Japan's Success


4. Chapter 4

From the Closing to the Opening of Japan

Thus Japan, a year before the death of Galileo and the birth of Newton, cut herself o£F from the rest of the human race. The French under Louis XIV's minister, Colbert, the English in the reign of Charles II, and the Russians in the second half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century vainly endeavoured to open commercial relations with the Empire of the Rising Sun. It was left to the United States to break down the wall, through the Dutch loophole by which the Japanese statesmen kept a more or less vigilant eye on the external world. In 1853 Commodore Perry, by means of threats and presents, opened Japan to American trade. During the two centuries which witnessed the unification of the British Kingdom, the conversion of the governments in it into a constitutional semi-democratic monarchy, the gigantic development of the British Empire, and the colonization of North America by the English, Dutch, and French, the Japanese lived apart from the rest of mankind. The creation of the United States, the decadence of the Spanish and Turkish Empires, the emancipation of the Spanish colonies of Mexico, Central and South America, the rise and fall of Louis XIV's Empire, the French Revolution and the meteoric career of Napoleon, the extinction of Poland, the Europeanizing of Russia and the growth of Prussia were almost unheeded by the Japsese. Nevertheless, the vast changes mainly effected by the evolution of Occidental science from Galileo to Darwin did not pass entirely unnoticed by the Tokugawa Shoguns and their advisers.

Under the Shogun lyenobu (1709-12), Aral Hakuseki, the most eminent of the Japanese students of Confucianism, composed the Sairan Igen, the first work published in Japan dealing with the conditions of life in Occidental states. The enlightened Shogun Yoshimune, who ruled from 1716 to 1745 - that is, between the death of Louis XIV and the early years of the reign of Frederick the Great - removed the veto on the importation of Occidental books, other than Christian works, and a telescope was erected at Kanda through which Yoshimune himself surveyed the heavens.

The study of Dutch, too, was taken up, and a DutchJapanese dictionary compiled. A Universal Geografhy and a History of Russia were published in Japanese. The metamorphosis of Russia under Peter the Great and his successors, and her territorial expansion eastwards had, doubtless, attracted the curiosity or alarm of Japanese statesmen. By the date when Perry forced American goods on the unwilling subjects of the Shogun and Mikado, the Japanese could read in their own language biographies of Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Peter the Great, and Napoleon, the ' Pretender Mikado of France '.

1 For the details of the careers of the Shoguns who succeeded lyemitsu, I refer the reader to the work of Captain Brinkley and Baron Kikuclii.

The two centuries during which the Japanese were preserved by their Shoguns from contact with Occidentals were very far from being a period of mere hibernation. Gibbon and Mommsen have belauded society under the pagan Caesars, but it may fairly be argued that the Japanese between 1641 and 1853 were immeasurably happier and more civilized than the subjects of the Antonines. It should be remembered that we have no detailed description of the Roman Empire under the Antonines written by contemporary visitors to it, whereas we possess through the works of the German Kaempfer, who was in Japan in 1691 and 1692, and of the Swede Thunberg, who was there in 1775 and 1776, elaborate and critical reports on Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. The statements of Kaempfer and Thunberg can be tested by comparing them with those of European eye-witnesses, some of whom were in Japan immediately before its closing in 1641, and others immediately after its opening in 1853. Moreover, the Japanese records and literature of the Tokugawa epoch are far more copious than the extant Graeco-Roman records and literature of the era of the Antonines. The general impression produced by an examination of the evidence supports Kaempfer's view that the Japanese under the Tokugawa Shoguns were ' united and peaceable, and taught to give due worship to the Gods, due obedience to the laws, due submission to their superiors, due love and regard to their neighbours ', and that they were ' civil, obliging, dutiful, and in art and industry exceeding all other nations.' Kaempfer acutely .observes that it will ' appear in ages to come that they are not wanting prudence, resolution, and conduct in war. Not even the long peace, and profound tranquillity,' he continues, ' which the Empire now enjoys, is like to breed in the natives a certain slothfulness and inactivity, which might in time degenerate into effeminacy.' Political philosophers and political economists ought to pay particular attention to the condition of the Japanese under the Tokugawa Shoguns. Socialism, or something very like Socialism, was then tested on a large scale.

There was, however, a dark side to the picture. During the period in question women were degraded and the liberty of the average individual was restricted within narrow limits. As will have been gathered, the Japanese women of earlier ages played an important part in public life, and Japan from Yoritomo to lyeyasu had given birth to men and women of striking originality. ' I was one day,' said the late Dr. W. G. Aston, ' walking with the late Count Terashima, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, in one of those beautiful creations of the landscape gardener's art which abound in Tokyo. He pointed to a grove of fir trees standing by an artificial lake, which had been trimmed and trained by generations of gardeners into quaint and not unpleasing but stunted shapes. " There," he said, " is an emblem of the Japanese nation under the Tokugawa Shogunate ".' Though one may acquiesce in Count Terashima's implied condemnation of lyeyasu's system, it must be admitted that in comparison with most other societies in which the individual has been subordinated to the State, society in Japan under the Tokugawa Shoguns was most admirably organized.

The order of things established by lyeyasu and his successors, however, had been already undermined when it was finally attacked from without by Americans and Europeans. During the second half of the seventeenth century, Mitsukani (1628-1700), a grandson of the Shogun lyeyasu, with the aid of numerous scholars, composed in Chinese a gigantic History of Great Japan (Dai-Nihon-sht) in 240 volumes. This compilation, which at once became a standard work, revealed to the Japanese the origins of the existing form of government - how the power of the Mikado had been gradually encroached upon and reduced to insignificance between the days of Yoritomo and Mitsukani's grandfather, the first of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

1 It was not, however, printed till 1851.

Like the Dictionary of Pierre Bayle in the seventeenth century, the Dai-Nihon-shi was the precursor of a revolution in religious ideas. Before the introdiiction into Japan of Chinese philosophy in the third and of Buddhism in the sixthcentury a. d., the religion of the Japanese appears to have been 'Shintoism, the cardinal features of which were the worship of the spirits of ancestors and of the Mikado, who symbolized for the Japanese the spirit of their race. Buddhism had been amalgamated with Shintoism and had ousted Chinese philosophy, but under the early Tokugawa Shoguns the ethical system of the Neo-Confucian Chu Hi (1130-1200), which was as much divorced from the superTiatural as Epicureanism, had supplanted that of Buddhistic Shintoism. An admirable exposition of Japanized Confucianism will be found in the samurai Ise Teijo's ' ethical bequest' to his descendants written in 1763, a work which should be studied by the side of Lord Chesterfield's letters to his son.2

1 The nature of the religion of the Japanese before they were influenced by the Chinese and the Coreans is a matter of dispute.

2 See Transactions of the Japan Society, twenty-fifth Session, 1915-16, pp. 128-56, where a translation of Teijo's ' Ethica Bequest ' will be found, with Mr. J. Carey Hall's comments on it. Mr. Hall was for many years British Consul-General at Yokohama.

Largely as a consequence of the study of the DaiNihon-shi, a reaction began against both Confucianism and Buddhism, and, with the reaction, a revival of pure Shintoism and of genuine worship of the Mikados. Kada Azumamaro (1668-1736) focussed the attention of the Japanese on the earliest records of their race - the ' Record of Ancient Things ' (Kojiki), composed about a. d. 700, and the eighth-century collection of poems known as the ' Myriad Leaves ' {Manyoshu). The language of these documents was to the Japanese of the eighteenth century as archaic as that of Beowulf and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to ourselves. Azumamaro made a linguistic ladder by which his countrymen could mount to them. He averred that in the Manyo-shu, and not in Chinese-inspired poetry, the Japanese could discover ' the ancient principles of the divine age '. His aim was to bring back writers to the faithful representation of realities. ' The expression of fictitious sentiment ', he said, ' about the relations of the sexes and miscellaneous subjects is not genuine poetry.'

A younger contemporary of Azumamaro, the scholarphilosopher Kamo Mabuchi (1679-1769), was of a more practical nature. He boldly championed the Japanese ethical system and contrasted it to its advantage with that of China. The Chinese philosophy, he pointed out, had caused parricides, murders, and rebellions. 'A philosophy which produces such effects ', he continued, ' must be founded on a false system.' What was evil in Japan was a consequence of the adoption of Chinese ideas and customs. It was owing to this that the Mikado, * while occupying a highly dignified place, had been degraded to the intellectual level of a woman '. The Chinese, being bad at heart, were only good externally, but the Japanese ' being straightforward, could do without teaching '.

' It had been alleged ', he observed, ' that because the (Ancient) Japanese had no names for " benevolence " " righteousness ", " propriety ", " sagacity ", and " truth ", they were immoral savages. ' But these things ', he said, ' exist in every country, in the same way as the four seasons.'

The reasoning of Mabuchi was developed by Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801). Japan, declared Norinaga, was the country ' which gave birth to the Goddess of the Sun '. Her grandson was the first Mikado, the eternal endurance of whose dynasty was a complete proof that Shintoism was infinitely superior to all other religions. In ancient language the Mikado, he said, was called a god, and that was his real character. Duty consisted in obeying him implicitly. It was the influence of the Chinese which had caused disobedience to the god-sovereign.

Norinaga vehemently opposed the Chinese doctrines that miracles did not happen, and that gods did not exist. Wondrous miracles surrounded us on all sides. ' According to one Chinese theory ', he said, * the earth is a globe suspended in space with the heavens revolving round it. But even if we suppose ', he went on, ' that the heavens are fuU of air, no ordinary principles will account for the land and sea being suspended in space without moving.' If the air surrounding the earth was infinite, it could have no centre and, if it had no centre, it was impossible to understand why the earth should be at rest. If, however, the air was finite, what caused it to condense in one particular spot f The fact that many of the gods were not now and never had been visible furnished no argument against their existence. Existence could be made known to us by other senses than that of sight, while the wind, which is neither seen, heard, nor smelt, was recognized by the impression which it made upon our bodies.

Norinaga was followed by Hirata Atsutane (1776-1843). According to this philosopher, it was ' from the fact of the divine descent of the Japanese people ' that their ' immeasurable superiority in courage and intelligence to the natives of other countries ' proceeded. The principles which animate the universe, he argued, were beyond the power of analysis. All that man could think and know was ' limited by the powers of sight, feeling, and calculation '.

Atsutane ridiculed Buddhism and Chinese philosophy. ' In modern times,' he observed, * men from countries lying far off in the West have voyaged all round the seas as their inclinations prompted them, and have ascertained the actual shape of the earth. They have discovered that the earth is round and that the sun and the moon revolve round it in a vertical direction, and it may be thus conjectured how full of errors are all the Chinese accounts, and how impossible it is to believe anything that professes to be determined a priori.

On ethical conduct Atsutane was sounder than on astronomy. The following passage is as fine as any to be fovtnd in the writings of Occidental moralists :

' The most fearful crimes which a man commits go unpunished by society so long as they are undiscovered, but they draw down on him the hatred of the invisible gods. The attainment of happiness by performing good acts is regulated by the same law. Even if the gods do not punish secret sins by the usual penalties of the law, they inflict diseases, misfortunes, short life, and extermination of the race. Never mind the praise or blame of fellow men, but act so that you need not be ashamed before the gods of the Unseen. If you desire to practise true virtue, learn to stand in awe of the Unseen, and that will prevent you from doing wrong. Make a vow to the god who rules over the Unseen and cultivate the conscience implanted in you, and then you vvill never wander from the way. You cannot hope to live more than one hundred years in the most favourable circumstances, but as you will go to the unseen realm of Okuninushi after death, and be subject to his rule, learn betimes to bow down before heaven. The spirits of the dead continue to exist in the unseen world which is everywhere about us, and they all become gods of varying character and degrees of influence. Some reside in temples built in their honour ; others hover near their tombs, and they continue to render service to their princes, parents, wives and children as when in their body.'

It has been seen that the philosophical and religious ideas in Japan did not remain stagnant during her two centuries of retirement from the world. In other respects the Japanese by 1853 had advanced in many of the directions taken by the European pioneers of progress. Great architectural and engineering works - e. g. the providing in 1658 of Yedo with a good supply of water brought from a distance of thirty miles - had been undertaken. About 1683 the calendar had been reformed under the Shogun Tsunayoshi (i 680-1 709), genre pictures had come into favour, and Chikamatsu Monzayemon of Osaka, the ' Japanese Shakespeare ', had produced a number of remarkable plays.

The formal literature beloved by the samurai had also been supplemented by works written in Japanese for the common people. The credulity of Tsunayoshi caused for a time vegetarianism to flourish. Laws against taking animal life were promulgated. A dog's home covering an area of 138 acres was established at Yedo ; dancing and singing were cultivated as fine arts, and the edict of lyeyasu against the general use of palanquins repealed. At the date of the death of Tsunayoshi the martial spirit of the samurai had somewhat declined.

Japan under Tsunayoshi has been depicted as follows by the German traveller Engelbert Kaempfer, who entered the service of the Dutch East India Company as physician, and twice (in 1691 and 1692) journeyed from Nagasaki to Yedo:

' The country is populous beyond expression, and one would scarce think it possible that, being no greater than it is, it should nevertheless maintain and support such a vast number of inhabitants. The highways are an almost continued row of villages and boroughs. You scarce come out of one but you enter another ; and you may travel many miles, as it were, in one street, without knowing it to be composed of many villages, but by the differing names, that were formerly given them, and which they afterwards retain, though joined to one another. It has many towns, the chief of which may vie with the most considerable in the world for largeness, magnificence, and the number of inhabitants. One of the chief is called Kyoto, that is the Town or Metropolis, and is the seat of the ecclesiastical hereditary Emperor. To traverse it lengthways takes about three hours walking : to cross it, two. It is very regularly built, aU the streets being cut at right angles. Yedo, properly the capital of the whole empire, and the seat of the secular monarch, is so large that I may venture to say it is the biggest town known. , I can affirm this from my own certain knowledge, for we were one whole day riding at a moderate pace from Sinagawa, where the suburb begins, along the chief street, which goes across, a little irregularly indeed, to the other end of the town.'

Kaempfer's description of the houses in Osaka may also be quoted :

1 I can myself vouch for the accuracy of this description. - R. P. P.

' The houses are, according to the standing laws and custom of the country, not above two stories high, each story of one fathom and a half, or two fathoms. They are built of wood, lime, and clay. The front offers to the spectator's eye the door, and a shop where the merchants sell their goods, or else an open room, where handicraftsmen and artificers, openly and in everybody's sight, exercise their trade and manufactures. From the upper end of the shop, or room, hangs down a piece of black cloth, partly for ornament, partly to defend them, in some measure, from the wind and injuries of the weather. At the same place hang some fine patterns of what is sold in the shop. The roof is flat, and in good houses covered with black tiles laid in lime. The roofs of ordinary houses are covered only with shavings of wood. All the houses are kept within doors clean and neat to admiration, though they have no tables, stools, or any other such furniture, as our European rooms are furnished with. The staircases, rails, and all the wainscoting are varnished. The floors are covered with neat mats and carpets. The rooms are separated from each other by screens, upon removal of which several small rooms may be enlarged into one, or the contrary done if needful. The walls are hung with shining paper, curiously painted with gold and silver flowers. The upper part of the wall, for some inches down from the celling, is commonly left empty, and only clayed with an orange-coloured clay, which is dug up about this city, and is, because of its beautiful colour, exported into several other remote provinces. The mats, doors, and screens are all of the same size, to wit, one fathom long, and half a fathom broad. The houses themselves, and their several rooms, are built proportionately according to a certain number of mats, more or less. There is commonly a curious garden behind the house, with an artificial hill and a variety of flowers, such as I have described elsewhere. Behind the garden is the bathing-stove, and sometimes a vault, or rather a small room with strong walls of clay and lime, there to preserve, in case of fire, the richest household goods and furniture.'

Yoshimune (1716-45), the eighth of the Tokugawa Shoguns, whose interest in Occidentahsm has been already noticed, perceived the danger Japan ran through the spread of pacificism. He lived simply and did all he could to resuscitate bushido. This prescient statesman revived the sport of hawking, invented a new game, 'horse hunting', and insisted on the samurai learning to swim. His Chief Justice, Ooka Tadasuke, was the Lord Eldon of Japan, and the first real Japanese code was at this epoch compiled by the jurist Norimura. Old works were collected and manuscripts ordered to be printed. The Gregorian calendar was translated into Japanese, and astronomy diligently studied.

Nor was Yoshimune neglectful of the development of Japan's natural resources. An arboriculturist, he planted several cherry and plum groves. He encouraged the cultivation of plants used for medicinal purposes, and of sugar, indigo, oranges, tobacco, and sweet potatoes. Large sums were spent on irrigation.and drainage.

The successors of Yoshimune were not of his intellectual and moral calibre, and towards the end of the eighteenth century the morality of the upper classes was again on the decline. Literature and art flourished. Kioden produced the first romantic novels in Japanese literature, e. g. the InadzumaBioshi, and the Japanese Dumas, Bakin, created a number of melodramatic masterpieces. Another novelist, Ikku, gave realistic descriptions of the life of his time. In painting, Okyo, indirectly influenced by the Dutch painters, ignored the old conventions and went direct to nature for inspiration. In the period between 1760 and 1810 wonderful portraits, landscapes, and colour prints were produced by a succession of artists, the most celebrated of whom was, perhaps, Hokusai. As is usual when literature and the arts flourish, the military virtues and morals declined. The samurai began to frequent theatres, and it was no longer considered dishonourable to be a dancing girl. From 1788 to 1793 the illustrious reformer, Sadanobu, tried to draw back his countrymen into the old paths. On his retirement there was a reaction which, if it had not been checked by the revival of Shintoism and of Mikado-worship, might have ended in leaving the Japanese morally too enfeebled to make the prodigious efforts required to save their country from being annexed by some European State.

While Hokusai was painting, an extraordinary transformation came over the Occidental world, and the Japanese, who had been provoked by the Russian occupation of Kamchatka and the Kurile Islands in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and later by the presence of Russian colonists in Sakhalien and even Yezo, began to realize that, in face of the monstrous machinery for locomotion and destruction then recently constructed by Occidentals, courage and intelligence alone would be of little avail. Large ships driven by steam-engines had been constructed, and the artillery and small-arms of Europeans and Americans were being improved out of all knowledge. Occidentals in small numbers had conquered nearly the whole of the densely populated Indian peninsula. The same Occidentals had forced the venerable China - also densely populated - to import their Indian opium, had seized the island of Hong Kong in 1839, obliged the Chinese in 1842 to open Canton, Amoy, Foo-chow, Ningpoo, and Shanghai to white-faced merchants. Yet the Chinese had treated the embassies of Earl Macartney in 1793 and of Lord Amherst in 1 8 16 with contempt ! In 1846 Occidentals of another race, some of whom may have served under the ' Pretender Mikado of France ', were trying to seduce the vassal kingdom of Ryukyu (the Loo-Choo Islands), lying between Japan and Formosa, from its allegiance to the Japanese Lord of Satsuma. The appearance in 1 85 1 of the Chinese fanatic Tien-teh, who gave out that he was the brother of Jesus and the second son of God, the rapid spread of Tien-teh's doctrines and the revolutionary movement known as the rebellion of the Taipings (Princes of Peace), gave ample food to the Japanese for reflection. In the year of the arrival of Commodore Perry the Taipings took Nankin, the ancient capital of China.

From the Japanese standpoint the Taiping rebellion was another demonstration of the danger of permitting Christianity to be established in Japan. Moreover, if the myriads and riches of China fell under the control of a Napoleon - (' Chinese ' Gordon with his ' ever-victorious army ' was to show that the Chinese, properly led, were formidable soldiers !) - Japan, with a population one-tenth of that of China, and with natural resources infinitely inferior to those of her giant neighbour, might find herself in extreme peril. Now the revival of Mikado-worship had rendered the Japanese less than ever inclined to become humble servants of the Manchu sovereigns.

Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Hayashi Shihei (who associated with the Dutch off Nagasaki) had published his Kai-Koku Hei-dan, in which he had advocated that the law prohibiting the building of ocean-going vessels should be repealed, and that the study of the coast defences of Japan should be at once taken in hand, so that the country should not be at the mercy of foreigners. Shihei had been thrown into prison and the type of his book destroyed; but his work had led to a survey of the coast, to sites for coast batteries being selected, and to the feudal chiefs being warned to expect the landing of armed foreigners. In 1825 an order was issued by the Shogun that any foreign vessels coming within range of the coast batteries should be fired upon, which order was modified in 1842 to the extent that ships driven into Japanese ports by stress of weather might be given food, water, and provisions. The order of 1825 had been acted upon on more than one occasion, notably in 1837, when the U.S.A. sailing ship Morrison arrived with Japanese castaways on board, and was driven from Kagoshima "by cannon-shot.

It was during the First Opium War that Shuhan Takashima of Nagasaki, following in the footsteps of Shihei, lodged a petition with the Shogun. He pointed out that Japan would suffer the same fate as China if she did not change her weapons and revise her theories of strategy and tactics. Should Japan neglect to reform her military system, he foretold that she would be soon invaded and conquered. Takashima obtained guns from HoUand and trained his followers in European methods. He resorted to Yedo, to exhibit the new tactics and to urge the introduction of his reforms. He and his pupil Egawa cast guns and took other steps for the defence of Japan. Arrested in 1842, he was cast into prison and died, but his efforts had not been vain. Egawa, continuing his work, won the confidence of the Shogun's government, and batteries commanding the entrance to the Bay of Yedo were planned. Big-grain gunpowder had been manufactured as early as 1825, but Egawa had imported from Belgium a more effective explosive. He died two years after Commodore Perry's arrival.

Japan was thus to some extent prepared for the violent intrusion of foreigners. The Dutch had, moreover, warned the Shogun's ministers that they might at any moment expect the visit of a British squadron, and the Netherlands government, which had taken over the now almost valueless monopoly of the Dutch East India Company, advised the Japanese voluntarily to open their ports. In 1847 the King of Holland sent to Yedo a number of books and a map of the world. Two years later he told the Japanese that an American fleet would appear within twelve months in their waters, and that refusal to trade would lead to immediate war. In 1846 Commodore Biddle, with an American ninety-gun ship of the line and a sloop, had anchored off Uraga and had applied for leave to trade. He had received a curt refusal, and the Washington government had sent a memorandum to the European States justifying an American expedition to Japan. The King of Holland enclosed a draft of the treaty which would presumably be submitted to the Shogun.

By this date the Tokugawa Shogunate was on the decline and the power of the Mikado reviving. Excellent in so many respects as had been the rule of the Shoguns from lyeyasu to lyeyoshi (d. 1853), they had, on the whole, been bad financiers. At the beginning of the eighteenth century the celebrated Arai Hakuseki, whose treatise on foreign states has already been referred to, had called attention to defects in the economic arrangements of Japan. He had exposed both the drain of precious metals from Japan caused by foreign commerce, and the currency problems consequent thereon. Hakuseki advised that the foreign trade of Nagasaki should be limited to thirteen Chinese junks and two Dutch vessels annually, and that smuggling at all costs should be prevented. The outflow of specie in exchange for dispensable luxuries, he considered, ought to be checked.

Hakuseki's advice had been taken and the New Nagasaki Trade Rules (1711-15) had been issued. They contained two hundred articles, one of which is worth quoting, because - composed some sixty years before the publication of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations- it throws light on the capacity of the Japanese, at a date soon after the creation of the English National Debt, the establishment of the Bank of England, and Newton's reform of the coinage, to reason on economic subjects.

'During the Jokyo era (1684-7), the trade with Chinese merchants was limited to 6,000 kwamme of silver, and that with Dutch traders to 50,000 ryo of gold, while the number of Chinese vessels was not allowed to exceed seventy per annum. After a few years, however, copper coins came into use as media of exchange in addition to silver, and moreover there was much smuggling of foreign goods. Thus, it resulted that gold, silver and copper flowed out of the country in great quantities. Comparing the aggregate thus exported during the 107 years since the Keicho era with the amount coined in Japan during the same interval, it is found that onequarter of the gold coins and three-quarters of the silver left the country. If that state of affairs continue, it is obvious that after a hundred years from the present time one-half of the empire's gold will be carried away and there will be no silver at all left. As for copper, the sum remaining in the country is insufficient, not only for the purposes of trade but also for the needs of every-day life. It is most regrettable that the nation's treasure should thus be squandered upon foreign luxuries. The amount of currency needed at home and the amount produced by the mines should be investigated so as to obtain a basis for limiting the foreign trade at the open ports of Nagasaki, Tsushima, and Satsuma, and for fixing the maximum number of foreign vessels visiting those places.'

The currency problem was a crucial one. Japanese nobles had issued paper money as early as 1661. But about 1 7 1 o they had been strictly prohibited to do this, and thenceforward Japan, in an age of growing mercantilism, had endeavoured to transact its commercial business with a purely metallic currency. Unfortunately, the gold mines in Sado and the silver mines at Ikuno, whose output in the days of Hideyoshi had enabled him to dispense largely with copper and iron coins and to place the coinage on a gold and silver basis, had begun to give out. The first two Tokugawa Shoguns, lyeyasu and Hidetada, had been economical, but lyemitsu was more open-handed. He spent considerable sums on building and entertainments, and constructed a huge warship. Under his successors extravagance, earthquakes, fires, and famines drained the treasury. The enormous gold reserve accumulated by lyetsuna - Shogun from 165 1 to 1680 - which partly consisted of gold coins stamped ' to be used only in cases of national emergency ', was freely drawn upon, and about the date when Sir Isaac Newton was reminting our English coins the Japanese currency was debased.

The sixth Tokugawa Shogun, lyenobu (1709-12), and his adviser, Hakuseki, endeavoured, as we have seen, to stop the drain of specie from Japan. In 1710 they improved the quality of the coins, but decreased their weight by onehalf. Yoshimune tried to restore the gold and silver coins to the quality and sizes of the Hideyoshi-Iyeyasu period, but he met with only a moderate degree of success. Towards the end of his career he had to revert to the old conditions, and smaller and less pure tokens were issued (1736-40). Under his successors there were further debasements of the coinage. In the first half of the nineteenth century the financial situation, says Captain Brinkley, was one of ' expenditures constantly exceeding income and of repeated recourse by the Bakufu to the fatal expedient of debasing the currency'.

1 The rule against the issue of paper money was, however, subsequently relaxed. At the fall of the Shogunate there was paper money of 1,600 different kinds.

Like the French monarchy under Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Shogunate in 1853 was in fact tottering to its fall. ' The priests ', cynically observed Napoleon, ' were respected because they were rich.' The Shoguns were not priests (the priest-emperor of Japan was the Mikado), and when they ceased to be looked upon as sources of emolument, it was natural that even so stoical a people as the Japanese should begin to dislike and despise them.

The position of the French government in the days immediately before the Revolution had been rendered difficult by a bread famine. In 1836 and subsequent years, owing to bad harvests, the price of rice and other cereals rose in Japan to an alarming extent. A police official, Oshio Heihachiro, who had sold everything he possessed to relieve the distress of the people, raised the standard of revolt at Osaka. The revolt failed. Heihachiro, with his son, committed suicide, but left behind him a statement charging the whole body of officials with corruption. He declared that the Mikado was treated as a nonentity, and that consequently the displeasure of the gods was being visited on Japan in the shape of natural calamities. The aged Shogun lyenari (1786-1837) had resigned in favour of his son lyeyoshi, whose Prime Minister, Mizuno, endeavoured by a series of drastic sumptuary laws to restore the austere manners of ancient times. This, known as the ' Tempo Reformation ', was a complete failure.

Meanwhile, in 1846- the year of the French encroachments in the Loo-Choo Islands - Komei, whowas the 121st Mikado, had ascended the throne at Kyoto, His father, the Mikado Ninko (1817-46), had established a college for the education of the nobles of the Kyoto court. The Shogunate had unwisely consented to, and financially aided, the foundation of this college, where young Japanese were taught to regard the Shogunate with hostile eyes. Komei was profoundly alarmed by the White Peril. Soon after his coronation he departed from all recent precedent by instructing the rulers at Yedo that the traditional policy of the Empire towards foreigners must be maintained. As that policy had been inaugurated by some of the most eminent of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the action of the patriotic Komei added to the Shogun's embarrassment. lyeyoshi and his advisers, however, gave way, and in future submitted all questions of foreign policy to the Mikado for decision.

Such was the political position in Japan when on July 7, 1853, Commodore Perry, with four men-of-war, sailed into Yedo Bay and dropped anchor off Uraga. The spirit in which the American expedition had been dispatched may be appreciated from the following note in a contemporary American journal : ' The Japan Expedition, according to a Washington correspondent ', said the New York Herald, * is to be merely a hydrographical survey of the Japanese coast. The 32-pounders are to be used merely as measuring instrurrients in the triangulations ; the cannon balls are for procuring base lines. If any Japanese is foolish enough to put his head in the way of these meteorological instruments, of course nobody will be to blame but himself if he should get hurt.'

Though Perry, to gild the American pill, carried with him as presents the electric telegraph and a model railway.

it is not surprising that the representatives of one of the proudest, most civilized and warlike peoples of the world acted on the Emperor Komei's orders and bade him depart to Nagasaki. He refused, and delivered at Yedo on July 14, 1853, the American President's letter to the Mikado. He then steamed away, threatening to return for an answer in a few months.

The embarrassment of the Shogun - lyeyoshi died during the negotiations with Perry, and was succeeded by lyesada - and his councillors may well be imagined. They were between the deep sea of public opinion represented by the Mikado and the 32-pounders of - to use a Chinese phrase - the ' foreign devils '. Forty-two years later, in 1895, a reformed Japan, fresh from her victories over the Chinese fleet and army, had the wisdom to capitulate before Germany, Russia, and France. In 1853 it must have seemed to enlightened Japanese statesmen suicidal not to comply with the sugared ultimatum of President Fillmore. The state of Japanese finances, the complete lack of modern ships of war, the small quantity of modern weapons in the islands, the trivial means available for manufacturing such weapons and ammunition, rendered it essential that a pacific solution to the direful problem with which they were confronted should be sought.

' Unless I tell you frankly about the condition of the Treasury', wrote one of the Shogun's councillors to the chief adviser of the Baron of Mito, * you cannot appreciate the situation. If you saw the accounts you would be startled, and would learn at a glance the hopelessness of going to war. The country could not hold oiit even for a twelvemonth, and there is nothing for it except that every one should join in saving money for purposes of equipment. If we keep the peace now and toil unremittingly for ten years, we may hope to restore the situation.'

Instead of deciding for themselves, the Shogun and his ministers summoned a council of the feudal chiefs. President Fillmore's letter was circulated among them and, they were invited to express their opinions. The great majority supported the Mikado's policy of maintaining Japanese isolation. The ultimate purpose of foreigners in visiting Japan, it was argued, was to reconnoitre the country. This had been proved by the action of the Russians in the north. What had been done by Western states in India and China would doubtless be done in Japan also if opportunity offered. Foreign trade impoverished the nation.

A small but influential minority of the nobles had the sense and courage to combat such views. In the absence of war-vessels, they pointed out, there were no means of defence except the coast batteries, practically non-existent. China and Holland had been left as bridges between Japan and the rest of the world. It would be wise to utilize those bridges and to gain time for preparations of defence, instead of blindly rushing into battle without any supply of effective weapons. The times had changed and the veto on foreign trade was no longer advisable. The best course would be for Japan to avail herself of the services of the Dutch middlemen, and to lose no time in furnishing herself with powerful men-of-war and with sailors and gunners capable of navigating and fighting such vessels. The strictest economy should be exercised by all classes of the people so as to provide funds for the building of a navy and for the fortification of the coasts.

The Shogun and his council sided with the minority, but stated in their decree that, if hostilities were forced on Japan, ' all must take up arms and fight strenuously for the country'. The batteries at Shinagawa, protecting the approaches to Yedo, were strengthened. Other batteries were established along the coasts of Musashi, Sagami, Awa, and Kazusa. Further, the law prohibiting the construction of ocean-going ships was rescinded. The Dutch were asked to import a library of useful European books. Cannon were cast, troops drilled, and Japanese experts in European knowledge favoured by the government.

When Perry returned in February 1854, Japan had already entered on the path up which she was to mount to her present powerful position, and on March 31, 1854, signed a treaty with the United States, which was speedily followed by similar treaties with Great Britain, with Russia, and with Holland. But foreigners did not actually secure the right to trade in Japan till 1858, when through the efforts chiefly of Mr. Townsend Harris, the first American Consul-General in Japan, a commercial treaty between Japan and the United States was concluded - without the Mikado's consent.

The arguments of Harris were greatly strengthened by the results of the Second Opium War (1856-60). A Chinese fleet was destroyed by Commodore Elliot on May 25, 1857, Canton bombarded by the British and French in the December of that year. In May 1858 the Allies took the Peiho forts and reached Tientsin, within easy distance of Peking. By the Treaty of Tientsin (June) the importation of opium into China was legalized, and admission of foreign ambassadors to the Imperial court and toleration of Christianity granted. This object-lesson was not lost on the Japanese, and when, later in the year, Lord Elgin arrived at Yedo, he found the Japanese anxious and willing to negotiate in a friendly spirit. Lord Elgin's picture of Japan at the moment when she was beginning to be Occidentalized is a pleasing one :

' On the whole, I consider it the most interesting expedition I ever made. The total absence of anything like want among the people ; their joyous though polite and respectful demeanour ; the combination of that sort of neatness and finish which we attain in England by the expenditure of great wealth, with tropical luxuriance, made me feel that at last I had found something which entirely surpassed all the expectations I had formed. And I am bound to say, that the social and moral condition of Japan has astonished me quite as much as its material beauty. Every man, from the Emperor (who never leaves his palace) to the humblest labourer, lives under a rigid rule, prescribed by law and custom combined ; and the Government, through its numerous agents, among whom are hosts of spies, or more properly inspectors (for there is no secrecy or concealment about this proceeding), exercises a close surveillance over the acts of each individual ; but, in so far as one can judge, this system is not felt to be burdensome by any. All seem to think it the most natural thing in the world that they should move in the orbit in which they are placed. The agents of authority wear their two swords ; but, as they never use them except for the purpose of ripping themselves up, the privilege does not seem to be felt to be invidious. My interpreter, a Dutchman, lent to me by the United States Consul-General, has been two years in the country, and he assures me that he never saw a Japanese in a passion and never saw a parent beat a child. An inexhaustible fund of good temper seems to prevail in the community. Whenever in our discussions on business we get on rough ground, I always find that a joke brings us at once upon the level again. Yesterday, at a formal audience with the Foreign Ministers (to settle about the handing over the yacht), they began to propose that, in addition to the Commissioners, I should allow some other officers (probably spies or inspectors) to be present at our discussions on the clauses of the Treaty. After treating this seriously for some moments, without settling it to their satisfaction, I at once carried the day, by saying laughingly, that as they were six to one already, they ought not to desire to have more chances in their favour. This provoked a counter-laugh and a compliment, and no more was said about the spies. When the Commissioners came yesterday afternoon to go through the clauses of the Treaty with me, I was much pleased with the manner in which they took to their work, raising questions and objections in a most business-like manner, but without the slightest appearance of captiousness or a desire to make difficulties. . . . There is no luxury or extravagance in any class. No jewels or gold ornaments even at court ; but the nobles have handsome palaces, and large bodies of retainers. A perfectly paternal government, a perfectly filial people ; a commxmity entirely self-supporting ; peace within and without ; no want, no ill-will between classes. This is what I find in Japan in the year 1858, after one [sic] hundred years' exclusion of foreign trade and foreigners. Twenty years hence what will be the contrast ? . . . I feel a sort of terror when I contemplate my return to China. My trip to Japan has been a green spot in the desert of my mission to the East. . . . We are again plunging into the China Sea, and quitting the only place which I have left with any feeling of regret since I have reached this abominable East. . . . The exceeding external beauty of Japan, and its singular moral and social picturesqueness, cannot but leave a pleasing impression on the mind. One feels as if the position of a Daimyo in Japan might not be a bad one, with two or three millions of vassals ; submissive, but not servile, because there is no contradiction between their sense of fitness and their position.'

The reader who has followed my brief exposition of Japanese history will not have been astonished at Lord Elgin's account of his experiences.