized.

The Treaty of Shimonoséki was signed, as we have seen, on the 17th April. Eight days later the Russian and French Ministers in Tōkiō presented to the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs (the late Count Mutsu) identical Notes advising the Japanese Government “to renounce the definite possession of the Liaotung peninsula,” on the ground that “its possession by Japan would be a menace to Peking, and render illusory the independence of Korea.” On the same day a similar Note was presented by the German Minister. For the sudden intervention of these three Powers the Japanese Government was unprepared. The quickness with which it followed the signature of the Treaty, no less than the form of procedure adopted, left no doubt as to the serious intentions of the Powers concerned; while the association of Germany in the matter lent an ominous weight to the protest. Convinced that this was no idle threat, and realizing the futility of opposing a demand made by the three chief military Powers of Europe, the Japanese Government at once gave way, and consented to relinquish this portion of Chinese territory in return for an additional indemnity of 30,000,000 Kuping taels, equivalent to about £6,000,000. A Convention to this effect was signed at Peking on November 8th, 1895. It provided for the payment of the additional indemnity by the 25th of that month, and for the evacuation of the Liaotung peninsula to be completed within three months from that date.

The mention of “the Liaotung peninsula” in the protest of the three Powers is the first we hear of the term. It was not used by the Chinese, nor did it occur in the Shimonoséki Treaty. There the ceded territory is called “the southern portion of the province of Fêng-t’ien” (otherwise known as Shengking, and Moukden, though the latter is really the name of the provincial Capital), the Treaty frontier (never delimited) running roughly from Yingkow on the river Liao to the Yalu river, and to the north of the towns of Fenghwangcheng and Haicheng. But the Chinese used the term Liaotung, which means “East of the river Liao,” in a vague way to signify the territory which lies to the left of that river; and foreign geographers, in ignorance of the meaning of the term, had applied it to the bay into which the river flows, which appears in atlases as the “Liaotung Gulf.” When the intervention took place, it was probably found 226convenient to make use in the Notes of protest of a term already given in foreign atlases to the bay that forms the western boundary of the territory in question. Hence the adoption of the term “the Liaotung peninsula,” which was an error in geographical nomenclature. Once adopted, or, as may be said, invented, the convenience of the term led to its employment again when the Russo-Chinese Agreement for the lease of Port Arthur was made in 1898, though the territory then leased was limited to what is now known as the peninsula of Kwantung. It reappears in the additional Russo-Chinese Agreement of the same year. From that time the term seems to have passed into general use, for we find it in the Portsmouth Treaty of 1905.

The intervention of the three Powers had far-reaching consequences, none of which, in all probability, were foreseen at the time by any of the Governments concerned, though each may have felt that it had established a claim to the goodwill of China. Four months after Japan had agreed to the retrocession of the territory ceded to her by the Shimonoséki Treaty Russia, who had been the prime mover in the matter, proceeded to lay China under further obligations by rendering her financial assistance which facilitated the liberation of her territory. This took the form of a Chinese loan of £15,000,000, floated in Paris under Russia’s guarantee.

In January, 1896, one of the consequences above mentioned was seen in the settlement of various questions which the French Government had been pressing on the attention of the Government of China for some time. These questions related to the rectification of the Tonkin frontier, and to railway and mining concessions in the provinces of Yunnan, Kwangsi and Kwantung. This was only an instalment of the recompense for her services which France was to obtain. The arrangement with France regarding the Tonkin frontier constituted a breach of the Burma Convention of 1886, and of a later Convention of 1894, regulating the boundaries separating British and Chinese territories, which provided, inter alia, that no portion of two small States assigned to China should be alienated to any other Power without previous agreement with Great Britain. The dispute which arose over this question was eventually settled—as between Great Britain and France—by the joint Declaration of January 15th, 1896, fixing the boundary between the possessions, or spheres of influence, of the two Powers as far as the Chinese frontier, 227and arranging for all privileges conceded by China in the provinces of Yunnan and Szechwan to the two Powers, respectively, under their Agreements with China of 1894 and 1895 to be made common to both Powers and their nationals; and—as between Great Britain and China—by an Agreement signed on February 4th, 1897, modifying the previous boundary in favour of Great Britain, and opening the West river, which flows into the sea at Canton, to foreign trade.

Russia was the next to profit. She had already decided in 1892 to construct what is now the Trans-Siberian Railway with the object of linking up the eastern and western extremities of the Empire, and thus aiding the development of Siberia, as well as strengthening her position on the Pacific coast. The line, as then projected, was to run from Chiliabinsk in the Ural Mountains to the south-western shore of Lake Baikal, and from the south-eastern shore of the lake to Vladivostok, following for some distance the course of the Amur river; communication across the lake to be maintained by vessels specially constructed for the purpose. Work was commenced at both ends of the railway, and when the Shimonoséki Treaty was signed the line had been finished as far east as Chita, a town south-east of Lake Baikal, and within two hundred miles of the Chinese frontier.

The war between China and Japan had served a useful purpose for Russia in revealing both the weakness of China and the strength and ambitions of Japan. To check these ambitions in the direction of Manchuria, and forestall Japan by establishing herself in the coveted territory, was the task to which she now directed her energies. In the preliminary step by which the retrocession of the Liaotung peninsula was effected she was, as we have seen, aided by both France and Germany. Between the latter and herself some sort of roughly formulated understanding seems to have been arrived at, described by Reventlow in his Deutschland’s Auswärtige Politik as a secret agreement between the Kaiser and the Tsar, the results of which were to be seen later. With France she worked throughout in the closest accord in the development of the new line of policy she had marked out for herself in the Far East, to which Belgian financiers also lent their co-operation. In return for Russia’s support in European affairs, as arranged by the Entente concluded between the two countries, France, for her part, was only too willing to encourage Russian aims in the Far East; and she was the more ready to do so, since this course assured her of reciprocal help in the 228prosecution of her own interests in China. Russia had been the connecting link between the three Powers whose intervention had restored the Liaotung peninsula to China. It was the relations she continued to maintain with her two associates after that incident—in the one case an informal understanding, in the other definite concerted action—which shaped the course of subsequent events in the Far East.

In Ma Mission en Chine, M. Gérard, who was French Minister in Peking during the period 1893–7, gives an account of the secret negotiations with China by means of which Russia succeeded in forestalling Japan in Manchuria. His book supplies the key to a correct understanding of the course of events, and throws much light on the political situation at the time of which he speaks. We learn how close was the accord then maintained between France and Russia; how skilfully Russia made use of the complaisant attitude of her two associates; and with what unscrupulous determination to compass her ends she traded on the weakness of China, on the claims she had established on the latter’s goodwill, and on the vanity and corruption of Chinese officials.

In May, 1896, according to M. Gérard, a secret Treaty was signed at St. Petersburg by Prince Lobanoff, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Li Hung Chang, Viceroy of Chihli, who had been sent to Russia as China’s representative at the Coronation of the late Tsar Nicholas II. The full text of this Treaty has never been published, but it promised to China Russian protection against Japan; China, in return for this guarantee of assistance, granting to Russia the privilege of using, in time of war, the harbours of Ta-lien Wan, in the Kwantung peninsula, and Kiaochow, in the province of Shantung, as bases for her fleet. Three months later (August 27th) a secret Railway Agreement was signed at St. Petersburg by Li Hung Chang and the representatives of the Russo-Chinese Bank. This institution, half the capital of which was French, had been created at the end of the previous year. M. Gérard explains that, in consequence of so large a portion of the bank’s capital being furnished by a French syndicate, the French Government insisted on receiving definite information regarding the negotiations in question. His statements regarding the French financial interest in the Russo-Chinese Bank are confirmed by other writers: by Chéradame, in his interesting book, Le Monde et La Guerre Russo-Japonaise, 229and by Débidour in Histoire Diplomatique de l’Europe. We learn also from M. Gérard that the Chinese Government had contributed, under the title of a deposit, 5,000,000 taels to the capital of the bank, explaining at the time, in answer to enquiries, that this sum represented China’s share of the cost of construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway; that for the building of this line a company called the Chinese Eastern Railway Company was formed, which, although Russo-Chinese in name, was a purely Russian concern; and that it was agreed that on the completion of the line in question the sum “deposited” by China should be returned to her. He adds that the President of the bank was Prince Ouchtomsky, who afterwards visited Peking at the head of a Russian Mission.

Both the Treaty and the Railway Agreement were ratified by the Chinese Government on the 18th September, and came into force on that date. The popular rumour which credited the Russian Minister in Peking with the negotiation of these two instruments was, it appears, due to the presence of M. Cassini at the Chinese Capital, where it was considered necessary for him to remain in order to secure their ratification by China. As a glance at a map of North-Eastern Asia will show, the Railway Agreement constituted a concession of the greatest importance to Russia. The Chinese Eastern Railway, the name of the new line which Russia obtained leave to construct, became the eastern section of the Trans-Siberian Railway, connecting Lake Baikal with Vladivostok, Russia’s outlet to the Pacific. The new line, which would traverse Northern Manchuria via Kharbin, Tsitsihar and Hailar, would shorten the distance by more than 300 miles. Moreover, the more level country through which the line was to pass presented few engineering difficulties, as compared with the Amur route, a fact which would greatly diminish the period and the cost of construction. The Agreement was subsequently rendered complete in every detail by the elaboration of what were termed the Statutes of the Chinese Eastern Railway. These were confirmed by the Tsar on the 4th December in the same year. Although these Statutes (given in Rockhill’s Treaties and Conventions) provided that the President of this railway company should be Chinese, the stipulation was purely nominal. The Chinese Eastern Railway, like the Russo-Chinese Bank, was an exclusively Russian undertaking, the raising of the capital required, as well as the construction of the line, being entirely in Russian hands.

230Meanwhile the Kaiser, who personally directed the foreign policy of Germany, was forming plans for claiming his share of reward for the triple intervention, and he had, it appears, already approached the Peking Government on this subject, though without any success. What, assuming its existence, was the nature of the understanding arrived at between the Courts of St. Petersburg and Berlin in regard to Far Eastern affairs will probably remain for ever a State secret. In any case, however, it is clear, from his own repeated declarations as to Germany’s need for “a place in the sun,” and from the proceedings of the German Minister at Peking, that he was bent on obtaining a foothold of some sort in China, whence Germany’s future expansion in the Far East might be conveniently developed. His opportunity came in 1897. In the autumn of that year two German missionaries were murdered in the province of Shantung. A few weeks later a German force landed in that province at Kiaochow, one of the two harbours the use of which in time of war Russia had acquired eighteen months before under her secret Treaty with China. M. Gérard in his book above mentioned states that the German Emperor had before the departure of the German ships on this errand informed the Tsar by telegraph of his intentions, and, receiving no reply objecting to the proposed step, took the Tsar’s silence for consent. Germany’s occupation of this strategic position, which had the further advantage of being in a region of the Chinese mainland sufficiently distant from points where other foreign interests were centred to obviate objections on the part of other Powers, and, at the same time, ensure an ample and undisturbed field for German enterprise, was confirmed by a Treaty concluded with China on March 6th, 1898. By this Treaty China granted to Germany a lease for ninety-nine years of the port of Kiaochow and a considerable stretch of “hinterland.” Germany also acquired under it certain rights of railway construction in the neighbourhood of the port.

The author of Japan: The Rise of a Modern Power, tells us, on the authority of a statement said to have been made by Prince Henry of Hohenzollern, that the Kaiser’s next step was to invite the Tsar to take Port Arthur and Ta-lien Wan. Whatever truth there may be in the statement attributed to Prince Henry—M. Gérard thinks the suggestion may have been made in the telegram announcing his own intentions—the fact remains that Germany’s abrupt action 231resulted in an immediate scramble on the part of several European Powers for various portions of Chinese territory. Russia led the way in these undignified proceedings, for which a harsher word might with justice be substituted. Two months after the occupation of Kiaochow by Germany, Russian men-of-war anchored in Port Arthur. Thither they were followed by British cruisers, and for a moment it looked as if history would repeat itself, and that Russia might have to reckon with British interference in her designs. Other counsels, however, prevailed. The British ships were withdrawn, and on March 27th, three weeks after the conclusion of the Kiaochow Agreement, a similar Treaty was signed at Peking by Li Hung Chang and the Russian Chargé d’Affaires. This Treaty, the text of which was not published by the Russian Government, provided for the lease to Russia of Port Arthur, Ta-lien Wan and adjacent waters for a period of twenty-five years, renewable by arrangement at the expiration of the term. It was further agreed that the right to construct the Chinese Eastern Railway across Northern Manchuria, secured by Russia under the secret Railway Agreement of August 27th, 1896, should be extended so as to include the construction of branch lines from a point on that railway to Ta-lien Wan and other places in the Liaotung peninsula. The Treaty also provided for a subsequent definition of the boundaries of the leased area and—a point of some importance in the light of after events—of a neutral strip of territory separating the Chinese and Russian spheres. Port Arthur, moreover, was declared to be a naval port, and as such closed to all vessels save those of the two contracting parties. Subsequently, on May 7th, a supplementary Agreement, signed at St. Petersburg, defined the boundaries of the leased area, and arranged for their delimitation.

It was not long before France, whose services to China at the time of the triple intervention had, as we have seen, already met with recognition in the shape of the prompt settlement of various outstanding questions, obtained, in her turn, a territorial concession of the same nature—though, perhaps, not so important—as those granted to Germany and Russia. By a Convention signed at Peking on May 27th, 1898, China granted to her a ninety-nine years’ lease for the purpose of a naval station and coaling depôt of the Bay of Kwang-chow and adjacent territory in the peninsula of Leichow, together with the right to construct a railway connecting the bay 232with the peninsula. The area of this concession was in the province of Kwangsi, which adjoins the French territory of Tonkin.

Unlike the three Powers associated in the triple intervention, whose subsequent action justifies the supposition that they regarded themselves as brokers entitled to a commission for services rendered, Great Britain had no special claim on the goodwill of China. Nevertheless, she joined in the scramble for Chinese territory. A Convention, signed at Peking on June 9th, 1898, gave her an extension of territory at Hongkong under lease for a period of ninety-nine years, the reason assigned for the concession being that this extension was necessary for the proper protection and defence of that colony. Three weeks later (July 1st), by another Convention, signed also at Peking, it was agreed that the Chinese Government, “in order to provide Great Britain with a suitable naval harbour and for the protection of British commerce in the neighbouring seas,” should lease to her Weihaiwei and the adjacent waters “for so long a period as Port Arthur shall remain in the occupation of Russia.” The area thus leased comprised the island of Liu-kung, and all other islands in the bay of Weihaiwei.

In defence of Great Britain’s action it may fairly be pleaded that her interests in China, and in the Far East generally, which were more extensive than those of any other Power, with the possible exception of Japan, made it necessary for her Government to take prompt measures to counteract the effect of any proceedings on the part of other Powers which might be prejudicial to those interests. The political situation created in the Far East by the actions of the three Powers associated in the triple intervention was the reverse of reassuring. Russia’s occupation of Port Arthur was in direct contradiction to the grounds of the joint protest against the annexation of the Liaotung peninsula by Japan. Neither with France nor with Russia at that time were our relations what they afterwards became. Between British and Russian policy there was a scarcely veiled antagonism, while the French and ourselves had long been rivals in China, as elsewhere. The concerted action of these two Powers, not to speak of their support by a third, whose exact relation to her associates was dubious, was thus calculated to give rise to apprehensions which would doubtless have been increased had British Ministers then known all that has since come to light. Additional gravity was given to Germany’s sudden appearance on the 233scene in a new rôle by, to use M. Gérard’s words, her “occupation by force and at a moment of complete peace of a port belonging to the Empire the integrity of whose territory she claimed to have safeguarded against Japan.” Under these circumstances the British Government may well have felt that it was justified in regarding these proceedings as fraught with possibilities of injury to British interests and prestige, and in adopting what in the light of these occurrences might reasonably be held to assume the character of precautionary measures. Such, beyond a doubt, was the general interpretation given by impartial observers to Great Britain’s action in arranging for her occupation of Weihaiwei. It was, as the terms of the Agreement clearly indicated, a direct counter-move to Russia’s occupation of Port Arthur. As such it was welcomed by Japan, who, when the time for the evacuation of Weihaiwei arrived, willingly handed it over to the Power who was shortly to become her ally.


American Protest against Foreign Aggression in China—Principle of “Open Door and Equal Opportunity”—Financial Reform—Operation of Revised Treaties—The Boxer Outbreak—Russia and Manchuria.

In addition to the various Agreements for the occupation of Chinese territory mentioned in the preceding chapter, negotiations were conducted with the Chinese Government about the same time by the European Powers concerned, and also by Japan, for the purpose of obtaining Declarations regarding the non-alienation by China of certain territories which were regarded by them as coming, respectively, within their special spheres of interest. As a result of these negotiations the French Minister at Peking received in March, 1897, a verbal assurance, confirmed later in writing, that the Chinese Government would “in no case, nor under any form, alienate to another Power the island of Hainan off the coast of the province of Kwantung.” In February, 1898, a similar Declaration concerning the riverain provinces of the Yangtse was made to Great Britain. In the following April the assurance previously given to France was extended so as to include the three southern provinces of Yunnan, Kwangsi and Kwantung bordering on Tonkin; while Japan in the same month received an assurance of a corresponding nature regarding the province of Fukien, the Chinese Government signifying its intention “never to cede or lease it to any Power whatsoever.” In thus obtaining from China a Declaration of non-alienation respecting the province of Fukien, similar to those given to Great Britain and France regarding other portions of Chinese territory, Japan established her claim to rank as one of the leading Powers in the Far East, a position which, as will be seen, received further recognition in the following year. Her success in this respect—due to her victory in the war with China, and to the alteration in her status as a nation which resulted from the conclusion of revised treaties with several foreign Powers—was 235rendered the more noticeable by the failure of Italy, after prolonged negotiations, to gain China’s consent to a territorial concession similar to those granted to other European Powers.

The years 1898 and 1899 witnessed the negotiation by European Powers with each other of two other arrangements relating to China of a somewhat different character. One of these was the Declaration made by Great Britain to Germany on April 19th, 1898, binding herself not to construct any railway connecting Weihaiwei, and the adjoining leased territory, with the interior of the province of Shantung. The other was the Agreement, effected through an exchange of Notes at St. Petersburg on April 28th, 1899, by which the British and Russian Governments recorded their intention to regard, for the purpose of railway concessions, the basin of the Yangtse and the region north of the Great Wall as the special spheres of interest of the two Powers, respectively, confirming, at the same time, the understanding arrived at between them in regard to the railway between Shanhaikwan and Newchwang.

The outbreak of war between the United States and Spain in the spring of 1898 led to the introduction of a new factor into the situation created in the Far East by the events above described. One of the results of the war was the cession of the Philippine Islands to America, who had already, by annexing Hawaii, secured a stepping-stone across the Pacific. By the acquisition of these former Spanish possessions, which provided her with a naval base in the Eastern Pacific for the protection of her commerce in Far Eastern waters, America’s attitude towards Far Eastern questions was at once affected. Hitherto in her relations with the Far East—with China, Japan and Korea—she had maintained a detached attitude in keeping with her traditional policy of non-interference in foreign questions. In China, where she came late into the field, she had been content to follow, at a distance, in the wake of other Powers; sharing in whatever commercial or extra-territorial privileges might be obtained, but never breaking the ice for herself, nor—to her credit, be it said—betraying any aggressive tendencies. As the pioneer of Western nations in putting an end to the seclusion of Japan and Korea, she had opportunities for exercising a powerful influence, of which her traditional policy forbade her to make full use. Regarding both countries somewhat in the light of protégés, her policy in respect to each soon settled down into one of benevolent inaction, varied only 236by occasional half-hearted opposition to the less complaisant policy of other Governments, whenever the duty of a patron, so to speak, seemed to call for her interposition. We have seen how she was thus led on two occasions in the matter of Treaty revision into a premature encouragement of Japanese ambitions, which was the cause of embarrassment both to herself, and to the nation whose wishes she was willing to further. The course thus pursued by America, which precluded concerted action with other Powers, was in some respects simply an extension to the Far East of the policy she had previously adopted in regard to European questions. Well as the traditional principle of holding aloof from affairs outside of the American continent, through fear of political entanglements, may have suited the conditions of her earlier existence as a nation, a too rigid adherence to this principle, when those conditions were fast disappearing, might lead to consequences more unpleasant than those she sought to avoid. An attitude of detachment carried too far might result in her exclusion from a voice in the regulation of matters of international interest. Towards some such position America appeared to be drifting, when, to borrow the phrase used by Mr. Hornbeck in Contemporary Politics of the Far East, she suddenly “stumbled into World Politics” through her occupation of the Philippines. From that moment her political isolation was ended. She began to take a more active and intelligent interest in Far Eastern questions, though the reluctance to abandon her traditional policy, which was still noticeable in her action when she did move, was liable to be mistaken for timidity.

The territorial concessions obtained, one after the other, by Germany, Russia, France and Great Britain, and the ear-marking of other Chinese territory by arrangements made either by the Powers concerned, as well as by Japan, with China, or by certain of those European Powers between themselves, caused uneasiness in Washington. There was a fear lest the new activity displayed by various Governments might result in the closure, or restriction, of Chinese markets hitherto open to all countries, in which case serious injury might accrue to American commerce and enterprise. The apprehension was not unfounded, even so far as the Declarations regarding the non-alienation of Chinese territory were concerned. Although the actual wording of these Declarations did not of itself justify an inference of this nature, from the fact that they were made at all 237it was generally held that their effect was to establish, in each instance, a sort of priority of right—a position of exceptional advantage in favour of the Power to whom the Declaration was made. The inference derived support from the vagueness of the term “spheres of interest” applied to the regions affected by the Declarations in question, and was also strengthened by the common impression formed at the time that this ear-marking of Chinese territory portended an eventual partition of China. This seems to have been the view taken by the United States Government.

In September, 1899, the American Secretary of State addressed Circular Notes to the British, French, German and Russian Governments, expressing the hope that they would “make a formal declaration of an ‘open door’ policy in the territories held by them in China.” An assurance was sought from each Power: that it would “in no way interfere with any treaty port or any vested interest within any so-called sphere of interest, or leased territory, it might have in China”; “that the Chinese Treaty tariff of the time being should apply to all merchandise landed or shipped to all such ports as are within the said ‘sphere of interest’” ... and “that duties so leviable should be collected by the Chinese Government”; and that it “would levy no higher harbour dues on vessels of another nationality frequenting any port in such ‘sphere’ than should be levied on vessels of its own nationality, and no higher railroad charges over lines built, controlled or operated within its ‘sphere’ on merchandise belonging to citizens or subjects of other nationalities transported through such ‘sphere’ than should be levied on similar merchandise belonging to its own nationals transported over like distances.” In the following November similar, though not identical, Notes were addressed to the Governments of France, Italy and Japan, asking them to join in these formal declarations of policy.

The reason for the distinction thus made both in the dates and tenor of the two series of communications may, perhaps, be found in the fact that the territories leased by the three first-named Powers, besides their greater strategic importance, were situated in a part of China where American interests were more closely concerned than in the region further south affected by French action, and that Japan, though interested in the Declaration regarding Fukien, had neither sought nor obtained any cession of territory; while Italy 238had failed in her endeavour to emulate the example of her nearest continental neighbours.

The assurance received from China by Japan regarding the non-alienation of the province of Fukien was, as we have seen, in effect, an admission of the position of power and influence she had by this time acquired. Her inclusion in the list of States consulted by America on this occasion was indirectly an endorsement of this admission, and is the first public recognition of her new status as a leading Power in the Far East.

Favourable replies were received from all the Powers consulted; each, however, with the exception of Italy, making the reservation that assent to the proposals was subject to the condition that all the Powers interested should participate in the Declarations. Thereupon, in March, 1900, the American Secretary of State sent instructions to the American representative at each of the capitals of the Powers consulted to inform the Government to which he was accredited that, in his opinion, the six Powers in question and the United States were mutually pledged to the policy of maintaining the commercial status quo in China, and of refraining, each within what might be considered its sphere of influence, “from measures calculated to destroy equality of opportunity.”

The Notes thus exchanged between the United States and the six other Powers above mentioned explain the origin, as they also constitute “the formal basis” (to use Mr. Hornbeck’s words) of what has ever since been known as the policy of the “Open door and equal opportunity” in China. The latter part of the phrase was afterwards used in the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Alliance to designate the policy of Great Britain and Japan in Korea as well as in China. To the former country, now annexed to Japan, it no longer applies; but the policy has theoretically, if not always practically, been in force as regards China, for the last twenty-one years, and there is reason to think that more may yet be heard both of the phrase, and of the policy it represents, in connection with affairs in China, and possibly in other parts of Eastern Asia.

In touching on the subject of financial reform in a previous chapter attention was called to the monetary confusion which existed after the abolition of the feudal system, when the new Government which had come into power found itself saddled with clan debts 239and with clan paper money, mostly depreciated and of many different kinds. It was pointed out how, as a natural consequence of this monetary confusion and of financial embarrassments due to other causes, the monetary transactions of the country were for many years conducted on the basis of an inconvertible paper currency; and how by successive steps, taken as opportunity offered, to remedy this state of things, specie resumption on a silver basis was at length effected in 1886.

It was not till eleven years later, in 1897, that Japan adopted her present gold standard. The reasons for this step are given in the chapter on Finance contributed to Marquis Ōkuma’s book, already mentioned, by Marquis Matsugata, who also explains the means by which it was accomplished.

“When,” says this authority on Japanese financial matters, “the Government opened places for the redemption of paper money in 1886, silver coins only were offered in exchange. Such being the case, the currency of Japan at that time was based practically on a silver standard, although legally the system was bimetallic. The price of silver, however, owing to various reasons, gradually fell, and artificial checks to its fall were effective only for a short time. Fluctuation after fluctuation in foreign exchange seemed to follow each other in endless succession. In the meantime Western countries commenced to adopt gold monometallism. Our authorities knew very well that, to insure a healthy growth of finance, Japan must adopt, sooner or later, a monometallic gold standard, and this was impressed on the minds of financiers so keenly that the Government determined to effect the reform as soon as possible. The desired opportunity came with the Peace Treaty of 1895, when China began to pay to our country an indemnity of 200,000,000 taels” [sic the amount was really 230,000,000 taels]. “Further negotiations between our Government and the Chinese authorities resulted in the payment of the indemnity, not in Chinese money, but in pounds sterling. This was important, since a large gold reserve was indispensable for the establishment of gold monometallism.”

The experience of 1886, referred to by Marquis Matsugata, proved that confidence in the Government’s ability to meet its obligations in paper money was all that was needed. This confidence once established, no further difficulty presented itself in the passage from 240an inconvertible to a convertible paper currency. Prepared for heavy calls on the specie resources of the Treasury, the Government had on that occasion accumulated a reserve of £5,000,000. When, at the end of a few days after the date fixed for the resumption of specie payments, the demand for specie ceased, it was found that the total value of notes presented for conversion did not exceed £30,000. The change from a silver to a gold standard in 1897 was conducted with equal facility, a large portion of the Chinese indemnity being transferred abroad. There it served a useful purpose in maintaining Japan’s financial credit, and, as a natural consequence, the market price of the Bonds of her numerous foreign loans, which for several years, to the surprise of private investors, were quoted at higher rates abroad than at home.

The year 1899, when the revised treaties came into operation, marked a fresh stage in the progress of Japan towards attaining a footing of equality with Western Powers—the aim which her statesmen had set before themselves ever since the Restoration, and which had in so many ways been the guiding principle of both domestic and foreign policy. With the object of allowing time for the negotiation of similar treaties with other foreign Powers, the revised British Treaty, signed in London in 1894, had, as already mentioned, provided that it should not come into force until five years after the date of signature. Before the expiration of the period named similar treaties had been concluded with all the other Powers concerned, those with France and Germany containing a few modifications of minor importance. In the meantime, moreover, the conditions specified in the Treaty regarding the new Japanese Codes and Japan’s adhesion to the International Conventions concerning Copyright and Industrial Property had been fulfilled. The way was thus cleared for the operation of the new revised treaties, which, accordingly, came into force on the 17th July, 1899, the earliest date possible. Though in these new treaties, recognizing the territorial jurisdiction of Japan, the stipulation of previous conventions which chiefly offended Japanese susceptibilities found no place, she still remained bound for a further period of twelve years—the term of the revised treaties—by a tariff of a unilateral character. Only when that period expired would she recover full tariff autonomy and be free to negotiate reciprocal treaties with the various Powers concerned 241on a footing of complete equality. This opportunity came to her in 1911, and she at once availed herself of it.

In the spring of the following year (1900) what is known as the Boxer Rising took place. In its inception it was a protest against missionary enterprise. As it developed, it became the expression of a feeling of exasperation among the official and lettered classes of Northern China engendered by the action of European Powers in occupying under the guise of leases various portions of Chinese territory in that region. During the previous autumn a society called I-Ho-C’uan (Patriot Harmony Fists) had been formed in the province of Shantung. Its formation was encouraged by the reactionary tendencies which made their appearance about this time at Peking, where the Empress Dowager, after the successful coup d’état by which she had crushed the ill-conducted reform movement in 1898, was again in power. The magical powers claimed by its members produced on the ignorant masses an impression that was heightened by the incantations they performed. As the movement grew, it attracted the attention of the Governor of the province, who supported it with, apparently, the twofold idea of utilizing it against foreign aggression, and gaining favour at Court. As a result of his outspoken sympathy the Boxer movement assumed formidable dimensions. Though eventually, through the energy of Yuan Shih-k’ai, who was at one time, as we have seen, Chinese Resident in Korea, order was restored in Shantung, the movement spread northwards towards Peking. There, as Mr. Campbell explains in the China Handbook prepared under the direction of the Foreign Office, it gained the powerful support of the ignorant and reactionary statesman Prince Tuan, the selection of whose son as Heir-Apparent to the Throne gave him a commanding influence in the councils of the Empire. In April, 1900, bands of Boxers were drilling in the outskirts of the Capital, their appearance in every district they invaded being accompanied by murders of missionaries and massacres of native converts. Some weeks later the situation became so threatening that arrangements were made for bringing up to Peking small contingents of foreign troops for the protection of the Legations and such portion of the foreign community as still remained. These guards arrived opportunely at the end of May, by which time swarms of Boxers infested the Capital, and the Legations were 242practically isolated. Prince Tuan chose this moment for openly espousing the Boxer cause. This step on his part was followed by the murders of the Chancellor of the Japanese Legation and the German Minister, the two outrages occurring within a few days of each other. The subsequent course of events is well known: the storming of the Taku forts (June 16th); the siege of the Legations by Chinese troops and Boxers; the failure of Admiral Seymour’s attempt to re-establish communications with the Capital; the equipment of foreign expeditionary forces to operate against Peking; the issue of an Imperial Decree ordering a general massacre of foreigners in the Chinese dominions; the attack on the foreign settlements at Tientsin; the arrival of Russian and British reinforcements, and the taking of Tientsin city (July 14th); the relief of the Legations, and occupation of the Chinese capital on the 13th and 14th August by the allied forces; and the flight of the Chinese Court to Sian-fu, the ancient capital in the province of Shensi. With the flight of the Court from the capital Chinese resistance collapsed, and when Count Waldersee arrived in September with several thousand German troops to take supreme command of the allied expeditionary forces, there was no enemy to fight. Hostilities gave place to negotiations between the foreign Governments concerned and China for the settlement of the various issues raised by the Boxer outbreak. The negotiations resulted in two preliminary exchanges of Notes, dated, respectively, December 22nd, 1900, and January 16th, 1901, embodying the conditions for the re-establishment of normal relations with China, and in the signature of a final Protocol on September 7th, 1901. Three days before its signature Prince Ch’un, who had proceeded on a mission to Berlin to apologize for the murder of the German Minister, was received in audience by the Kaiser.

The chief conditions imposed on China by these arrangements were the payment of an indemnity of 450,000,000 Haikwan taels (equivalent at the rate fixed—3s. per tael—to £67,500,000); the permanent occupation of certain places, including Tientsin and Shanhaikwan, for the purpose of preserving free communications between Peking and the sea; the razing of the Taku and other forts which threatened those communications; and the construction of a separate fortified quarter in the Capital for the foreign Legations, for the further protection of which permanent foreign guards were to be retained. Other terms included special reparation for the 243murders of the German Minister and the Chancellor of the Japanese Legation and the desecration of cemeteries; the punishment of Prince Tuan, as well as other personages and officials responsible for the attacks on foreigners; and the prohibition of the import of arms.

Thanks, as we learn from the Handbook already quoted, to the good sense of the leading provincial authorities, such as the Viceroys of Nanking and Wuchang and the new Governor of Shantung, who had the courage to disobey the Imperial Decree, the Boxer movement was stifled in the central and southern regions of China. There, in spite of considerable unrest, order was preserved. But further north in Manchuria the Governors were not so judicious. In obedience to instructions from the Court they declared war on the Russians. The sudden attacks made by Chinese forces created a panic on the Amur, and brought about the savage reprisals which occurred at Blagovestchensk on that river, and the occupation of the whole of Manchuria by Russian troops. The folly of the Empress Dowager and of the ignorant clique by whose counsels she was guided gave Russia the opportunity she desired for pursuing her designs of aggression in the Far East. Her subsequent conduct throughout the negotiations, and after their conclusion, destroyed the good effect produced by her valuable co-operation in the fighting at Tientsin, where the Russian reinforcements were, undoubtedly, the chief factor in saving the foreign settlements from destruction.

In the military operations against Peking, and in the protracted negotiations which succeeded them, Japan played a conspicuous part. She had suffered injury similar to that sustained by other foreign Powers in connection with the Boxer Rising, and she had a common interest with them in adopting whatever measures might be necessary in the international emergency which had arisen. Her proximity to China and her military resources enabled her to strike quickly, and with effect. To the invitation to take part in the expeditionary force in process of organization, which was addressed to her by the other interested Powers, with the exception of Russia, she responded with alacrity; and in a short space of time a well-equipped Japanese force took its place with the troops of other Powers, and joined in the march on Peking for the relief of the besieged Legations. The discipline and efficiency of the Japanese contingent won well-deserved praise from those best qualified to judge. In the subsequent negotiations 244the readiness shown by Japan to act in harmony with other Powers, whose attitude was influenced by consideration for the general interests of all concerned, facilitated the solution of many difficulties; and, when the question of claims for indemnity came to be discussed, the moderation of her demands was equalled only by that of Great Britain and the United States.


Agreement between Great Britain and Germany—The Anglo-Japanese Alliance.

Soon after the opening of negotiations for the re-establishment of friendly relations with China the Governments of Great Britain and Germany concluded an Agreement of a self-denying character which confirmed, though in different words and with special application to the situation then existing in China, the principle of the “open door and equal opportunity,” as set forth by the United States, and accepted by the Powers consulted, in the autumn of 1899 and the spring of the year following. By this Agreement, signed in London on October 16th, 1900, the two Powers bound themselves to support the principle above mentioned; to abstain from making use of the existing troubles in China to “obtain for themselves any territorial advantages”; and to co-operate for the protection of their interests in the event of any attempt on the part of another Power to obtain such advantages under existing conditions. The Agreement was, as prearranged, communicated to other interested Powers, who were invited “to accept the principles recorded in it.” Replies more or less favourable were received from the Powers addressed. The French Government referred to its prompt adhesion to the proposals of the United States in the previous year as a proof of its long-entertained wishes in the direction indicated; while the Russian reply, which, like the French, took the form of a Memorandum, went so far as to say that Russia had been “the first to lay down the maintenance of the integrity of the Chinese Empire as a fundamental principle of her policy in China.” The Japanese Government, in its answer, stated that, in view of the assurance received that in adhering to the Agreement Japan would be placed in the same position as she would have occupied had she been a signatory instead of an adhering State, it had no hesitation in adhering to the Agreement, and accepting the principles embodied therein.

246Subsequently, when it became apparent that Russia had no idea of evacuating the territory she occupied in Manchuria, the German Government explained that the Agreement was never intended to apply to that territory.

The course pursued by Russia from the outset of the negotiations in Peking was in marked contrast to the attitude adopted by the other Powers concerned, and in direct contradiction to the principles embodied in the Anglo-German Agreement in which she professed to acquiesce. From some of the demands made by the other Powers conjointly she dissociated herself, while her conduct in keeping her troops stationed in the furthest positions to which they had penetrated during the Boxer outbreak indicated an intention to give a permanent character to her occupation of Manchuria. Her attitude in this latter respect was doubtless encouraged by the fact that, whereas the Final Protocol provided for the withdrawal of foreign troops, under certain conditions, from Peking, and the province of Chihli, it contained no reference to the evacuation of Manchuria. Further proof of her designs was furnished by the conclusion in January, 1901 (subject to confirmation by the Peking Government), of an Agreement between Admiral Alexeieff and the Tartar General at Moukden, placing the province of Fêng-t’ien (Shenking) under Russian control, and by the subsequent opening of negotiations at St. Petersburg for a formal Convention, which would have established a Russian Protectorate over the whole of Manchuria, besides giving her exclusive, or preferential, rights in Mongolia and Chinese Turkestan. These attempts to obtain China’s consent to her occupation of Manchuria, and to secure for herself a position of exceptional advantage elsewhere, were frustrated by the vigilance of Great Britain, the United States and Japan, and by the general indignation they aroused in China. The Government at Peking, yielding to the pressure thus brought to bear upon it, withheld its confirmation of the Moukden Agreement; the Chinese Minister at the Russian capital was forbidden to sign the Convention under negotiation; and eventually, in August, 1901, the Russian Government issued an official communiqué announcing the shelving of the proposed Convention owing, as it was explained, to the misrepresentation of Russia’s intentions. Russian troops, nevertheless, remained in Manchuria, and it was not until after the conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance that Russia at length made an Agreement 247with China for the evacuation of the territory she had occupied, an Agreement which, as M. Witte afterwards explained to the British Ambassador in St. Petersburg, she never intended to observe.

On the 30th January, 1902, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Alliance was signed in London by the Marquess of Lansdowne and the Japanese Minister there, the late Count (then Baron) Hayashi, who was afterwards Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Treaty related to affairs in “the Extreme East,” and came into effect immediately after signature. It was terminable after five years’ duration, at one year’s notice on either side, subject to the condition that should either of the contracting parties be at war when the period of the Treaty came to an end it should remain in force until peace was concluded. By this Agreement the contracting parties recognized the independence of China and Korea, and the special interests therein of Great Britain and Japan respectively. They bound themselves to maintain strict neutrality in the event of either of them being involved in war, and to come to one another’s assistance in the event of either being confronted by the opposition of more than one hostile Power. The Treaty also, as we have seen, affirmed the principle of “equal opportunity.”

In his despatch to the British Minister in Tōkiō notifying the signature of the Agreement the Marquess of Lansdowne observed that it might be regarded as the outcome of the events which had taken place during the last two years in the Far East, and of the part taken by Great Britain and Japan in dealing with them. Count Hayashi, in his Secret Memoirs, published in London in 1915 after his death, confirms this statement, but puts the date at which tendencies began to take shape in this direction somewhat further back. The idea of an alliance between the two countries first came, he says, into the minds of Japanese statesmen soon after the triple intervention of 1895, and was favoured by Count Mutsu, who was at the time Minister for Foreign Affairs. The effect of that intervention, he explains, was to cause a regrouping of Powers in the Far East: France, Russia and Germany forming one group, while Great Britain, Japan and the United States represented another. Having this regrouping in view, he himself, in the summer of that year, suggested the desirability of such an alliance, should the unfriendly attitude of certain Powers towards Japan be continued. The suggestion was made in articles contributed to a leading Tōkiō 248journal after he had ceased to be Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, and on the eve of his appointment as Japanese Minister to China.

The following extracts from a summary of these articles, which is given in the Memoirs, show how, undismayed by the retrocession of the Liaotung peninsula, Japanese statesmen still held firmly to their settled policy of attaining for the nation a footing of equality with Western Powers, realizing perhaps more clearly than before that the increase of Japan’s naval and military strength was the only means of attaining their object.

“We must,” the writer of the articles says, “continue to study according to Western methods, for the application of science is the most important item of warlike preparations that civilized nations regard. If new ships of war are considered necessary, we must build them at any cost. If the organization of the army is found to be wrong ... the whole military system must be entirely changed. We must build docks to be able to repair our ships. We must establish a steel factory to supply guns and ammunition. Our railways must be extended so that we can mobilize our troops rapidly. Our oversea shipping must be developed so that we can provide transports to carry our armies abroad. This is the programme that we have to keep always in view.... What Japan has now to do is to keep perfectly quiet, to lull the suspicions that have arisen against her, and to wait, meanwhile strengthening the foundations of her national power, watching and waiting for the opportunity which must one day surely come in the Orient. When that day comes, she will be able to follow her own course.”

How sedulously all the steps indicated were subsequently carried out is now common knowledge. Preparations on a scale so extended could mean only one thing—provision against the possible eventuality of war with the Power that might stand in the way of Japan’s “following her own course.”

Marquis Saionji.

Descended from an ancient family of Court Nobles. A prominent figure in diplomacy and parliamentary life. He was chief delegate for Japan at the Versailles Conference.

General Prince Katsura.

Rendered distinguished services in the war with China and Russia; he was conspicuous both as soldier and statesman.

249The idea of an alliance, or some sort of understanding, between the two countries thus put forward in 1895 seems to have gradually made way both in Japan and in Great Britain. We learn from the same Memoirs that in 1898 Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, then Colonial Minister, expressed to Viscount (then Mr.) Kato, who was at that time Japanese Minister in London, the readiness of Great Britain to enter into an agreement with Japan for the settlement of affairs in the Far East, and that the latter, in reporting the conversation to the Foreign Minister in Tōkiō, strongly supported the suggestion. The subject, it appears, was again discussed in the course of a conversation which Count Hayashi had with the late Marquis Itō and with Marquis (then Count) Inouyé in Tōkiō in 1899, prior to his (Count Hayashi’s) appointment as Minister in London. His account of what passed on this occasion shows that the Japanese Government was at that time hesitating between two opposite courses—an agreement, or alliance, with Great Britain, and an understanding with Russia; and it seems to have been thought that the latter Power was in a position to offer better terms. Soon after his arrival, early in January, 1900, to take up his post in London the new Minister met the late Dr. Morrison, then Times correspondent in Peking, with whom he discussed the question of an alliance between the two countries. He seems then to have formed the impression that most British journalists were in favour of an Anglo-Japanese alliance.

It was not, however, until the following year that the question began to assume a practical aspect. The first move came from an unexpected quarter, the German Embassy in London. In March, 1901, Freiherr von Eckhardstein, who was then, owing to the illness of the German Ambassador, in the position of Chargé d’Affaires, called on Count Hayashi and expressed the opinion that a triple alliance between Germany, Great Britain and Japan was the best means of maintaining peace in the Far East. He suggested that he (Count Hayashi) should take the initiative in proposing this alliance. The latter, who had, as we know, been one of the first to advocate an Anglo-Japanese alliance, reported the suggestion to his Government, and was instructed to sound the British Government unofficially on the subject. Much light is thrown on the subsequent course of negotiations by the Memoirs already mentioned, and Freiherr von Eckhardstein’s “Reminiscences” (Lebens Erinnerungen und Politische Denkwürdigkeiten), published in Leipzig in 1920. The ball thus set rolling, the question was, we learn, discussed informally from time to time, on the one hand between the Japanese Minister and Lord Lansdowne, and, on the other, between the latter and the German Chargé d’Affaires; but it was never reopened by the German Embassy with the Japanese Minister.

There seems to have been little enthusiasm for the project of a triple alliance on the part of any of the foreign Ministries concerned. Great Britain appears to have shown more inclination in 250this direction than the other two Powers, for until a late stage in the negotiations with Japan the point would seem to have been kept in view by the British Cabinet. If the German Government ever seriously entertained the idea—which is very doubtful—it was merely for the reasons mentioned by the Foreign Office in Berlin, that the inclusion of Japan might be acceptable to her on general grounds, since she would “find herself in good company,” and might make negotiations with Great Britain easier, “as Japan was popular in Germany.” The alliance with Great Britain was regarded as the main consideration; and even in this matter there is no reason to think that the German overtures were sincere, for Berlin’s insistence on Austria’s being brought into the business, though not as a contracting party, added to the difficulties already in existence. Nor, on the side of Japan, where the part played by Germany in the Liaotung incident was not forgotten, does there seem to have been any marked desire for the inclusion of that Power in any understanding between herself and Great Britain. This explains the separate character of the negotiations carried on in London. As between Great Britain and Germany, they lasted no longer than a few weeks, during which time they appear to have been kept alive only by the efforts of the German Chargé d’Affaires, to whose initiative the project was due. After the resumption of his duties by the German Ambassador the negotiations were transferred to Berlin, where they soon came to an end. Their failure is described by the author of the Reminiscences as “the starting-point of the encirclement [Einkreisung] of Germany, and of the world-war which was the mathematical consequence.”

The parallel negotiations between Great Britain and Japan were not interrupted by the inability of the British and German Governments to arrive at an understanding. No obstacles of the kind that stood in the way of an agreement between the two other Powers existed. The cordial relations which had been established as a result of the settlement of the long-pending question of Treaty revision had been improved by the close co-operation of the two countries in the international measures in which both had joined at the time of the Boxer outbreak, and by the harmony of views that was developed during the Peking negotiations. The only difficulty which presented itself lay in the fact, already referred to, that the Japanese Government was hesitating between two opposite courses—an understanding 251with Russia and an agreement with Great Britain. The decision rested with the leading statesmen, who on this point were divided into two parties, one led by the late Prince Itō and the late Marquis Inouyé, the other by Prince (then Marquis) Yamagata and the late Prince Katsura. Itō, whose pro-German tendencies were well known, was in favour of coming to an understanding, if possible, with Russia, and his opinion was shared by Inouyé. Yamagata and Katsura, on the other hand, were inclined towards an alliance with Great Britain. Fortunately for the London negotiations, the cleavage of opinion did not follow clan lines. The Chōshiū party, to which the four statesmen in question all belonged, was itself divided. Fortunately, also, Katsura was then Premier. His and Yamagata’s policy was adopted by the Cabinet, and finally prevailed. In his opposition to the Cabinet’s policy Itō went so far as to arrange that a visit he was about to make to America in connection with celebrations at the University of Yale should be extended to Russia, where he seems to have exchanged views with Russian statesmen. His action threatened at one moment to imperil the success of the London negotiations, and it became necessary for the Japanese Government to explain that his visit to Russia had no official character. In the face of this disavowal he could do little. Whatever plans he and those who supported him may have formed came to nothing, and in the end he was forced to content himself with criticizing unfavourably the draft of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty which embodied the final amendments proposed by Japan. The strength of his position in the country at the time, as well as his influence with the late Japanese Emperor, may be gathered from the fact that these last amendments were transmitted by the Government to him in Russia by special messenger, with a request for his opinion.

It is unnecessary to emphasize the importance of the Anglo-Japanese alliance. Count Hayashi, in speaking of it as “an epoch-making event,” does not overstate the case. For both countries it was a new and grave departure in policy, ending an isolation which was a source of weakness to each in the quarter of the world to which it applied. For Japan it had a treble value. It practically assured her against a repetition of the Liaotung incident, while the mere fact of her becoming the ally of one of the leading Powers of the world added greatly to her prestige, and it facilitated the floating 252of loans on the London market. If the benefit accruing to Great Britain may seem to have been less, the alliance was nevertheless opportune in view of the close understanding between Russia and France in the Far East, the open menace to her interests offered by Russian designs in Manchuria and the danger to be apprehended from their further extension. The fact that the alliance was renewed in an extended form three years later, was again renewed in 1911, and is still in force, shows that both Governments have reason to be satisfied with its results.

The conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese alliance drew from the Russian and French Governments a Declaration, signed in St. Petersburg on March 3rd, 1902, which left no doubt as to the interpretation placed on it in St. Petersburg and Paris. In this Declaration the two Governments, while approving of the fundamental principles affirmed in the Anglo-Japanese Agreement, reserved to themselves the right to consult each other, if necessary, regarding the protection of their interests. The comment of the author of Le Monde et la Guerre Russo-Japonaise on this counter-move was that “it had almost no value as an answer to the Anglo-Japanese Treaty.”

The action of Russia in prolonging indefinitely her occupation of Manchuria, in spite of the protests of other Powers, and her attempts to strengthen her position there by secret arrangements with China, in defiance of the principle of “the open door and equal opportunity” which she had united with other Powers in accepting, caused fresh uneasiness in Washington. On February 1st, 1901, almost simultaneously with the signature of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, the American Secretary of State, to whose initiative in 1899 the acceptance of this principle had been due, addressed Circular Notes to the Governments of China, Russia and nine other Powers on the subject of the situation created in Manchuria by the Russian occupation. Any agreement, he pointed out, by which China ceded to corporations, or companies, exclusive industrial rights and privileges in connection with the development of Manchuria constituted a monopoly, and, being a distinct breach of the stipulations of treaties between China and foreign Powers, seriously affected the rights of American citizens. Such concessions would be followed by demands from other Powers for similar exclusive advantages in other parts of the Chinese Empire, and would result in “the complete wreck of the policy of absolute equality of treatment of all nations in 253regard to trade, navigation and commerce within the confines of the Empire.”

Influenced, perhaps, by the Anglo-Japanese alliance and the written protest of the United States, Russia at length, on the 8th April, 1902, concluded at Peking an Agreement for the evacuation of Manchuria. The Agreement was to come into force from the date of signature, and was to be ratified within a period of three months, but this latter stipulation was never observed. It provided for the evacuation to be conducted in three stages, and to be completed in eighteen months—that is to say, by October, 1903. The evacuation was, however, made dependent on two conditions: the absence, meanwhile, of disturbances in the province, and the abstention of other Powers from any action prejudicial to Russian interests therein. The first stage fixed by the Agreement, the withdrawal of Russian troops from the south-western portion of the province of Moukden (Fêng-t’ien), was duly carried out by the date agreed upon, the 8th October, 1902. Before, however, the date fixed for the completion of the next stage of evacuation (March, 1903), the withdrawal of Russian troops from the remainder of the province of Moukden and from the province of Kirin, other and quite new conditions were formulated by the Russian Government, one being that no “treaty ports” should be opened in the evacuated territory. In the face of the well-known fact that the fresh commercial treaties which America and Japan were negotiating with China contemplated the opening of additional places for foreign trade in Manchuria, these sudden demands indicated no intention on Russia’s part to abide by the Agreement. If any doubt in this respect existed, it was removed by her action in reoccupying early in 1903 districts she had already evacuated, this step being followed by the issue in July of the same year of an Imperial Ukase appointing Admiral Alexeieff Viceroy of the Amur and Kwantung territories—the latter being, as already mentioned, the name of the small peninsula in which Port Arthur is situated.


War with Russia—Success of Japan—President Roosevelt’s Mediation—Treaty of Portsmouth—Peace Terms.

The threatening attitude of Russia, who no longer made any pretence of masking her designs in China, was regarded with increasing anxiety in Japan, where the necessity of preparing to meet force with force had already been foreseen. But the high-handed proceedings of the Russians in Manchuria were not the only cause of the tension that from this moment began to appear in the relations between the two countries. Mischief of a kind which had already led to war between China and Japan was also brewing in Korea. By the Treaty of Shimonoséki, which ended the war, the independence of that country was recognized. China in relinquishing her claim to suzerainty no longer maintained Chinese guards for her Legation in Seoul, and ceased from all political activity in the peninsula, where the influence of Japan for a time became predominant. But history was about to repeat itself. Into the place vacated by China, Russia at once stepped, and Japan found herself confronted by another and far more dangerous competitor. The positions of the two new rivals in Korea were very different. The alliance forced by Japan on the Korean Government at the outset of the war with China had enabled her to strengthen her political influence, while the energy she threw into the development of business projects of various kinds had increased her material interests in the peninsula. The lion’s share of Korea’s foreign trade and maritime transport was in the hands of Japan. She had also constructed and was in charge of the working of telegraphic communications in that country; she had secured a concession for the construction of railways; and she had her own postal service. Russia, on the other hand, took no part in business enterprise, and her trade with Korea was insignificant. She could not, like China, 255point to traditions of old-established intercourse, nor had she the latter’s plea of suzerainty to justify interference in Korean affairs. Her position in the peninsula was, nevertheless, not without some advantages. As in the case of China, her territory was co-terminous for a considerable distance with that of Korea. This supplied a reason for regarding with disfavour the extension of Japanese influence on the mainland, as well as a pretext for the activity she soon began to display in political matters. Moreover, having gained the ear of the formerly pro-Chinese Court party and—which was more important—the favour of the masterful Queen, she acquired valuable support in the campaign of political intrigue upon which both Powers embarked.

The situation in Korea thus became in many ways similar to what it had been before, when China and Japan were contending for supremacy in the peninsula. We have seen in the former instance the attempts that were made from time to time by the Chinese and Japanese Governments to arrive at an understanding with regard to their respective interests which should introduce more stable conditions into Korean administration, and put an end to the dangerous outbreaks which disturbed the country and threatened at any moment to produce a collision between the two Powers concerned. The process was now repeated, Russia occupying the position held by China before. In 1896 an arrangement was effected between the Russian and Japanese representatives in Korea. This tided over the first difficulties that had arisen, and later in the same year was confirmed by a Convention signed at St. Petersburg by Prince Lobanoff, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Prince (then Marquis) Yamagata, who had gone to the Russian capital to attend the late Tsar’s coronation. Count de Witte, in his recently published Memoirs, referring to this Convention, says that Prince Lobanoff “knew no more about the Far East than the average schoolboy.” Two years later a more detailed Agreement in the form of a Protocol was concluded at Tōkiō between Viscount (then Baron) Nishi, the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs, and the Russian Minister to Japan, Baron Rosen. This Agreement resembled closely the Convention negotiated at Tientsin in 1889 between China and Japan.

The conclusion of the above mentioned Agreements did not prevent the occurrence of disputes between the two rival Powers. 256These differences were aggravated by the mischievous influence of Korean political factions, which lost no opportunity of fomenting trouble between the two Powers whose protection was sought. The harmony of relations was also impaired by the presence of Russian and Japanese guards in the capital; by the Russian efforts to obtain control of the Korean army and finances; by the unfortunate implication of the Japanese Minister in Seoul in the murder of the Queen; by the virtual imprisonment of the King in one of the royal palaces; and by his subsequent escape from confinement to the Russian Legation, where he remained for some time under Russian protection. Matters were at length brought to a crisis by the refusal of Russia in the spring of 1903 to evacuate Manchuria in pursuance of her Agreement with China concluded in the previous October. This refusal was followed by the appointment of Admiral Alexeieff as Viceroy of the Russian Far Eastern Territories, and an increase of activity in Korea, where large timber concessions were obtained, and other Russian enterprises set on foot. For this renewal of aggressive action on the part of Russia the way had been prepared by the construction of railways in Siberia and Manchuria—a work of many years; and it is significant that Russia should have timed her refusal to carry out the Agreement for evacuation so as to coincide with the completion of the Chinese Eastern Railway, which practically established direct railway communication between Moscow and Port Arthur. There could no longer be any doubt that the Russian Government had not abandoned the far-reaching designs which her lease of Port Arthur had heralded, and was bent on pursuing a provocative policy. Count de Witte, in the Memoirs already quoted, holds the late Tsar directly responsible for the course adopted, which he describes as “the Far Eastern adventure.” The Tsar, he says, had no definite programme of conquest, but was anxious to spread Russian influence in the Far East by acquiring fresh territory, and he speaks of him as having a thirst for military glory and conquests. He further explains that the Tsar at this time came under the influence of Bezobrazov, Plehve and other unscrupulous officials, who encouraged him to defy Japan. Had Russia at this stage of affairs been content to limit her activity to Manchuria, leaving Japan a clear field in Korea, the Russo-Japanese war would probably not have taken place, or it might, at least, have been postponed. A proposal to this effect was, indeed, made by 257Japan in the course of the negotiations between the two Powers, which were commenced at the Russian capital about the time of Alexeieff’s appointment, and continued until early in the following year. Russia, however, refused to entertain it. The uncompromising and obdurate attitude she displayed was in marked contrast to the conciliatory disposition evinced by Japan. For the deadlock thus created Russia alone was responsible. The Japanese Government, recognizing the futility of any further attempt to arrive at a satisfactory understanding with her, decided to take the bull by the horns, and terminate negotiations. Accordingly, in two Notes addressed to the Russian Government on the 5th February, 1904, it announced its intention to break oil diplomatic relations, reserving to itself the right to take what independent action might be necessary to defend its threatened interests. At the same time the Japanese Government sent a circular despatch to the same effect to its diplomatic representatives abroad for the information of the Governments to which they were accredited.

Hostilities were commenced by Japan at Port Arthur and Chemulpo two days before her formal declaration of war, which was not made until the 10th February. This action on her part evoked some unfavourable criticism, though many precedents for this step existed. Her declaration of war was followed a fortnight later by the signature at Seoul of a Protocol by which Japan guaranteed the independence and territorial integrity of Korea, who in return granted to her all facilities in the peninsula which might be necessary for the prosecution of the war. It will be remembered that a similar step was taken by Japan at the outset of her war with China.

When the latter conflict took place the world in general, for the most part ignorant of the conditions existing in the two countries, anticipated the defeat of Japan, an opinion governed to a great extent by considerations of geography, population and visible resources. On the same grounds a similar view, adverse to Japan’s chances of success in a struggle with Russia, prevailed in most quarters. For a nation far inferior in extent of territory, population, military organization, and resources, to challenge a leading European Power seemed, on the face of things, a proceeding which could only invite disaster. The two countries were, nevertheless, not so unevenly matched as was supposed to be the case. Without doubt 258Russia was an adversary with whom the strongest military state would have preferred to keep on good terms. Her extensive territories and large population, her apparently inexhaustible resources, gave her great advantages over Japan. These advantages were, however, counterbalanced by certain patent weaknesses. The war was unpopular. The policy of adventure which provoked it was condemned by her own wisest statesmen. There was much political unrest. She was fighting not in Europe, but on a remote fringe of her vast empire. The Amur Railway, projected with a view to consolidate her widely separated dominions, was not completed east of Lake Baikal; nor had the railway authorities yet finished the portion round the southern end of that lake, communication across which was still maintained by specially built steamers. It was doubtful, therefore, if the recently built Chinese Eastern Railway, which served as a temporary substitute, would prove to be a reliable line of communications for war purposes. In Japan, on the other hand, the war was not only popular, but eagerly welcomed. The efficiency of the army, no less than the fighting capacity and endurance of the Japanese soldier, had been tested in the war with China, and in the course of the eight years that had since elapsed the Government had spared no effort to bring it to the level of European standards. Though Japanese statesmen, conscious of Russia’s strength, might share the apprehensions felt abroad as to the issue of the struggle, they derived encouragement from the whole-hearted support given to the Government by the people. All classes realized that the stake at issue for Russia was very different from what it was for Japan. The former was fighting to acquire fresh territory; the latter was fighting for her life. Under these circumstances a warlike nation, fighting at its own doors, might conceivably accomplish great things against a foe whose heart was not in the struggle. The spirit which animated her people and her army was one of the factors in Japan’s success.

No time was lost by the Japanese in the conduct of military operations. On the 8th February a Japanese squadron, escorting transports, arrived off Chemulpo, where two Russian vessels were lying at anchor unprepared for hostilities. Given the choice of being attacked in the harbour or fighting outside, the Russian commander chose the latter alternative. His two vessels were no match for the squadron they encountered. Driven back into port badly damaged, 259one was sunk and the other blown up by its crew. The same night Admiral Tōgō, the Japanese naval Commander-in-Chief, delivered a torpedo attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. In this action two Russian battleships and a cruiser sustained severe damage. On the following day the Japanese troops (some four battalions) which had arrived under naval escort at Chemulpo landed, and occupied the Korean capital. The first actions of the war thus resulted in favour of Japan.

At this early stage it became apparent that Russia’s superiority at sea was greatly nullified by the faulty disposition of her squadrons. While her main fleet in Far Eastern waters was stationed at Port Arthur, a powerful squadron remained isolated at Vladivostok. A large portion of her navy, moreover, was kept at home, whence it only emerged late in the war to be destroyed in the battle of Tsushima. Two other obstacles the Russian commanders had to contend with: the ice-bound condition of Vladivostok for several months in the year, and the almost insurmountable difficulty of repairing vessels owing to the absence of adequate dockyard facilities. In all these respects Japan had an advantage. Her harbours were free from ice. She was well provided with naval arsenals, and with dockyards for the repair of her ships. On the outbreak of war, too, her fleet was at once concentrated at Sasébo, the naval arsenal near Nagasaki, a detached squadron being posted in the Korean straits, whence it could watch Vladivostok. From the first, therefore, the Russian naval forces in the Far East were separated, nor throughout the war were they ever able to effect a junction. Moreover, whereas the Russian home fleet took no part in the war until it was drawing to a close, the Japanese navy early in the struggle received a welcome reinforcement in the shape of two new battleships acquired in Europe from a neutral Power.

In the naval operations which ensued at Port Arthur the Japanese, besides resorting to vigorous bombardments, delivered repeated torpedo attacks, and attempted on several occasions to seal up the harbour by sinking vessels at the entrance. Neither of these courses was attended with the success hoped for; nor had they the effect of inducing the Russian fleet to come out and fight. Greater success resulted from the laying of mines in front of Port Arthur. In April the Russian flagship Petropavlosk struck one of these mines and was blown up, the new Russian admiral, Makharoff, who had just taken 260over command of the fleet, being killed in the explosion. Another battleship was at the same time seriously damaged. A little later the Japanese also laid mines at the entrance of Vladivostok, thus restricting the movements of the Russian squadron at that port, which had previously shown mischievous activity in attacks on Japanese transports. When the Russians, copying the methods of the enemy, took to laying mines themselves, the results were disastrous for the Japanese, two of their best battleships and a despatchboat being destroyed by this means in the month of May. These losses were, however, so carefully concealed that the Russians knew nothing of their occurrence till it was too late to take advantage of them.

The excessive caution displayed by the Russian naval commanders in the opening stages of the war was no effective answer to the bold tactics of their opponents. The inaction of the main fleet at Port Arthur, its refusal for several months to accept the risks of a general engagement, gave the Japanese navy thus early in the struggle a moral superiority that was never lost. Furthermore, it enabled Japan to gain practically the command of the sea, so essential to the prosecution of military operations on the mainland.

The Japanese operations on land began with the disembarkation of the 1st Army of three divisions under General Kuroki at the mouth of the Ta-tong river and the occupation of the important town of Ping-yang, where the Chinese army had made its first stand in the war of 1894–5. The few Russian troops in the neighbourhood fell back on the Yalu river, the boundary at this point between Korea and China. Here in a strong position on the Chinese side of that river, and at its junction with a tributary stream, the Ai-ho, a Russian army of some 20,000 men under General Zasulich awaited attack. This was delivered by the Japanese after some preliminary skirmishing on the 30th April, and resulted in the defeat of the Russians with the loss of over twenty guns, their casualties being far greater than those of the victors. A few days later the 2nd Japanese army under General Oku landed at Pitzuwo, a place on the east coast of the Liaotung peninsula some sixty miles from Port Arthur, and cut the railway line connecting that fortress with Liao-yang, the town chosen by General Kuropatkin, the Russian Commander-in-Chief, for the concentration of his forces. The disembarkation of this army was covered by the Japanese fleet, which 261had made the Elliot islands its advanced base. In the middle of May another Japanese force, which afterwards formed part of the 4th Army led by General Nodzu, landed at Takushan, midway between Pitzuwo and the mouth of the Yalu. At the end of that month the 2nd Army, after a severe struggle, defeated a Russian force entrenched in a formidable position at Nanshan, on the isthmus of Chinchou, which connects the two peninsulas of Liaotung and Kawn-tung. The position captured was of importance, as guarding the approaches to Port Arthur. On this occasion the Japanese took many siege guns, but their casualties were much heavier than those of the Russians. The landing of Oku’s army was followed early in June by that of the 3rd Army under General Nogi, to whom was assigned the rôle of besieging Port Arthur. Soon afterwards the repulse by General Oku of a Russian force sent to relieve the fortress enabled the 3rd Army to begin the execution of its task. Meanwhile further Japanese reinforcements had reached Takushan, and in July General Nodzu arrived and took command of the 4th Army, the formation of which was by this time complete. This, and the 1st Army under Kuroki, then moved westwards on parallel lines through the mountain passes of Southern Manchuria, driving before them the Russian forces which they encountered; while General Oku with the 2nd Army moving from the south-west struck northwards, the objective in each case being Liao-yang, where General Kuropatkin had established his headquarters. At this stage the campaign in Manchuria divided itself into two distinct and independent operations: the advance north and west of the three Japanese armies under Generals Oku, Kuroki and Nodzu in a converging movement towards Liao-yang; and the investment of Port Arthur by the 3rd Army under General Nogi.

As the result of the converging movement of the northern armies, in the course of which the treaty port of Newchwang was occupied, their total length of front had in the beginning of August been reduced from 150 to 45 miles. This success was not gained without severe fighting at different points, in which, however, the Japanese losses compared, on the whole, favourably with those of the enemy. On the 10th of the same month the Russian fleet at Port Arthur made its first and only sortie in full strength, its object being to join forces with the squadron at Vladivostok. The attempt failed. In the general engagement that ensued four Russian ships succeeded 262in running the gauntlet of the Japanese fleet and reaching neutral ports, but the other vessels were driven back into harbour severely damaged. Of those which escaped, three were interned at the ports where they arrived; while the fourth, the Novik, which had put into Kiaochow, was subsequently intercepted and sunk on her way to Vladivostok. A similar sortie made about the same time by the Vladivostok squadron was equally unsuccessful. These two engagements put an end to the activity of the Russian naval forces in the Far East.

The battle of Liao-yang, the first big battle of the war, was fought under the immediate direction of Marshal Ōyama, the Japanese Commander-in-Chief, who had accompanied the 2nd Army on its march north. There was little disparity in point of numbers between the forces engaged on each side, but the Russians had an advantage in cavalry over the Japanese, and were also much stronger in artillery. Beginning on the 23rd of August, it lasted until the morning of the 3rd September, when Kuropatkin gave orders for the retirement of the whole army towards Mukden. The losses on each side were about equal, a fact which, considering the strength of the Russian position, was very creditable to the Japanese. In the beginning of October the second big battle, that of the Shaho, so called from the name of a river in the vicinity, took place. On this occasion it was Kuropatkin who took the offensive. Again the Japanese were successful, the Russians being driven back with twice the loss sustained by their opponents.

On the 2nd January Port Arthur fell. After the investment of the fortress had become complete, three successive general assaults made in August, October and November had failed. Eventually, on the 5th of December, the Japanese succeeded in storming the position known as 203 Metre Hill, which commanded the remaining defences, as well as the harbour in which was contained what was left of the Russian main fleet. A month later the commander of the fortress, General Stoessel, surrendered. The siege had cost the Japanese between thirty and forty thousand casualties, but the prize was well worth this cost. The Russian main fleet had ceased to exist, and Nogi’s troops were free to march north to reinforce the Japanese armies threatening Mukden. During the short interval separating the fall of Port Arthur from the final battle of the war Kuropatkin again assumed the offensive. But the attack was not pushed vigorously, 263and after a few days of fighting the Russians at the end of January retired, having sustained heavy losses. It was now midwinter, but, in spite of the intense cold, the Japanese Commander-in-Chief decided to continue his advance on Mukden. In this decision he was influenced by the successful working of the single line of railway by which the communications of the Russian armies were maintained. The utility of this line had exceeded all expectations. By this means constant reinforcements were reaching Kuropatkin. Delay until spring, moreover, would help the Russians in several ways: it would give time for the arrival of fresh troops; it would enable them to strengthen their entrenchments at Mukden; and the break-up of winter would render military operations difficult. A further consideration, which doubtless had some weight in the resolution formed by Ōyama, lay in the fact that his armies would shortly be strengthened by the addition of Nogi’s troops from Port Arthur.

The battle of Mukden resolved itself into a series of engagements lasting from the last day of February until the 16th of March, when Kuropatkin, acknowledging defeat, retreated up the railway to Tiehling with an estimated loss of 140,000 men and a vast quantity of war material. The Japanese losses were well under 50,000 killed and wounded.

The final episode of the war took place at sea some two months later. The fierce assaults delivered by the Japanese army besieging Port Arthur in the previous autumn had been hastened by the news that the Russian Baltic fleet was on its way to the Far East, having sailed on the 15th October, 1904. Delayed by coaling difficulties and the necessity of maintaining a uniform rate of progress, this fleet did not reach Japanese waters until May, 1905. On the 27th of that month it was met in the Tsushima straits by a Japanese fleet under Admiral Tōgō and completely defeated, only two vessels escaping to tell the tale of disaster.

The exhaustion of both combatants in the long and arduous struggle prepared the way for the termination of hostilities. Though she had been successful on land as well as at sea, the military reserves at the disposal of Japan were seriously depleted, and the people were tired of war. Russia, on the other hand, though free from anxiety on this score, was beset by internal difficulties of a kind which threatened grave trouble were the war to be prolonged. In these 264circumstances the overtures set on foot in the following June by President Roosevelt, acting of his own accord as peacemaker, were welcomed by both Powers. The negotiations, conducted at Portsmouth in the United States, resulted in the conclusion of peace on the 5th day of September, 1905. By the Treaty of Portsmouth, Russia acknowledged the preponderating interests of Japan in Korea, ceded to Japan the southern half of Saghalien, which the latter had exchanged in 1875 for the Kurile islands, and transferred to her the larger and more valuable portion of the rights in Manchuria acquired from China in connection with the lease of Port Arthur in 1898. No war indemnity, however, was paid by Russia, though she undertook to reimburse Japan for the cost of maintenance of the large number of Russian prisoners taken during the war. The absence of any provision for an indemnity caused considerable dissatisfaction in Japan, some slight disturbances occurring in the Capital. Japan had, indeed, no reason to be dissatisfied with the results of her success in the war, for it placed her at once in the position of a first-class Power in the Far East.

The conclusion of peace was followed by the signature in the Korean capital on the 17th of November of a Convention establishing a Japanese protectorate over Korea. The formal consent of China to the provisions of the Treaty of Portsmouth, ceding to Japan the lease of Port Arthur, and transferring to her the southern portion of the Manchurian Railway, was also obtained by a Treaty between China and Japan, which was signed in Peking on the 22nd of December. And in the following June a Japanese Imperial Ordinance was issued establishing the South Manchurian Railway Company, by which, thenceforth, the administration of the line, and of the strip of territory through which it passed, was conducted.


Weakening of Cordiality with America—Causes of Friction—Expansion and Emigration—Annexation of Korea—New Treaties.

Attention has already been called to the very friendly relations existing for many years between Japan and the United States, relations so cordial as to be responsible for the distinction made between the British and American nations by the Japanese Press, which spoke of the former as “Our Allies,” and of the latter as “Our best friends.” The reasons for the friendly feeling of the Japanese people for America are not far to seek. It was from America that the first ideas of Western civilization came; it was her influence which was most felt in the earlier years of reopened intercourse with foreign nations; and her policy of diplomatic independence and isolation, illustrated strikingly by her behaviour in the crucial question of Treaty Revision, gave to her dealings with Japan an air of disinterested benevolence that contrasted favourably with the less complaisant attitude of other Powers.

The cordiality of American feeling towards Japan had of late years diminished in some degree owing to various causes. Amongst them were the unexpected disclosure of Japan’s military strength in the war with China; her apparent willingness to associate herself with other Powers in the aggressive policy in regard to China, which was one of the causes of the Boxer Rising, and drew forth the remonstrances addressed by the United States to the Governments concerned; her territorial expansion in Manchuria at the expense of Russia; and the protectorate she had assumed in Korea, which the United States Government had been inclined to regard in the light of a protégé. The Japanese people were seemingly unconscious of any change in the attitude of the American public; and no serious differences had occurred to disturb the harmony of relations. In 2661906, however, what is known as the School Question of California gave rise to a troublesome controversy.

In the autumn of that year the San Francisco Board of Education issued an order excluding Japanese children from the ordinary public schools which they had hitherto attended, and providing for their segregation in the common Asiatic school established in 1872 in the Chinese quarter in pursuance of a State Law setting up separate schools for children of Mongolian or Chinese descent. The law had been enacted in consequence of the great increase of Chinese immigration. Welcomed at first owing to the demand for labour on the Pacific coast, this influx of Chinese was attended by obvious drawbacks, both social and moral, which were regarded by the people of California as detrimental to the interests of the community. In considerations of this kind Labour Unions in the State found their opportunity, and an agitation was fomented against “Chinese cheap labour,” with the result that steps were taken by the United States Government to reduce this immigration to comparatively small proportions.

Behind the question raised by the school authorities of San Francisco—which was a mere pretext—the same forces were at work. The segregation of Japanese school children produced serious resentment in Japan, the ill-feeling evoked thereby being aggravated by misunderstanding on the part of the public in both countries and by intemperate writing in the Press. The incident, which led to some diplomatic correspondence between the Governments concerned, was eventually closed through the intervention of President Roosevelt early in 1907. Apart from its international aspect, the difficulty had involved the troublesome issue of Federal and State rights. By a compromise arrived at between the President and the School Board it was agreed that all alien children—no mention being made of Japanese—above a certain age who, after examination, should be found to be deficient in the elements of English, might be sent to special schools; the President, at the same time, undertaking to secure some limitation of Japanese immigration. In accordance with this undertaking a clause, providing for the exclusion of certain classes of immigrants, was inserted in the Immigration Act of February, 1907, the right to legislate in such matters having been expressly reserved by the United States in the revised Treaty with Japan of 1894. Further negotiations between the two countries 267resulted in the conclusion in 1908 of what is known as the “Gentlemen’s Agreement”—effected by an exchange of confidential Notes—by which the Japanese Government consented to co-operate in carrying out the purpose of the Act by taking measures to restrict labour immigration from Japan to the United States. When, therefore, in 1911 a new Treaty of commerce and navigation between America and Japan was negotiated at Washington there was good reason to regard it as putting an end to the controversy. The United States Senate in ratifying it recorded the understanding “that the Treaty should not be deemed to repeal or affect any of the provisions of the Immigration Act of 1907”; and the understanding was confirmed by a Declaration—appended to the Treaty—stating the intention of the Japanese Government to maintain with equal effectiveness the limitation and control which it had exercised for the past three years in regulating the emigration of labourers to the United States.

The hope that nothing more would be heard of the difficulty was frustrated by the action of the Californian Legislature. In May, 1913, in spite of the opposition of the Federal Authorities, it passed a law giving the right of owning land only to “aliens eligible to citizenship.” The passing of this law caused renewed resentment in Japan, where, notwithstanding the form in which it was worded, it was correctly interpreted as being aimed at Japanese residents. The Japanese Government at once protested on the ground that Japanese subjects being debarred from naturalization in America the law in question discriminated unfairly against them, and was in effect a violation of Japan’s treaty rights. This view the American Government declined to accept, supporting the action of the State by the argument that every nation had the right to determine such questions for itself. The correspondence between the two Governments continued for some time without any settlement being reached. It was published at the request of Japan in 1914. This discrimination between the Japanese and other aliens, who, unlike them, are eligible for naturalization as American citizens, remains a sore point with the Japanese people, and is a stumbling-block in the relations between Japan and America.

Opposition to Japanese labour immigration was not confined to the United States. Similar anti-Japanese feeling arose in Canada. In consequence of the outbreak of disturbances due to this cause a 268Canadian Mission was sent to Japan in November, 1907, for the purpose of restricting this emigration within what were described as proper limits, and thus averting any renewal of the trouble that had occurred. The object of the mission was attained by an exchange of Notes between the head of the mission, Mr. Lemieux, and the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. By the arrangement arrived at—which may have facilitated that concluded, as we have seen, in the following year between America and Japan—the Japanese Government undertook to adopt effective measures for restricting this immigration.

Of late years there has been a tendency, both in the Press and in books about Japan, to associate closely two things which are not necessarily connected—Japanese expansion and emigration. For instance, the author of Contemporary Politics of the Far East, speaking of Japanese emigration to the United States, observes that “Japan required room for her excess [sic] population, and outlets for her expanding commerce,” thus linking the two questions together. And other writers have used similar language. The tendency referred to is probably due to the fact that, different as the two things are—one being simply a movement of population, the other an enlargement of territory—there has in some countries been a direct connection between them. In Japan this is not the case. There, both movements have taken place, but they have remained distinct and separate.

Japanese expansion stands in a category by itself. It has attracted attention for the reason that it was unexpected, the tendency of Oriental countries in modern times being to contract rather than extend their frontiers; from its rapidity and wide extent; and also because it has been the result either of successful wars or of a policy of aggrandisement justified, in Japanese opinion, by State necessity.

Far otherwise is it with Japanese emigration. What importance it possesses is derived not from the scale on which it has hitherto been conducted—which by comparison with other movements of the kind elsewhere is insignificant—but from the international difficulties it has produced, from its association in people’s minds with national expansion, and from fear of the dimensions it may assume in the future. Into the many considerations involved in Japanese emigration it is unnecessary to enter, the question being 269too wide to be discussed with advantage within the limits of these pages. A few remarks on the subject may, however, not be out of place.

The movement is usually held to be due to an excess of population. This, at least, is the view held by many writers. The increase of population in Japan has certainly been rapid. In 1872 the population was thirty-three millions. In 1916 it had risen to nearly fifty-six millions. Assuming the rate of increase to be maintained, the total population ten years hence should be well over sixty millions. In the course of sixty years, therefore, the population will have very nearly doubled itself. Striking as these figures are, the inference to be drawn from them is not necessarily that Japan is no longer able to support her people in their present numbers, and that some further outlet for her surplus population is, therefore, a necessity. While the rapid increase of population in a country may serve as a stimulus to emigration, it is not the sole or even the governing factor in the question. That other influences count for much is shown by what has taken place in Germany. Fifty years ago German statesmen had good ground for anxiety in the growing statistics of German emigration to the United States. Before the end of the century the movement was arrested, and soon afterwards ceased altogether. The two chief causes of this change were the increase of wealth and industrial development. Japanese emigration to certain countries may before long, for the same reasons, show a similar decline. The industrial development of Japan has kept pace with her progress in other respects. Her financial position has also changed. Instead of being a debtor to the world, as she was before the Great War, she has now become to an appreciable extent its creditor. Although, moreover, parts of Japan may be overcrowded, there still remain large areas in the northern islands, and in her newly acquired territories on the mainland, which are still sparsely populated. The pressure of increasing population alone does not seem likely to affect emigration in any marked degree in the near future. A cause more powerful, and in its operation more constant, may be found in the natural energy and enterprise of the people, stimulated, perhaps, by their release from the enforced isolation of the past. This supposition is supported by the wide distribution of Japanese emigration, and by the varied nature of the pursuits in which Japanese emigrants engage abroad. Though, as has already been observed, the Japanese 270have not, as yet, disclosed any special aptitude for colonization of the pioneering type, they are to be met with to-day in South America and elsewhere as workers on the land, and traders; in Australasia as pearl-fishers; in China, the Straits Settlements and Java, as well as in India and Australia, as traders and shopkeepers; in Manchuria as agricultural labourers and farmers, the Korean immigrants there having since the annexation of Korea become Japanese subjects; on the coasts of the northern and southern Pacific as fishermen; in America and Canada as traders, farmers, shopkeepers, market-gardeners and labourers; and in the Malay States as planters.

In its inception, it may be added, Japanese emigration took the form of indentured labour. The first labour emigrants went to Hawaii—not then annexed to America—under conditions regulated by the Japanese and Hawaiian Governments; and it was the surreptitious entry of many of these labourers into California from Hawaii that first aroused American hostility. The development of this branch of emigration—encouraged by agencies established for the purpose, but still subject, as before, to a certain measure of official supervision—would seem to be a mere question of supply and demand. The future of other emigration will depend on the degree of opposition, or competition, it encounters. So far, however, as the United States and Canada are concerned, the hostility it has evoked, and the willingness of the Japanese Government to co-operate in its restriction, suggest that the number of emigrants to those countries will gradually decline.

The immediate results of Japan’s success in the Russo-Japanese war were, as we have seen, the establishment of a protectorate over Korea and the negotiation of a Treaty with China, confirming certain provisions of the Treaty of Portsmouth concerning the transfer to her of the Russian lease of Port Arthur and of the southern portion of the Manchurian railway. Anxious to devote herself to the task of consolidating her new position in the Far East, Japan during the next few years was as busily engaged in negotiating treaties and agreements with other Powers as she had been in the fifteen years of treaty-making which followed the signature of Perry’s Treaty. In 1907 she concluded an arrangement for safeguarding peace in the Far East with France; a similar Agreement with Russia (in the form of a Convention), which, however, included a mutual 271pledge to respect the territorial integrity and the rights of each accruing from arrangements in force between it and China; a Commercial Treaty, a Fisheries Treaty and a Consular Protocol with the same country; an Agreement with China regarding the Simmintun, Mukden and Kirin Railway; and a fresh Treaty with Korea, which placed all administrative authority in the peninsula in the hands of the Japanese Resident-General. The following year witnessed the negotiation of an Arbitration Treaty with the United States, as well as an exchange of Notes between the same two Governments for the declared purpose of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of China. Two other arrangements testified to her treaty-making activity. One of these was another railway Agreement, made in 1907, with China. On this occasion the railway in question was the line now connecting Mukden with the port of Antung. It was presumably this fresh railway Agreement which induced the American Government to submit to other Powers interested in the Far East in the autumn of the same year a proposal for the neutralization of Manchurian railways. Far from being accepted by Russia and Japan—the two Powers chiefly concerned—the proposal only resulted in the conclusion in the following year of an Agreement by which each undertook to maintain, by joint action, if necessary, the existing status quo in Manchuria.

The other, of a very different character, was a Treaty with Korea annexing that country to Japan, which was signed at Seoul in August, 1910, by the Japanese Resident-General and the Korean Minister-Resident. The annexation of a country by Treaty in the absence of prior hostilities was an unusual procedure for which no precedent existed. No less remarkable than the method adopted was the fact that Article 8 of the instrument recorded with unconscious irony the consent of the Sovereign of the annexed State to the loss of its independence. This independence Japan had on several occasions announced her intention to respect in engagements entered into with other Powers—with China, with Russia and with Great Britain, as well as with Korea herself. Her annexation of Korea, being for this reason unexpected, met with much unfavourable criticism abroad. The course, however, that she had adopted at the outset of her wars with China and Russia of making free use of Korean territory showed that she was not disposed to let the wishes, or convenience, of the Korean people stand in the way of military operations. The 272protectorate she had already established over Korea in 1905, and her assumption of the control of administration in that country two years later, were also ominous indications of what might happen later. Some justification of the final act of annexation, singular as the method employed may have been, is to be found in the fact that the chronic disturbances in Korea, for which Japan was by no means solely responsible, had led to two wars, and that there was some blunt truth in the statement in the preamble to the Treaty, which declared one of the objects of annexation to be the preservation of peace in the Far East. It may even be said that an unprejudiced observer of the condition of affairs in Korea in the years previous to the establishment of the protectorate would have no hesitation in holding the view that Japanese administration of that country is preferable, even in the interests of the Koreans themselves, to the shocking misgovernment of the past.

The signature of the Treaty of Annexation was accompanied by a Declaration on the part of the Japanese Government announcing certain arrangements designed to lessen any irritation which the abrupt and arbitrary annulment of Korea’s treaties with other countries might occasion. These concessions to foreign feeling included matters relating to jurisdiction, Customs, tonnage duties and the coasting trade. Four years later the foreign settlements in Korea were abolished with the consent of the Powers concerned.

Her Revised Treaties with foreign Powers, which came into operation in 1899 for a term of twelve years, gave Japan the right to denounce them at the end of that period—in other words, to announce her intention to terminate them by giving the twelve months’ notice required. This notice was given by Japan to all the Treaty Powers in July, 1910. The liberty to conclude new treaties when the term of notice expired involved a point of essential importance, the recovery of tariff autonomy—the right, that is to say, to control her own tariff. Negotiations for the conclusion of new treaties were at once set on foot, the first to be concluded being that with the United States, which was signed in February of the following year; the second, the Treaty with Great Britain, which followed a few months later. The new treaties came into force in July of the same year, the period of operation being twelve years. The first public recognition of the increasing importance of Japan in the Far East occurred, as we have seen, when she was included in the 273list of Powers consulted by the American Government in 1899 in regard to the observance of the principle of the “open door” and “equal opportunity” in China. By her success in the Russo-Japanese war six years later she established her claim to be regarded as a leading Power in the Far East. Her position, nevertheless, was inferior in one respect to that of the Western States, for she had not the entire control of her tariff. With the conclusion of the new treaties, by which this last disability was removed, she took rank on a footing of complete equality with the great Powers of the world.


Rise of Japan and Germany Compared—Renewal of Anglo-Japanese Alliance—Japan and the Great War—Military and Naval Expansion—Japan and China—The Twenty-one Demands—Agreement with Russia regarding China—Lansing-Ishii Agreement—Effects of Great War on Situation in Far East.

The rise of Japan finds a parallel in that of Germany. There are, indeed, in the circumstances attending the development of the two countries not a few points of resemblance. In each case the direct cause was military success, and in each the long existence of feudalism had the effect of rendering a naturally warlike people submissive to the will of its rulers and responsive to the teaching of tradition. In each loyalty to the Throne was accompanied by an exaggerated form of patriotism, which needed only opportunity to become aggressive. In each, again, autocratic instincts, the centralization of authority, and the pressure of a powerful bureaucracy, combined to exalt the State at the expense of the individual. And though the personal rule of the Sovereign, so conspicuous in German history, was lacking in Japan, its absence was more than compensated for by the popular belief in the divine descent of the monarch.

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that Germany should have been chosen as the model for so many of the new institutions established in the course of the Meiji era, or that the modern Japan which ultimately took shape should in many of its characteristics come to bear a still closer resemblance to the country whence so much had been borrowed. A nation that in the process of its evolution draws upon others so freely as Japan has done inevitably imbibes ideas which affect its whole outlook on the world. What happened in early days, when Japan adopted the written language, ethics, and administrative system of China, occurred again, though in a lesser degree, when she became the pupil of Germany in matters 275relating to administration, law and military science. Thus the Constitution itself, framed, as we have seen, on a German model, reserved all real power in important matters of State to the Crown; while the adoption of the German system of military organization and training increased the influence of the army and encouraged the growth of militarism.

Describing the position acquired by Germany at the time when William II succeeded to the Throne as King of Prussia and German Emperor, Mr. S. J. Hill, at one time U.S. Ambassador in Berlin, in his Impressions of the Kaiser, says: “The unity of the German States was secure ... and the work of Bismarck was complete. That the Empire was an achievement of superior military force on the part of Prussia, and in no sense a creation of the German people, was universally understood.” His statement is confirmed by an article which appeared in August, 1918, in a German newspaper, the Arbeiter Zeitung. “It is,” it says, “to the Monarchy, the Junkerdom and the Army that the German bourgeoisie owes the establishment of the new Empire, which was followed by so tremendous a development of economic strength, wealth and power.”

Japan at the moment of which we are speaking had, in like manner, achieved a unity of a kind unknown before. In the realization of her ambition to become a great Power she had triumphantly overcome all the difficulties inherent in the process of transition from conditions imposed by centuries of isolation to the new circumstances of a modern State. The work of the group of statesmen successively engaged in the task of reconstruction was, like that of Bismarck, complete. And it was generally acknowledged that all that had been accomplished had been done by the Government, and not by the Japanese people.

The Government clothed with this prestige was still a Government of two clans, which had gained their predominance by military strength, and retained it for the same reason; the portfolios of War and the Navy, and, with these, the control of the forces of the State, having become, so to speak, a monopoly of Satsuma and Chōshiū clansmen, who, as heads of these departments, were virtually independent of the Ministry of the day. The results of the dominating influence of the two clans in the administration, and the supremacy of German ideas in the army, had already shown themselves in the growth of a strong military party; in a cry for national expansion 276beyond existing frontiers, which seemed to have less reason behind it than the Pan-Slavist and Pan-German racial aspirations in Europe; in the development of the simple feudal maxims of Bushidō into what came near to being a national creed; and in the increase of Chauvinistic writing in a section of the Press. Under these circumstances it was not surprising if from this time forward a louder note should be heard in diplomatic utterances, and a more aggressive tone appear in foreign policy.

This change of attitude in matters of foreign policy may be traced in the successive alterations that took place in the terms of the Anglo-Japanese alliance. The original Agreement of 1902 related only to China and Korea, the contracting parties recognizing the independence of both States and declaring themselves “to be entirely uninfluenced by any aggressive tendencies in either country.” When the Agreement was renewed in August, 1905, its application was extended so as to include Eastern Asia and India. No more is heard of the independence of Korea, but Japan’s paramount rights in that country are recognized, subject only to the maintenance of the principle of “equal opportunity,” this recognition being followed three months later by the establishment of a Japanese protectorate. In the Agreement when renewed again in 1911 all reference to Korea disappears, that country having the year before been annexed to Japan.

Nor was this change of attitude due entirely to a consciousness of new power and increased prestige. In copying other countries as closely as was done the process of imitation had been carried so far as to extend to the adoption of principles which were not regarded with unqualified approval even in the countries where they originated. An instance in point is the enforcement by the Japanese Government in China of extra-territoriality, against which, when applied to Japan by Western Governments, it had constantly protested on the ground that the principle was incompatible with the sovereignty of a State.

The action of Japan on the outbreak of the Great War in August, 1914, at once dispelled all doubt which may have existed as to her participation in it. It also showed that she had no intention of playing a purely passive rôle. Within a fortnight after the commencement of hostilities between Great Britain and Germany the Japanese Government presented an ultimatum to the latter Power 277demanding the immediate withdrawal from Japanese and Chinese waters of all German vessels of war, and the evacuation by a given date of the leased territory of Kiaochow, with a view to its eventual restoration to China. The ultimatum was followed a week later by a declaration of war. It has been suggested that this swift action frustrated a design on the part of Germany to remove the leased territory from the field of hostilities by handing it back to China for the period of the war. Both in the ultimatum and in the declaration of war reference was made to the Anglo-Japanese alliance, which had been renewed in 1905 during the Russo-Japanese war, and again in 1911, when an Arbitration Treaty was in process of negotiation between Great Britain and the United States. This marked allusion to the alliance pointed to the conclusion that Japan’s entry into the war was in pursuance of a special understanding between the Governments concerned. It was, however, no secret that the acquisition of Kiaochow by Germany had been as displeasing to Japan as the Russian occupation of Port Arthur, nor was it unreasonable to suppose that she would welcome the first occasion that might come to get rid of the obnoxious intruder. The opportunity furnished by her entry into the war was promptly seized. A strong expeditionary force, which included a contingent of British troops, was organized, and by the first week of November the German flag had ceased to float at Kiaochow. The Japanese occupation in the previous month of the Caroline, Marshall and Marianne, or Ladrone, groups of islands contributed to the elimination of Germany from the Pacific.

The war that gave Japan the excuse she needed to destroy the German foothold in China presented her with other opportunities of strengthening her position in the Far East. The magnitude of the military operations in Europe absorbed all the energies of the belligerent States which had interests in Eastern Asia. They were unable to devote much attention to Far Eastern affairs. Japan thus acquired a liberty of action which under other circumstances might possibly have been denied to her.

In an article contributed in 1914 to the November number of the Shin Nippon, or “New Japan,” a magazine published in Tōkiō, Marquis Ōkuma, who was then Premier, pointed out that the tendency of the times was such as to justify the assumption that in the distant future a few strong nations would govern the rest of the world, and that Japan must prepare herself to become one of these 278governing nations. And when addressing the Diet in the following month he stated, in explanation of the programme of naval and military expansion submitted to Parliament, that in order to make Japanese diplomatic dealings more effective an increase of force was needed. The lengths to which the Japanese Government was prepared to go in order to render its diplomacy more effective were disclosed when in January, 1915, the Japanese Minister in Peking presented directly to the President of the Chinese Republic the well-known twenty-one Demands.

Divided into several groups, the Demands in the first four included the assent of China to whatever might afterwards be agreed upon between Japan and Germany in regard to the German leased territory in Shantung taken by the Japanese in the previous November; the non-alienation by China to a third Power of any territory in that province or any island along its coast; concessions for railway construction, and the opening of further places for foreign trade in the same province; the extension from twenty-five to ninety-nine years—the term of the German lease of Kiaochow—of the terms of the former Russian leases of Port Arthur, Dalny and the South Manchurian Railway, and of the subsequent Japanese lease of the Antun-Mukden Railway; the control and management of the Kirin-Changchun Railway, when completed, to be granted to Japan for the same term of ninety-nine years; the grant of mining rights to Japan in South Manchuria and Eastern Inner Mongolia; the consent of Japan to be obtained prior to permission being given to other foreigners to build railways, or make loans for railway construction in the territories in question, or prior to the pledging of local taxes in those territories as security for loans made to China by a third Power; Japan to be consulted before the employment by China in the same territories of any political, financial, or military advisers; concessions giving Japan practical control over the valuable coal and iron mines near Hankow belonging to the Hanyeiping Company, which had borrowed money from Japanese firms; and non-alienation to a third Power of any harbour, bay, or island on the coast of China. A further fifth group of Demands included an undertaking on the part of China to employ “influential Japanese as advisers in political, financial and military affairs”; to grant to Japanese hospitals, churches and schools in the interior of China the right of owning land—a right still withheld from foreigners in Japan; to place the 279police administration of all important places in China under joint Japanese and Chinese control, or, in lieu of this concession, to employ a large number of Japanese in the police departments of those places; to purchase from Japan 50 per cent, or more, of all munitions of war needed by China, or, in lieu of this concession, to arrange for the establishment in China of an arsenal under the joint management of Japanese and Chinese, the material required to be purchased from Japan; to grant further concessions for railway construction in the interior of China; to consult Japan before employing foreign capital for the working of mines, and the construction of railways, harbours and dockyards in the province of Fuhkien; and to grant to Japanese subjects the right to propagate religious doctrines in China. This last point concerned, of course, only Buddhist missionary propaganda, since the propagation of Shintō doctrine in a foreign country was obviously impossible. Its inclusion in the list of demands may seem strange in view of the religious indifference of the Japanese people. The reasons for it may be found in the desire of the Japanese Government to overlook no point which might serve to place Japan on a footing of equality in all respects with Western countries, and its wish to utilize the services of Buddhist missionaries to obtain information about matters in the interior of China.

The startling character of these Demands, no less than the peremptory manner in which they were made, provoked some public criticism even in Japan, and led to enquiries from more than one foreign Government. In the course of the negotiations which ensued at Peking the Chinese raised objections to several points. Eventually the last-mentioned group of Demands was withdrawn for the time being, the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs explaining that they were never points on which his Government had intended to insist. Some modifications, moreover, were made in the other groups in order to meet Chinese objections. The Demands thus revised were presented afresh in April, a time limit being named for their acceptance, and on the 9th May the Chinese Government yielded to the pressure and signified its consent. The various points on which the Japanese Government insisted were finally settled on the 25th May by the conclusion of Treaties, the exchange of Notes and the making of Declarations, all bearing that date, as suited the convenience of Japan.

280It is difficult to reconcile the assurances repeatedly given by Japanese statesmen as to the absence of any aggressive intentions in regard to China with the policy represented by the Demands above mentioned. Nor is it possible to deny that the pressure thus put upon China constituted just such an interference in the internal affairs of a neighbouring State as the Press of Japan had been the first to denounce.

The various engagements entered into between Japan and Russia in the years shortly following the Treaty of Portsmouth, more especially the Agreement of 1907, to which reference has already been made, were in themselves signs of a relaxation of the tension created by the Russo-Japanese war. And when in 1910 the two Powers concluded the Agreement for maintaining the status quo in Manchuria, which blocked the Knox proposal for neutralizing all railways in that region, it became dear that they discerned the mutual advantage to be gained by working together in the Far East. This common policy, if it may be so called, was strengthened after the outbreak of the Great War by the conclusion of a secret Treaty in the summer of 1916, a moment when the war was not progressing very favourably for the Allies. By this Treaty, signed in the Russian capital, the contracting parties recognized that “the vital interests” of both required “the safeguarding of China from the political domination of any third Power whatsoever having hostile designs against Russia or Japan.” Whatever hopes may have been entertained in either country from the closer co-operation in China established by this Treaty were put an end to by the Russian revolution in the spring of 1917. It is unnecessary to emphasize the important bearing on Far Eastern affairs of this event, and of its sequel—the military collapse of Russia. The mere fact that China was thus freed from the danger of a combined aggression which she was powerless to resist speaks for itself.

In the autumn of the same year, by which time America had been drawn into the war, Japan, still intent on consolidating her position in the Far East, entered into negotiations at Washington with the United States in regard to the policy to be pursued by the two countries in China. The Japanese negotiator designated as special ambassador for this purpose was Viscount Ishii, who had recently been Minister for Foreign Affairs, and had previously visited America in an official capacity. By the understanding arrived at in November 281of that year, known as the Lansing-Ishii Agreement, the United States Government formally recognized, though without defining them, the special interests of Japan in China arising out of geographical propinquity—a concession which tended to extend the liberty of action which Japan had already acquired as a result of the war. The reason for the conclusion of this Agreement, as stated in the Notes exchanged on this occasion, “was in order to silence mischievous reports” that had from time to time been circulated. Another reason may well have been the wish to clear the ground for American and Japanese business co-operation in China, which had been advocated for some time in the Japanese Press, and received some measure of support from capitalists in both countries. The idea was not welcomed by the American community in China, and the efforts made in this direction do not appear to have been attended with any striking success during the continuance of the war.

In the military intervention of the Allied and Associated Powers in Siberia Japan took a prominent part. The course of events in Russia after the revolution caused uneasiness in Great Britain and France. When the Bolsheviks gained control of affairs, the German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war, who, owing to the disintegration of the former Russian armies had regained their liberty, and were free to uphold German ambitions, made common cause with them; and it was felt that there was danger of these combined forces spreading through Central and Eastern Siberia. How best to meet this danger, and at the same time to relieve the Czecho-Slovak troops, composed of ex-prisoners of war, who had refused to join the Bolsheviks and were retreating along the Trans-Siberian Railway, was a question which forced itself on the attention of the Governments concerned. The idea of sending an expeditionary force for this double purpose was first mooted in the summer of 1917, but it was not until a year later that an understanding was effected. In this military intervention six of the Allied and Associated Powers were represented, Japan, owing to her nearness to the scene of action, being the first to place troops on the spot.

Meanwhile, in view of the same danger and for the same objects, the Japanese and Chinese Governments had some months before (in May, 1918) concluded a secret military Agreement for Common Defence for the duration of the war, by which arrangements were made for the co-operation of Japanese and Chinese troops both in 282Chinese and Russian territory. In the following September “detailed stipulations” were attached to the Agreement. One of these provided that Chinese troops when operating in Russian territory should be under the control of a Japanese commander. A similar Naval Agreement was concluded at the same time. In pursuance of the Military Agreement considerable Japanese and Chinese forces were mobilized and employed in operations in Chinese territory and across the Russian border.

The conspicuous services rendered by the navy of Japan throughout the war earned the warm appreciation of her allies; the work done in clearing the seas of predatory enemy craft, convoying troopships from the British dominions to Europe and combating the submarine menace, deserving, as indeed it received, the highest praise. If at times there may have appeared to be a disposition in certain Japanese circles to anticipate the success of German arms, and if the pro-German sympathies of a section of the public may have seemed to assert themselves too loudly, allowance should be made for the large extent to which German ideas had been utilized in the making of modern Japan, and for the natural tendency of army officers to believe in the invincibility of the nation in whose military methods they had been trained.

The Peace Conference which assembled in Paris in January, 1919, set the seal on Japanese ambitions. The representatives of Japan took part in all important deliberations on a footing of recognized equality with those of Great Britain, France, Italy and the United States, while, as one of the Great Powers composing the Supreme Council, Japan has had a voice in the decisions that have guided the destinies of the world.


The Japanese Family System.

More than once in the course of this narrative has reference been made to the Japanese family system, the influence of which is responsible for so much that is distinctive in the political and social life of the people. A short sketch of this system, as it works to-day, may therefore be not without interest for the reader.

Prior to July, 1898, when the present Civil Code came into force, matters concerning family law were governed by local custom, which varied not only in each province, but often in different districts of the same province. All such matters are now dealt with in accordance with the provisions of Books IV and V of this Code, and in accordance with the complementary Law of Registration, which came into operation in a revised form on the same date as the Code. The working of the family system since then has, therefore, been uniform throughout the country.

Before going further it may be well to explain what is meant by the word “family” in Japanese law. It denotes something to which we have nothing analogous. It means a grouping of persons bearing the same surname and subject to the authority of one who is the head of the family, and who may or may not be the common parent, or ancestor; and it is in this sense that the term “member of a family” is used in the Code, and in the complementary law above mentioned. This family, which may be comprised in one household, or may embrace several, may be the main branch of the parent stock, or only a cadet branch. In either case it constitutes what is known to the law as a family; succession to the headship of it is regulated by strict provisions; and the person who is its head is invested with certain well-defined authority. Kinship is not essential to membership in this family group, for the law provides that a relative of an 284adopted person may under certain circumstances become a member of the family which the latter has entered.

There is, however, another and larger family group which consists of all those who stand towards each other in the position of kindred as defined in Article 725 of the Code. In this latter group, which finds its embodiment, so to speak, in family councils, lies to a great extent the key to the real position of the individual in Japan.

The Japanese family system is thus a combination of relatives into two groups, and every Japanese, therefore, is to be regarded in two capacities: first as a member of the smaller family group—the legal family—and, as such, unless he is head of the family himself, subject to the authority of its head; and, secondly, as a member of the wider group of kindred, with whom he is closely connected by rights and duties, and as such, whatever his position in the family may be, subject in certain matters to the control of family councils. But the position of a Japanese in his dual capacity as a member of both the smaller and larger family groups has little in it of the permanency and stability which are found in our family life. It is affected not only, as with us, by marriage and divorce, but is also liable to constant change by separation from the family through adoption, and its dissolution, through abdication or other causes mentioned in the Code, and by the conditional liberty given to a person to change his family allegiance, so to speak, and transfer himself from the authority of one head of a family to that of another. The artificial character of both groups is likewise heightened by the frequency of adoption, which so closely resembles kinship that no material difference exists between the two.

In noting briefly the main features of the Japanese family system it will be convenient to begin with those which have their counterpart in Roman Law, namely, parental authority, the position of women, the custom of adoption, and the religious rites of the family.

Parental Authority.—It is doubtful if at any time parental authority in Japan ever approached the rigour of the Roman patria potestas, although in the now obsolete Codes offences were punished more severely when committed by children against parents than when the reverse was the case. The doctrine of filial piety, however, which inspired this discrimination, never in practice excluded the duties of parents to children. In Japan, moreover, parental authority has 285always been subject to two weakening influences—the intervention of family councils, and the custom of abdication. It now includes both paternal authority, and, in certain cases, maternal authority, a thing unknown to Roman law. This authority, never of a joint nature, is exercised over children who are “members of the family” of the parent in question during their minority, and even afterwards so long as they do not earn an independent living. Japanese law speaks of a person as a child, irrespective of age, as long as either of the parents is alive, and a parent’s right to maintenance by a son, or daughter, has precedence over the rights in that respect of the latter’s children and spouse.

Position of Women.—The legal position of women in Japan before modern legislative changes is well illustrated by the fact that offences came under different categories according to their commission by the wife against the husband, or by the husband against the wife, and by the curious anomaly that, while the husband stood in the first degree of relationship to his wife, the latter stood to him only in the second. The disabilities under which a woman formerly laboured shut her out from the exercise of almost all rights. The maxim Mulier est finis familiæ (“The family ends with a woman”) was as true in Japan as in Rome, though the observance may have been less strict owing to the greater frequency of adoption. All this has been greatly changed. In no respect has greater progress been made than in the improvement of the position of women. Though, like those of her sex in other lands, she still labours under certain disabilities, a woman can now become the head of a family; she can inherit and own property, and manage it herself; she can exercise parental authority; if single or a widow, she can adopt; she can act as guardian, or curator; and she has a voice in family councils.

Adoption.—The desire to preserve the continuity of a family is usually the motive of adoption wherever the custom is found; and in countries like Japan, where ancestor-worship has survived in the practice of family rites, the anxiety to make due provision for the performance of these rites has acted as an additional incentive. But nowhere else, probably, has adoption been conducted on so large a scale, or played so important a part in the social life of the community that has practised it. It is not limited, as with us, to the adoption of minors, for the adoption of adults is as common as that of children. Nor is it confined to the adoption at any one time of a 286single individual, the adoption of a married couple, though somewhat rare, being a recognized custom. Nor does any character of finality attach to the act, for a person may adopt, or be adopted, more than once, and adoption may be dissolved or annulled.

The elaborate treatment given to the custom in the Civil Code testifies to its importance in Japanese social life, and at the same time shows the extent to which the interests of the individual in this respect are subordinated to those of the family.

Before leaving the subject it may be well to remind the reader that in the case of the Imperial Family the custom of adoption was, as already mentioned, abolished some years ago.

Family Rites.—The characteristic attitude of mind towards religious matters, referred to in an earlier chapter, which enables a Japanese writer to describe his countrymen as being dualist in respect of religion, is reflected in Japanese family, or household, rites. Before the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century each household had its kamidana, or Shintō altar, which is a plain wooden shelf. On this the cenotaphs of deceased members of the family were placed. The adoption of Buddhism led to the introduction of a butsudan, or Buddhist altar, which is a miniature shrine of wood, and to this the ancestral cenotaphs were transferred. But the Shintō altar remained, and served as the depository of charms from the chief Shintō shrine, the Daijingū of Isé, as well as of charms from the shrines dedicated to the various tutelary deities of members of the family, and, in spite of the Shintō revival that accompanied the Restoration of 1868–9, the two altars, with their respective uses, have remained unchanged.

The performance of family rites in the strictest manner is usually confined to the upper classes and well-to-do farmers. In the worship of Shintō deities these rites consist of reverential obeisances made every morning before the Shintō altar, the lighting of a small lamp on it every evening and the presentation of offerings of rice and saké on certain days of each month. From time to time also branches of the Cleyera japonica are laid on the altar. The ancestral rites conducted before the Buddhist altar differ in some points of detail according to the professed religion, Shintō or Buddhist, of the family. In each case, however, the cenotaph of the deceased person, which is a small wooden tablet bearing the posthumous name or date of death, is placed on, or in front of, the Buddhist altar. When 287these cenotaphs become too numerous, one or two are made to serve for all. Offerings of food are made, and religious services held on various anniversaries of the death. On these occasions a feast is also provided. In Buddhist households the Buddhist altar is never without flowers, while offerings of tea and rice are made, and incense sticks lighted, every morning. During the annual “Festival of the Dead,” which is not recognized by the Shin, or Montō, sect of Buddhists, more elaborate rites are performed.

The other features of the family system which remain to be noticed are the position occupied by the head of a family, succession thereto, abdication, family councils, marriage and registration.

Headship of Family.—In Japan the parental authority and the authority exercised by the head of a family are quite distinct, but the two may be vested in the same individual, who may be a woman. When vested in different individuals, they represent a sort of condominium, as, for instance, in cases where the consent not only of the parent, but of the head of the family, is required.

The head of a family exercises authority over all its members whom the law recognizes as such. It is not necessary that these should form part of his or her household, for, as has already been explained, the group represented by the word family may embrace several households. Nor need they be relatives, though usually some tie of kinship exists. This authority includes the right of consent to the marriage and divorce, the adoption, and the dissolution of adoption, of each member of the family; the right of determining his or her place of residence; and the right of expelling such person from the family, and of forbidding his or her return to it. The head of a family has also the right of succession to property in default of other heirs. But the headship of a family carries with it also duties and responsibilities; the duty of supporting indigent members of it; the duty, under certain circumstances, of guardianship, and responsibility for the debts of all.

Save in exceptional cases, succession to the headship of a family is limited to persons who are “members of the family,” in the legal sense of the term. These rank according to the degree of relationship. Failing lineal descendants, an heir may be appointed in other ways defined by the Code.

Abdication.—What for want of a better word is generally known to foreigners by the term abdication is the retirement of a person 288from the position of head of a family. As women can under the Civil Code become heads of families, it follows that abdication is no prerogative of the male sex.

Japanese scholars who have investigated the subject, notably Professors Hozumi and Shigéno, agree in tracing the origin of the present custom to the abdication of sovereigns, instances of which occur at an early period of Japanese history. These earlier abdications were independent of religious influences, but with the advent of Buddhism abdication entered upon a new phase. In imitation, it would seem, of the retirement of head priests of Buddhist monasteries, abdicating monarchs shaved their heads and entered the priesthood; and when, later on, the custom came to be employed for political purposes the cloak of religion was retained. From the Throne the custom spread to regents and high officers of State; and so universal had its observance, amongst officials of the higher ranks, become in the twelfth century that, as Professor Shigéno states, it was almost the rule for such persons to retire from the world at the age of forty or fifty, and nominally enter the priesthood, both the act and the person performing it being termed niūdō. In the course of time the custom of abdication ceased to be confined to officials, and extended to the feudal nobility, and the military class generally, whence it spread through the nation. At this stage of its transition its connection with the phase it finally assumed becomes clear. But with its extension beyond the circle of official dignitaries, and its consequent severance from tradition and religious associations, whether real or nominal, abdication changed its name. It was no longer termed niūdō (entrance into religion), but inkio (retirement), the old word being retained only in its strictly religious meaning; and inkio is the term in use to-day.

The connection of the custom with religion having long since vanished, the Japanese of the present day who abdicates is in no way actuated by the feeling that impelled European monarchs in past time to end their days in the seclusion of the cloister, and which finds expression in the phrase “to make one’s soul.” Apart from the influence of traditional convention, which explains the great hold upon the nation acquired by the custom, the motive seems to be somewhat akin to that which leads people in other countries to retire from active life at an age when bodily infirmity cannot be adduced as the reason. In the one case, however, it is the business, 289or profession, the active work of life, which is relinquished, while in Japan it is the position of head of a family which is given up, the result being the effacement of the individual so far as the family is concerned. Moreover, although abdication usually implies the abandonment of business, this does not necessarily follow. That in many cases the reason for abdication lies in the wish to escape from the tyrannical calls of family life, encumbered as it is with legal duties and responsibilities, as well as tedious ceremonies, is shown by the fact that the period of a person’s greatest activity not infrequently dates from the time of his withdrawal from the headship of the family.

As in the case of adoption, abdication is now more strictly regulated than formerly. Women are permitted to abdicate irrespective of age; but a man is not allowed to abdicate until he has attained sixty years of age, except under certain conditions imposed by law.

Family Councils.—Family councils represent, as has already been explained, the larger of the two groups into which Japanese society may be regarded as divided. They usurp many of the functions which we are accustomed to associate with Courts of Law, and, though an appeal may always be made to the latter from the decision of a council, apart from the reluctance of most people to take this step, the chances of success are too remote to favour its frequent adoption.

Family councils are of two kinds: those convened for the determination of some particular question; and those which are established for the purpose of taking charge of the affairs of persons without legal capacity. The former are dissolved when the question at issue has been settled; the latter continue until the legal incapacity ceases. The summoning of a council and the selection of its members rest with a court of law, but in certain cases the members may be appointed by will. The functions of family councils cover a wide field, ranging from giving consent to marriage and adoption to protecting the interests of a minor in cases where the interests of parent and child conflict. Their authority in no way diminishes the influence brought to bear upon an individual by the wide circle of relations from whom they are chosen, but rather serves to increase it; nor does their existence as a species of family tribunal preclude the settlement of family matters in an informal manner without recourse to the elaborate machinery provided by the law.

290Marriage.—Before the present Civil Code came into operation the question of marriage was regulated by fragmentary enactments issued from time to time, which dealt with various points connected with marriage and divorce, but never with the subject as a whole. Validity of marriage is quite independent of the marriage ceremony, which is a purely social function. Marriage is effected simply by registration. Notice is given to a registrar by both parties and two witnesses who are of age. This notice may be either verbal or written. When the registrar has satisfied himself that the marriage is in accordance with the provisions of the law, the name of the person entering the other’s family is inscribed in the register of that family and is expunged from the register of the family to which he, or she, previously belonged. The marriageable age for men is seventeen years; that for women fifteen. No one who is not the head of a family can marry without the consent of the head of the family. In many cases, also, the consent of parents, or of a guardian, or of a family council, is necessary. Japanese law recognizes two kinds of divorce: judicial divorce; and divorce by arrangement between the parties.

Family Registration.—If proof were needed that society in Japan centres round the family, and not the individual, it would be supplied by the institution known as Family Registration. The subject is too complicated to justify any detailed reference to it in these pages. It will be sufficient to mention that in every district a separate register is kept for each house in which the head of a household is also the head of a family; those whose names appear therein being regarded as having what is called their “permanent register” (honséki) in the place in question. Persons who are heads of households, but not of families, are borne on other family registers. Thus the names entered in a family register at the time it is prepared under the address of a certain house are not necessarily those of persons who are members of the particular household indicated. Nor are they necessarily those of persons who were, or are, resident in the district. They are simply those of all persons who, irrespective of their place of residence, are members of the family of which the occupant of the house in question is the head at the time when the family register is prepared. The family, therefore, and not the household, is the basis of this registration, the house merely supplying the address where the permanent register is established. Family 291registers are prepared (1) when a person establishes a new family, or (2) when the head of a family chooses to transfer his permanent register to another place, in which case the previous register is called “original permanent register” (genséki). Except in these cases, family registration and residence are quite independent of one another.

As in the case of Status and Residential Registration, matters concerning family registration are dealt with by the registrar of a district. It is notice to this official that gives validity to marriage and divorce, to adoption and its dissolution, to abdication and to succession to the headship of a family.



Before the Restoration the State concerned itself little with education. There were, indeed, in Yedo, as Tōkiō was then called, two or three Government schools open to youths of the military class, and similar institutions existed in the provinces, both in clan territories and in those of the Shōgun. In these instruction was given in the Chinese classics and in military accomplishments. Except for this slender provision for educational needs, the matter was left, to a great extent, in the hands of the people themselves. Such education as was thought to be necessary for children other than those of the military class was obtained in Buddhist temple schools (terakoya). In the case of the military class private tuition took the place of these schools, both for elementary instruction, and for such further education as might be desired; it being customary for students above a certain age to become pupils of some scholar of repute, in whose house they often resided during their course of study. From the absence of any regular official control of education it must not be inferred that learning was discouraged in Japan. On the contrary, it was encouraged from early times, both by the Court in pre-feudal days and by the later Tokugawa rulers, with the result that the Japanese nation had, as is well known, attained a high degree of culture of an Oriental kind before the reopening of the country to foreign intercourse. But the interest taken in education was only spasmodic. No attempt was made to systematize it, and make it a branch of the general administration of the country.

In the programme of the men who effected the Restoration educational reform occupied a prominent place; but while feudalism lasted not much could be done. Neither the control of education by one central authority, nor the defiance of class prejudice by 293throwing education open equally to all, was possible. The enlargement of the few existing colleges, the opening of a few more in places where they were most needed, the engagement of foreign teachers, and the selection of students represented all that was attainable for the moment. The desired opportunity came with the abolition of feudalism, and the disappearance of the military class. It was in the summer of 1871 that the Decree which swept away the feudal system was issued; a week or two later the Department of Education was established; and in the following year (1872) the first Educational Code was drawn up and promulgated. Compulsory education for both sexes dates from this time.

To the frankly utilitarian spirit disclosed in the preamble to the Code the late Baron Kikuchi, at one time Minister of Education, drew attention in his London lectures on the subject delivered in 1909. In it there is no mention of religion, nor is anything said about moral instruction. The Code provided for the creation of no less than eight universities and a corresponding number of elementary and middle schools, both being far in excess of the requirements of the country at that time. No surprise, therefore, was felt when in 1879 this plan was abandoned, and a scheme better suited to existing conditions adopted in its place. Nevertheless, in these seven years a good beginning had been made. The principle of compulsory education for all children between six and fourteen years of age had been introduced. The Tōkiō University had been established, and though expectations regarding the growth of middle schools had not been realized, in the creation and working of elementary schools satisfactory progress had been made.

The Code of 1879, by which a simpler and more practical form was given to elementary education, was in its turn replaced by the educational law of 1886. Under the new measure elementary education was divided into two courses; more attention was given to normal education; new features in the shape of moral and physical training were introduced; and the method of regulating educational affairs by means of Codes was discontinued. Various changes were made in subsequent years, but the system then established is, in its main outlines, in force to-day.

At the threshold of the present system lies the kindergarten, formed on the European model.

The actual system begins with elementary schools. These are of 294two kinds, the ordinary, and the higher, elementary schools. In the first the course extends over six years, and is compulsory for all children who have completed their sixth year. At thirteen years of age, therefore, compulsory education ceases. Ordinary elementary education is free, the cost being met by local taxation.

From the ordinary elementary school the child, boy or girl, whose education does not stop there, passes on to the higher elementary school. Here the course lasts for two years, a supplementary course being provided, as in the case of ordinary elementary schools, for those desiring it whose education ceases at this stage.

In elementary schools of both kinds boys and girls receive practically the same education. They are taught in the same schools, and often in the same classes. It is after this stage that the education of boys and girls becomes distinct, both as regards the schools and the subjects taught in them. Elementary schools established by the State are open to the children of all classes; but there are also private elementary schools of the same grades, which are recognized by law and are subject to official supervision.

At the age of fourteen or fifteen a boy enters what is known as a middle school, where he remains for five years. With the termination of this course, by which time he is about nineteen years of age, a Japanese youth has completed his general education. If he elects to go further, he must specialize, passing to a higher school in preparation for the University, to a technical school, to the higher normal school, or to what is termed a “special” (semmon) school, as the case may be.

The educational training open to girls on leaving the higher elementary schools is less extensive. They may enter a high school for girls, which corresponds more or less to the middle school for boys. Here the course is from four to five years, with a supplementary course spread over another two. Or they may enter a normal, or technical school. With the exception of some higher normal schools, no further provision for the more advanced education of women is made by the State.

Private enterprise and munificence have done much to supplement the educational work of the State. Besides the private elementary schools already mentioned, a certain proportion of the middle schools are also in private hands, whilst educational facilities of a more advanced standard are supplied by the flourishing colleges founded 295by Mr. Fukuzawa and Marquis Ōkuma. There are also Buddhist schools, and educational establishments of various kinds wholly or partly maintained by foreign missionary societies. Nor is the aid thus directed by private initiative confined to pupils of one sex. To what extent the education of women has profited is shown by the existence in the Capital of institutions so well known—to mention only a few—as the Women’s University founded by Mr. Narusé; the Girls’ College, which owes its creation to Mrs. Shimoda; and the schools for girls of the nobility, in which the late Empress, its founder, took special interest.

Let us now see what is taught under the present system of education.

The course of instruction in elementary schools comprises morals; reading, writing and letter writing, which are grouped together as one subject called “the Japanese language”; arithmetic and the use of the abacus, the counting-board of the ancients; gymnastics, drawing and singing; and (for girls) needlework. In the higher elementary course three additional subjects—history, geography and science—are included.

What, it may be asked, is meant by instruction in “morals,” the first subject mentioned in this curriculum? It is based on the principles laid down in the Imperial Rescript on Education promulgated in 1890, a copy of which, besides a portrait of the Emperor, hangs on the walls of elementary schools. Speaking of this, Baron Kikuchi in the lectures above mentioned says: “Our whole moral and civic education consists in so imbuing our children with the spirit of the Rescript that it forms a part of our national life.” No excuse is needed for dwelling at some length on a point to which he attaches so much importance.

The principles on which stress is laid in the Imperial Rescript are mostly of a kind with which the reader is more or less familiar, showing in the reference made to the duties of a Japanese subject to the Imperial Ancestors, to the Sovereign, to the State, and to society, their Confucian and Shintō origin. Attention has been drawn to the absence of any reference to moral teaching in the preamble of the Code of 1872. The fact that a different note is struck in the Rescript published eighteen years later does not justify the inference that the Government had seen reason to change its mind on the subject. For, only a year before the Rescript appeared, 296the Department of Education had issued a notification declaring it to be essential to keep religion and education apart, and forbidding the teaching of any religious doctrine, or the conduct of any religious ceremonies, in schools licensed by the State. It seems correct, therefore, to suppose that the attitude of the Government in regard to the relation of religion to education remained unchanged, but that the official mind made a distinction between moral teaching as identified with religious doctrines, and moral teaching of a more general kind. This supposition derives support from the close resemblance which the Rescript bears to a document entitled A Short Exhortation to the People, which was, as we have seen, published and circulated widely by the new Government in the early days of the Restoration. The object then in view was to divert to the Sovereign the old feudal feeling of devotion to the clan chief; to make the Throne, at a time when the fabric of old Japan was crumbling to pieces, the centre round which the nation could rally. The aim of the Rescript was the same, allowing for the change in circumstances, namely, to strengthen the framework of government by encouraging a fresh spirit of patriotism and loyalty. That education should be chosen as the medium for impressing upon the nation the spirit of precepts appealing with the force of tradition to national sentiment was very natural.

For the teaching of morals in elementary schools text-books are provided. These contain a series of illustrated homilies designed to inculcate the virtues to which prominence is given in Confucian ethics. The children are also taught in conversations with the teachers matters concerning the Emperor and the Court. They are brought to realize the extent of the Imperial solicitude for the people; these lessons leading up to the inevitable conclusion that the illustrious virtues of the Sovereign must be reverenced. Similar lessons are given on the subject of the national flag, with the object of promoting patriotism. In this respect the Japanese are fortunate in possessing a word of Chinese origin, which means literally “requiting the country for favours received,” and thus conveys the sense of duty on which the virtue rests. In their third school year the children learn about the Empress, and acquire some general knowledge of her position and responsibilities. And so they pass on to learn in succeeding courses, and always in the same sequence of moral ideas, what is meant by “the fundamental character of the 297Japanese Empire”—the relation, that is to say, of the Imperial House to the people—and something of the nature of government and civic duties.

It is not till the middle schools are reached that the influence of Western thought is noticeable in any marked degree. There the curriculum embraces morals, the Japanese language and Chinese literature, foreign languages, history, geography and mathematics. Moral instruction is continued on the lines on which it was begun in the elementary schools. It is not the fault of the teacher, nor of the system, if at the end of this stage of his education the pupil has not acquired a general perception of what is required of him in the way of his duty to ancestor, parent and neighbour, of his obligations to himself, to the family, to society and to the State, and if he is not also imbued with a deep sense of the fortunate privilege of Japanese nationality. It will be at once apparent how wide a field is covered by the subject of morals, and how practical is the end it is designed to subserve. The teaching of foreign languages in middle schools amounts practically to the teaching of English, this being in most of such schools the only foreign language taught. If, in spite of the prominence given to it, progress in the study of English is disappointing, the result is due to the false economy which substitutes for competent foreign teachers Japanese, whose knowledge and pronunciation are often defective.

The curriculum of the higher schools, the preparatory stage for the University, varies according to the three sections—Law and Literature, Science, and Medicine—into which they are divided. Four subjects, however, are common to all three. These are Morals, the Japanese language, Foreign Languages, and Gymnastics. Two of three foreign languages—English, French, and German—are taught in each section. In the Medical section German, and in the Science section English, is compulsory.

The course of University instruction does not call for any special notice. It is sufficient to say that it is modelled on Western lines.

Of late years the Government has given special attention to the establishment of Technical and Normal Schools. The fact that the pupils in these latter schools receive disciplinary training similar to that of military schools shows the anxiety of the authorities to foster a military spirit in the nation.

298It will be seen that at every stage in the present system of education the Japanese language is one of the subjects of study. This is due not less to its complicated character than to the high degree of skill required in its writing, for which brushes and not pens are employed. In alluding to this point in a previous chapter attention was drawn to the difficulty created by the adoption of the Chinese written language by a people who had a spoken language of their own, and to the confusion that afterwards supervened when the borrowing nation devised written scripts for itself. The final result of this process of linguistic growth was the division of Japanese writing into three main branches—the Chinese style, in which Chinese hieroglyphs are used much as the Chinese use them; the native scripts, or syllabaries; and a third which is a mixture of the other two, and in varying forms is the one most in use to-day. Of the two elements that thus form the Japanese language of the present time—Chinese characters and the Japanese syllabaries—the former has so far proved itself the stronger and, in a sense, the more useful: stronger because of its having been the means by which Chinese civilization was introduced, and of its connection with the foundation upon which education has always rested; more useful because its effect on national culture has not only survived the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse, but, owing to the fact that the native scripts are adapted for the writing only of native words, has increased twenty-fold. Just as we go to Latin and Greek to coin new words when we want them, so to Chinese the Japanese have always gone on the same quest; and for the better part of a century they have been busily engaged in coining new words for all the new things that have come to them in the train of Western learning. Thus the language which served to introduce Chinese institutions and culture many centuries ago is performing the same duty to-day for institutions and culture of quite another order. In this Japan seems to have been the sport of fate. She started with Chinese as the chief factor in her culture. The exigencies of language and circumstance drove her in later years, when her civilization was tending in an opposite direction, to draw again under altered conditions on the same resources as before, and thus expose herself afresh to the operation of the very influences from which in the first flush of her ardour for Western reforms she was striving to emancipate herself.

299How greatly education is hampered by the difficulty of the language will be understood when it is mentioned that a Japanese youth who goes through the whole educational course provided by the State is still studying it when on the threshold of the University; and that if he desires to attain any real literary scholarship he must continue this study for some time after his education is completed. To show that the difficulty has not been exaggerated it may be well to quote two independent authorities, both Japanese. Baron Kikuchi tells us that “to those who are engaged in education, especially elementary education, the difficulty that a child has to encounter in learning Chinese characters is an ever-present and pressing question; with so many subjects to be learnt it is impossible to spend the enormous time that would be necessary in the mere learning of ideographs.”... “When we come to secondary education,” he adds, “the difficulty is increased still further.” Marquis Ōkuma, who has held the same portfolio, and speaks with the authority of a leading educationalist, is still more emphatic. “The greatest difficulty of all connected with education is,” he says, “the extreme complexity of the Japanese language. Japanese students to-day are attempting what is possible only to the strongest and cleverest of them, that is to say, two or three in every hundred. They are trying to learn their own language, which is in reality two languages ... while attempting to learn English and German, and, in addition, studying technical subjects like law, medicine, engineering or science.”

It is a mistake to suppose that because foreign influences enter so largely into the educational course Japan must necessarily end by becoming Europeanized. The foundation of her culture is too deeply laid for that. So long as elementary education remains, as it is now, practically untouched by Western influences, no great change of the kind in question is likely to happen. All that educational reform, as illustrated in the present system, implies is the making of education one of the chief concerns of the State and the diffusion of Western knowledge. The first has affected the whole nation; the latter chiefly the upper classes.


The Makers of Modern Japan—How Japan is Governed.

In preceding pages some account has been given of the steps by which a Far Eastern nation has risen to its present position of a Great Power. The period occupied by this transformation is less than half a century. For during the first two decades that followed the reopening of Japan to foreign intercourse reactionary influences supported by anti-foreign feeling were, as we have seen, in the ascendant; and it was not till after the Restoration that the work of remoulding all branches of administration commenced. While giving full credit to the Japanese people for the possession of the qualities that made this great change possible, the genius of the statesmen by whom they were guided should not be overlooked.

Although the new direction given to national policy, the consummation of which is seen to-day, did not take place until after the Restoration, the services rendered by some of the statesmen whose names are associated with it date from before that time. The Restoration was not the work of a day, the effect of a sudden impulse. Weak as the Shōgun’s Government was, it was too firmly rooted by the mere length of its duration, by the weight of time and usage, to be easily overthrown. Before this could be done something in the nature of a united movement, a combination of forces, was essential. And in the feudal conditions then prevailing it was just this point which presented the greatest difficulty. The military strength, as after events showed, was there, but clan jealousies stood in the way of united effort. The first attempt at rebellion made by the Chōshiū clan failed, it will be remembered, for this reason, the Satsuma clan siding with the Yedo Government. Only when these two clans were persuaded to work together, and were joined by two others, as well as by disaffected members of the military class who flocked to the Imperialist standard from all parts of the country, did it become possible to organize insurrection on a scale that endangered 301the continuance of Tokugawa rule. It was in the formation of this alliance that the men who subsequently filled the chief offices under the new Government first came into prominence. They form, as it were, a group by themselves as the pioneers of the Imperialist movement. It was another and later set of men who took up the work thus begun, and accomplished the task of modernizing Japan.

What Japanese writers tell us of the relations subsisting between the Court at Kiōto and the Yedo administration brings out very clearly the fact that the Kugé or Court nobles, who had in former days governed the country, never ceased to regard the Shōguns as usurpers, the Capital serving as the focus of constant intrigues directed against the Government of the day. It was only natural, therefore, that the Imperialist movement should find strong support at Kiōto, and that the men who undertook the delicate and dangerous project of uniting the southern clans in organized resistance to the Shōgunate should be in a position to vouch for the secret approval of the Throne, whose formal sanction recorded in State edicts remained to the last days of Tokugawa rule one of the few shreds of prestige still left to the Sovereign. Though the Kugé, as a body, having long been excluded from active participation in public affairs, were at the time in question little better than nonentities, in view of the fact that the movement in contemplation had for its avowed object the restoration of direct Imperial rule, it seems to have been regarded as essential to establish a close connection with the Court. This explains the inclusion of two Court nobles, Sanjō and Iwakura, each of whom afterwards received the title of Prince. The former, it is said, owed his selection mainly to the accident of birth. As representative of one of the oldest Kugé families, his name alone gave weight to the Imperialist cause. Of him we hear little subsequently, as the political situation developed, apart from his filling the post of Prime Minister. Iwakura stood on a different footing. His commanding abilities and natural talent for affairs made his services indispensable, and for several years he was a dominant figure in the Ministry. Two of the most notable clansmen who were associated with Iwakura in this early period were Ōkubo (father of the present Marquis), a native of Satsuma, whose death by the hands of assassins in 1878 has already been mentioned, and Kido (father of the present Marquis), a native of Chōshiū, who died of 302illness not long after the new Government had been established. Both combined great capacity with very liberal views, the adoption of Western ideas in the reconstruction of the administrative system being largely due to their initiative. Of the elder Saigō, at first the most influential member of this group, the reader has already heard in connection with the Satsuma rebellion. All three, it will be seen, belonged either to the Satsuma or to the Chōshiū clan. The Ministerial dissensions which caused the withdrawal from the Government of leading men of the two other clans which had taken part in the Restoration led, as has already been explained, to the disappearance from the scene of the Tosa and Hizen clans at an early stage of the new régime, and to the direction of affairs being assumed and continued till to-day by Satsuma and Chōshiū statesmen. The list, however, of those who came into notice during this critical period would be incomplete without the addition of the names of Itagaki and Gotō of Tosa, and Soyéshima and Ōki of Hizen.

The most conspicuous of the statesmen who have been mentioned as composing the second and later set—a description not quite accurate, since the careers of some overlapped those of their predecessors—are Princes Yamagata, Itō, Ōyama and Katsura, and Marquises Inouyé, Matsugata, Ōkuma and Saionji. Their names have long been familiar to the public abroad, for all at one time or another have been recognized as entitled to the popular appellation of Genrō, or Elders, a term never applied to the earlier statesmen. To the part played by each in the rise of Japan attention has already been drawn in the course of this narrative. With the exception of the two last-named, all of these so-called Genrō were Satsuma or Chōshiū clansmen.

In an undertaking so vast as the recasting of a nation’s institutions on lines quite new, and in their nature so opposed to traditional usages, many minds of necessity co-operated. The selection for the present purpose only of the few whose names will always be household words in Japan implies no lack of recognition of what was done by many others, less conspicuous in their time, who rendered signal service to the country. In estimating the difficulties encountered by the statesmen who undertook the task of introducing Western reforms, and successfully maintained and carried through the Liberal policy adopted after the Restoration, regard should be paid to the dangerous conditions amidst which much of this work was done. 303The opposition they met with came, as we have seen, from two quarters—reactionaries, who for a time were very hostile to foreigners, and those who were more advanced in their views than Ministers themselves. The old ideas associated with vendettas, which, so long as feudalism lasted, could be prosecuted under official sanction, had produced an atmosphere of insecurity to life that survived well into the Meiji era. The frequency of political assassinations, and the precautions taken even in recent times to protect members of the Government from attack, show how real were the risks to which prominent statesmen were exposed.

The influence in public affairs of the Genrō, and of the earlier leaders of the Restoration movement who never received that appellation, has never been questioned. The columns of the Japanese Press have constantly borne witness to the position they have held in public estimation. They seem to have assumed from the first the functions formerly exercised by the Council of State in Tokugawa times, with this difference, that, as a body, no official recognition was ever accorded to them. The Japanese family system gave opportunities to the Genrō of strengthening their position by the tie of adoption as well as by that of marriage; and in availing themselves of these they followed the example of the feudal nobility and courtiers of earlier days. Several were thus connected with each other by one, or both, of these ties, the support thus obtained being independent of that which came from their purely political followers. When in the course of administrative reconstruction the Ministry was reorganized on European models, the exact position they occupied was not inaccurately represented in popular parlance by the expression Kuromaku-daijin, which, freely rendered, means “unseen Ministers of State.” The anomalous and singular situation thus created will be understood when it is explained that the Ministry of the day might, according to circumstances, be composed entirely of Genrō, though latterly this became unusual, or might include several Genrō, or even none. In the last-mentioned case the Ministry without Genrō had very little to do with decisions on important questions. Of recent years the number of surviving Genrō has gradually decreased. Other causes, too, than that of death—namely, increasing age, the lesser prestige of later statesmen and the constitutional changes which resulted in the creation of two consultative bodies, the Privy Council and Court Councillors—have tended to 304diminish the influence of the Genrō who still remain. The institution of these two consultative bodies has had an important bearing on the direction of affairs. The idea prevailing at one time in political circles that the ranks of the Genrō would be reinforced from time to time, as occasion served, by the introduction of younger and rising statesmen, as actually took place in one or two instances, does not appear to have met with general approval. The present tendency seems rather to lie in the direction of enlarging the circle of influential statesmen so as to include those members of the Privy Council and House of Peers as well as Court Councillors, whose age (to which much respect is still paid), experience, and clan connections mark them out for selection. This tendency, if continued, will have the effect of perpetuating a state of things under which the Cabinet will, as hitherto, be kept in a position of subordination to higher though veiled authority; for the Constitution works without excessive friction, and neither the Lower House nor the political parties it represents have much real power.

There are in the modern development of Japan a few salient points which invite attention. The opening episode itself is one of these. Beyond the fact that the Government which was overthrown had outlasted its time, the Restoration bears no close resemblance to other revolutions. The impulse that produced it did not come from the body of the people. It was in no sense a popular uprising—due to class grievances, and aimed against oppression which had become unbearable. The discontent that existed was of a kind that is found everywhere when the machinery of administration shows signs of breaking down. Nor was it altogether a movement from above of the nature of those which elsewhere have put an end to feudalism by a concentration of authority in the hands of a monarch. In its inception it was simply a movement directed against the Shōgun’s Government by a section of the military class belonging to the Southern (or, as the Japanese would say, Western) clans. The cry of “Honour the Sovereign” derived much of its efficacy from the appeal to drive out foreigners which accompanied it. The abolition of feudalism was mainly an afterthought.

Other outstanding features, taken in the order of events, are the Satsuma rebellion (in which the progressive element in the clan supported the Government); the establishment of parliamentary government; treaty revision, in which Great Britain took the lead; 305the war with China and that with Russia; the annexation of Korea; and, more recently, the Great War.

Had the Satsuma insurgents triumphed when they rose in rebellion, the new direction given to Japanese policy would have been arrested, with results very different from anything we see to-day. With the establishment of parliamentary government, which came into force together with the Constitution, Japan broke finally with her past traditions and came into line with Western countries. The conclusion of the new Treaty between Great Britain and Japan, which was followed by the conclusion of similar treaties with other foreign Powers, put a stop to the mischievous agitation concerning Treaty revision which had long troubled the Government. The war with China, which increased Japanese territory and material resources, revealed a military strength unsuspected abroad, and gave Japan a new and commanding position in the Far East. Of still greater importance were the results of the Russo-Japanese war. It changed the whole face of Far Eastern affairs, and won for Japan admission to the ranks of Great Powers. By the annexation of Korea Japan added to her military security, and removed what in past years had been a constant source of disturbance in Far Eastern affairs. How the financial position of Japan has been affected by the Great War, and the expansion of territory she has acquired, we have seen. As to what further consequences for her may result from the defeat of Germany, the collapse of Russia and the newly awakened interest of the United States in foreign questions, all that can safely be said is that indulgence in speculations on this point will find little assistance from analogies looked for in the past.

To the question, How much in Japan has been changed? an answer is difficult. Outwardly, of course, the effects of the wholesale adoption of much of the material civilization of the West are very plain. Whether these effects extend much deeper is another matter. Japan, it must be borne in mind, is in a state of transition. The new ideas imported from abroad exist side by side with the old, so that the former balance of things has disappeared. Two instances taken from the highest and lowest circles will serve to illustrate the conflict still going on between the old and new cultures. The Gregorian Calendar adopted in 1873 for official purposes counts for little in agricultural operations, and in the pilgrimages and religious festivals which play so important a part in Japanese life. 306These are still conducted according to the old calendar. This is not surprising, for the interior of Japan has only been open to foreign residence and trade since 1899, the date when the revised treaties came into operation. Since then, moreover, foreign trade has continued to move in the grooves first created, the so-called Treaty ports, the rest of the country having been affected but little by foreign intercourse. A similar contrast is noticeable in ceremonial procedure. On certain State occasions the Sovereign performs the functions of a European monarch in accordance with the formalities of European Courts. On others, acting as high priest in the shrine attached to the palace, he conducts a Shintō service according to a ritual so ancient as to be almost unintelligible, and quite out of keeping with the modern ideas which the nation has adopted. It would be in no way surprising to those who have studied Japanese progress in the last fifty years of foreign intercourse if in the not distant future the present Civil Code, based on that of Saxony, were to be revised with the object of bringing it more into harmony with Japanese tradition and sentiment.



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The Inner History of the Critical Years in the Evolution of Japan when the Ports were opened and the Monarchy restored, recorded by a Diplomatist who took an active part in the events of the time, with an account of his personal experiences during that period
P.C., G.C.M.G., LL.D., D.C.L.
British Minister at Peking, 1900–5
Formerly Secretary of the British Legation at Tōkiō.

The Family Crest of the Tokugawa Shōguns.

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  1. Silently corrected obvious typographical errors and variations in spelling.
  2. Retained archaic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as printed.