Japan The Rise of a Modern Power

General Information

Dear readers,

NihonSeiko consists of two Japanese words: Nihon(日本) meaning Japan and Seiko(成功) meaning Success. So, this website is dedicated to Japan The Rise of a Modern Power by Robert P. Porter published in 1918, which highlights Japan's success in transforming itself from an isolated country to a military power within only half a century, culminating in the defeat of the powerful Russia in 1905.

This book has been digitalized and made available on Archive.org. The scanning process resulted in many strange characters, spelling errors, poor quality pictures, and other problems in the file. I have tried to correct as many errors as I could find, but you may still find other issues occasionally. I hope you'll accept the imperfections but still find value in reading this story.

The images on this website are taken from https://pixabay.com/en/samurai-warrior-japanese-sword-2306032/ and http://archive.org/stream/cu31924012910893#page/n367/mode/2up.

K. C. Lee
Story Collector
June 18, 2013
Email: kc at Silbird dot com


My father died while this book was in an incomplete state, although the greater part of it was in type ; and it is owing to the kindness of several of his friends who have consented to put the work into final form that it has become possible to publish it.

In writing it his object was to describe, for English-speaking people, the main facts of Japanese history. Despite the efforts of numerous Orientalists to popularize knowledge of Japanese history and of Japanese political, economic, and social conditions, he felt that a great deal has yet to be done before the average British youth and adult will be as familiar with Japan as the average Japanese youth and adult are with Great Britain. As Viscount Chinda, the Japanese Ambassador to the Court of St. James, said in addressing the British present at a meeting of, the Japan Society held in iiondon on December 13, 1916, although there never had been a time when the ' bonds of fraternal feelings ' between the Japanese and the British had been so strong, ' you do not know one-tenth as much about us as we do about you '. Obviously, therefore, there is room for another - many another - book in English tracing the evolution of Japan, and pointing out the salient features of the Japanese civilization of to-day.

In the present work an endeavour is made to explain how it has come to pass that an Oriental people, isolated for several centuries from other races, and from a naval, military, and financial standpoint almost as impotent as Burmah or Siam, was able in the half-century from 1853 to 1903 to outstrip all other native Asiatic Powers and to bring into being naval and military forces capable, in 1904, and 1905, of defeating the whole of the Russian Fleet and a large section of the Russian Army. The first part traces the course of Japanese history from 660 b. c. down to the surrender of Kiao-Chau by the Germans to the Japanese and British in November 1914, while the second contains chapters on the physical characteristics and population, the resources and industrial progress, the trade and internal communications, the development of the Army and Navy, and the literature and art of Japan.

My father was well aware that he had omitted much of great interest, and he referred any one desirous of studying Japanese history and Modern Japan in greater detail to such works as the monumental History of the Japanese People of Captain Brinkley and Baron Kikuchi, Marquis Okuma's Fifty Years of New Japan, Murdoch and Yamagata's History of Japan, the writings of Professor Longford, Sir E. Satow, Mr. B. H. Chamberlain, and Dr. W. G. Aston, and his own Japan, the New World Power. He wished to express his obligations, among others, to Mr. James B. Rye, who is largely responsible for the historical portions of the book ; to the Proprietors of The Times for allowing him to use various excerpts from the Japanese Sections of The Times, including the map of Japan which appears at the beginning of Chapter I ; to Professor Haga, of the Imperial University, Tokyo, who kindly read portions of the proofs ; and to Mr, Honda, the Counsellor of the Japanese Embassy in London, for the friendly interest he has taken in the work.

Last, but not least, I must thank his friend and colleague, Mr. H. M. Ross, for his kindness in attending to the many details in connexion with seeing the book through the press.

August, 1917. Russell H. Porter.


The gigantic struggle at present proceeding in Europe and the Near East has necessarily modiiied the attitude of the British towards foreign races. Before August 1914 it had become the fashion to lay undue stress on such comparatively unimportant matters as the colour of human beings, the shape of their heads, and the form of their languages. Thus it was supposed, because most Germans were white-skinned, becatise their faces and skulls were like those of many Englishmen, because they spoke a language akin to our own, that, therefore, the Germans did not differ in essential respects from the inhabitants of the British Isles of Teutonic descent.

Asiatics, Africans, and Polynesians were regarded by many as our inferiors. Christ, it is true, was born in Palestine, Mahomet in Arabia, Buddha in India, and Confucius in China ; but, though the vast majority of the inhabitants of the British Empire and the larger half of the Indian Army were Asiatics, and though from 1902 onwards we had been in alliance with the Japanese, no British statesman before August 1914 would have cared to admit that his spiritual home was in Asia.

Among the non-European races who have rallied to the cause of civilization, the most important and interesting is unquestionably the Japanese. It is difficult to over-estimate the debt which we owe them. The Japanese leaders had profoundly studied the military history and organization of Germany, and fully understood the enormous strength of the Central European Powers, though Japan had never fought against Germany or her Allies until August 1914. Germany, indeed, had encouraged Russia and France to wrest from Japan the fruits of her victory over China in 1894-5, and the Kaiser's treacherous warning that Europeans should prepare against a ' Yellow Peril ' had been an insult to Japan as well as to China. If the Japanese had been the Bulgarians or Turks of the Far East, they would surely have been discovered to be in secret alliance with the Germans. Had they taken their stand by Germany, the whole course of the war would have been changed. It is doubtful if British troops could have been safely transported from Australia, New Zealand, or India to fight in Europe. A large portion of the Allied fleets would have had to be stationed in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, and the danger of naval defeats in the North Sea would have been correspondingly increased. Japanese guns and gunners would not have been before Warsaw in November 1914 ; and Japan, instead of being, as it happened, an arsenal and workshop for the Allies, would have been a base from which German and Japanese men-of-war would have preyed on their shipping.

It is not, however, solely or mainly because of our debt to Japan that we ought to study her history and become familiar with her civilization. Separated by a hundred or so miles of sea from Corea, by five times that distance of sea from China, and by the Pacific Ocean from America, the islands ruled over by the Mikado have been a laboratory in which a unique type of human being and a unique type of culture have been produced. The history of Japan, like the history of Ancient Greece, has for us Occidentals of the twentieth century an educational value of the highest importance. We can measure our moral, aesthetic, and intellectual progress by the standard of Japan before she adopted Western manners and methods, and benefit greatly by observing the attitude in recent times of this highly intelligent and progressive nation towards Western civilization.