Recent Books on Japan

FEW countries have been subjected to more varied comment than Japan. Her unique art and art industries, her laborious task of national reorganization, her successful war with China and the impetus it has given to her commerce and industry, and the position she has won in the comity of nations, have maintained unabated the interest which she first aroused when Commodore Perry returned from his memorable mission. Moreover, the beauty of the country and the quaint manners and customs of its people have attracted visitors from all quarters of the globe, and spread its fame throughout the world. And, naturally, Japan has been described in countless books of travel ; she has been criticised in every mood and humor ; she has been lavishly extolled and as unsparingly condemned ; she has even been decried by some for the very qualities which have elicited from others unbounded admiration. This diversity of opinions is especially marked in those critics who rely confidently upon their few weeks’ acquaintance with the country, and, by mistaking personal idiosyncrasies for national characteristics, jump to utterly erroneous conclusions. For your tourist always comes to Japan on the tenters of curiosity and expectation, and lets his first impression on touching land decide the frame of mind in which he shall take all his experiences in the country. But the judicious observer, whether he be a resident or a traveler, is more temperate in praise and censure. He knows that the virtues and vices of a nation are fairly balanced, and impartial judgment enjoins moderation in speaking of any people. Nor has he the globe-trotter’s assurance ; for he is aware that a thorough knowledge of a country can only be obtained by such diligent application as would demand more time than he could spare. This is most certainly the case in Japan ; for were he even bent upon serious study, he would be discouraged at every turn by the difficulties of the language, and deterred by the consequent lack of opportunity for social intercourse from ever attempting to do for Japan what M. Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu has done for Russia, and Mr. Courtenay Bodley for France. Yet it must be admitted that these obstacles notwithstanding, there are plenty of books on Japan, which, if not exhaustive in treatment, are at least full of interest. They have of late been especially numerous; and I propose, in the following pages, to bring to the reader’s notice a few of the more recent.

Mr. W. G. Aston is well known as an earnest student of the classical literature of Japan, and in his History of Japanese Literature,1 published last year in the Literatures of the World series, he has amply justified his reputation. He has given a lucid history of Japanese literature from the earliest times to our own day, and has made a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the world’s literature which will not fail to interest even those who learn for the first time that Japan has a literature twelve centuries old, and that the golden prime of her letters was contemporaneous with the Norman Conquest of England. Mr. Aston’s literary judgments are generally sound and admirable ; and when I consider how difficult it must be to produce a pioneer work of this kind, I hesitate to express my dissent from some of his criticisms. In the hope, however, that he will, in a future edition, reconsider them, I venture to mention a few important points on which I cannot indorse his views.

Mr. Aston appears to be too severe in his condemnation of what have been called “ pivot-words.” A pivot-word, it may be premised, has been defined by Professor Basil Hall Chamberlain, the originator of the term, as “ a word of two significations, which serves as a species of hinge on which two doors turn, so that while the first part of the poetical phrase has no logical end, the latter part has no logical beginning.” A pivot-word resembles a pun in being a play on words, but differs from it in that whereas the pun is a word or phrase in a single sentence, the pivot-word becomes, by suggesting a new train of thought, the starting point of another sentence without completing the first. While the first sentence is thus left imperfect, the second often lacks a grammatical commencement. A pivot-word, in short, is a word of double sense connecting two elliptical sentences. Such a construction is inconceivable in an inflective language ; but in an agglutinate language like Japanese, which has not the same definite grammatical structure, it is a poetical device of frequent occurrence. Moreover, Japanese does not admit of a string of consonants which are slurred in pronunciation as in English, but requires each sound to be distinctly pronounced as if it were a syllable. An English monosyllable would generally be transliterated into a polysyllable in Japanese ; and since there is a limit to the number of syllables in a word, it naturally follows that syllabic combinations are fewer in Japanese than in English. The result is that Japanese is peculiarly rich in homonyms, and consequently offers an extensive field for the punster’s art. This fact, added to the loose grammatical structure, has encouraged word-plays to an extent impossible in a language with fewer homonyms and stricter grammar. And it would not be fair to judge the literary value of these jeux-de-mots by any other than the standard of a language which has never, in the course of its development, put word-plays in the lowest category of wit; for to the Japanese the word-play always gives a pleasurable sensation when it occurs in light literature, especially in sentimental poetry and poetical prose, where the manner counts for more than the matter. And Mr. Aston, in his wholesale condemnation of word-plays, does not appear to make allowance for the peculiarities of the Japanese language, which has too little in common to offer ground for comparison with an inflective language. The pivot-word, as it occurs in Japanese, may, it seems to me, be legitimately employed so long as the meaning is not obscured by the sudden deflection of thought or by the ellipsis of the pivoted sentences.

Mr. Aston’s estimate of Chikamatsu Monzayemon and the Japanese lyrical drama leaves much to be desired. With his wide knowledge of the Japanese classics, he seems to have caught something of the Japanese classicist’s prejudice against light literature. And in his criticism of Japanese drama and comic literature, we miss the sound sense which marks the chapters devoted to the more serious phases of literature. He is also more guarded in his views. Thus, while he ridicules the idea that Chikamatsu can be compared with Shakespeare, he admits none the less that a European writer should speak with reserve of Chikamatsu’s merits. But when we Japanese call Chikamatsu the Shakespeare of our country, we refer rather to his supreme position in our dramatic literature than to any resemblance in the genius of the two dramatists. Mr. Aston thinks he can detect a certain likeness between them ; but as they moved in totally different worlds, and wrote under utterly dissimilar circumstances, it would be as well not to look for a fanciful analogy. Chikamatsu lived when feudalism was at its height. He wrote for puppet shows, for which he had, besides giving the dialogue, to explain the movements and emotions in fitting poetical language ; hence his plays abound in descriptive passages, which are chanted to the accompaniment of the samisen. He wrote most of his plays for Gidayu, a musical composer and puppet player, after whom these lyrical plays are to this day called gidayu. Of about a hundred plays attributed to Chikamatsu, more than three quarters relate to well-known historical events, in which he followed, perhaps too closely, the popular traditions ; and to this desire to humor the rude tastes of his patrons we must largely attribute the crudity of his plots, of which Mr. Aston rightly complains. The remaining quarter are known as domestic dramas, and are founded upon contemporary events. In those days, when newspapers were yet unknown, the petty incidents of life made more lasting impressions than they do now ; and Chikamatsu would, whenever he heard of any exceptional occurrence, dash off a play on the subject and produce it before the public interest had died out. His domestic dramas, for this reason, deal mostly with murders, lovers’ suicides, and other sensational events. Crudity and hurried work were unavoidable. It is not, however, for his plots so much as for his command of the language and the remarkable use he makes of it that Chikamatsu is considered the first of our dramatists. It is hardly fair, therefore, to present a bare outline of one of his plays, as Mr. Aston has done, for that can give no idea of the qualities to which he owes his preeminence. His greatness, in the opinion of his countrymen, lies in the rhythmic beauty of expression and the grace of imagery.

Mr. Aston’s statement that after the end of the eighteenth century, joruri, of which gidayu is one form, became practically extinct, is open to misconstruction ; for though few plays of note, it is true, have been written during the present century, the representation of gidayu on the stage is more popular than ever, and among the favorite musical entertainments at the present time is the singing of scenes from gidayu. Mr. Aston also dismisses the kyakuhon, or prose drama, with the assertion that it has no literary merit. But here again he seems to betray the classicist’s bias; for in the prose drama, which consists entirely of dialogue, the style is necessarily colloquial, and that is a blemish in the eyes of the classicist who has no taste but for the scholar’s language, a consequence inevitable in the evolution of a tongue in which there is a wide divergence between the written and the spoken language. There have, nevertheless, been many plays of great merit produced by the long line of prose dramatists from Tsuuchi Jihei, who died in 1760, to Kawatake Mokuami (1816— 1893).

To the Hizakurige, the most humorous book in the Japanese language, Mr. Aston pays a worthy tribute. He calls it the Pickwick Papers of Japan ; but takes exception to it because it has no serious side, and its humor is not intensified by contrast, as in the delineation of Sir John Falstaff and Bottom the weaver. Surely this is illogical; for one is tempted to ask if the Pickwick Papers have a serious side. Do we not enjoy Pickwick because it is broad farce from cover to cover ? And if no one complains of want of seriousness in Dickens’s famous work, why should it be accounted a fault in Ikku’s masterpiece, with which it is compared ? Indeed, the usual defect of books of humor cannot be charged against the Hizakurige, for its chief merit is the spontaneity of its humor. It is certainly in many passages obscene; but Mr. Aston goes too far when he says that for indecency of speech and conduct even Rabelais hardly affords an adequate comparison. It would be easy to find in Rabelais passages far more indecent than any in the Hizakurige. Rabelais, moreover, goes out of his way to indulge in ribaldry. Ikku, on the other hand, seldom takes to indecency for its own sake ; he simply says whatever occurs to him, without giving a thought to the question of its decency. With him every other consideration is subordinated to humor. He tells coarse stories with the naïveté of a Brantôme, though he is not half so indecorous as the author of La Vie des Dames Galantes. Ikku has been called the Japanese Rabelais by another English writer ; but the Japanese is a humorist pure and simple, and does not lay claim to the wit, satire, and erudition of the great Frenchman. Mr. Aston sets up a false standard of comparison when he trots out Shakespeare to measure Ikku’s capacity. It is well, no doubt, to have always before us a high literary ideal; but we do not need it in taking count of that large class of writers who, without being intellectual giants, have given delight to millions of readers. No, if we must find a European parallel to the Hizakurige, we should seek it among the works of the old French and Italian conteurs, Bandello, Straparola, La Salle, and Des Périers.

Mr. Aston’s survey of the post-revolutionary literature is far from satisfactory. It is wanting in proportion. Though it would be difficult to give an adequate review in forty pages, still we miss many well-known names, and would have gladly exchanged some of the writers who appear as representatives of our contemporary literature for the able journalists who have helped to mould the literary and political thought of New Japan. In fact, Mr. Aston dismisses in a few lines this subject of journalism, one of the most interesting fruits of Japan’s contact with the Occident. Time is yet too short, as he says, to allow us to produce any tangible literary results from that contact. In scientific and philosophical studies, remarkable progress has been made; but in pure literature there has not been the same activity in the absorption of Western ideas, with perhaps the sole exception of history, the study of which has not been so backward as Mr. Aston would imply. But after all is said, Mr. Aston has done his task extremely well ; and we are grateful to him for presenting our national literature so clearly and concisely.

Mrs. Hugh Fraser’s books on Japan have a charm all their own. As the British minister’s wife, she had opportunities rarely enjoyed by foreigners in Japan. Many distinguished visitors have been in the country, but seldom long enough to get an insight into Japanese society. Mrs. Fraser, however, had plenty of time for observation during her three years’ residence ; and she has, in her Diplomatist’s Wife in Japan, proved how well she has profited by it. She has given us pictures of Japanese high life, and introduces us to princesses, marchionesses, and countesses with a royal lavishness. From her we learn that the geisha is not the sole possessor of that indefinable grace and softness of manners which have made her the constant theme of impressionable travelers. The glorification of the geisha by visitors to Japan is owing to the fact that her profession of entertainer at convivial parties makes it easy to cultivate her acquaintance and to appreciate her manners and accomplishments. But it should be borne in mind that though she may not exactly be what M. Delvau has wittily called “ demoiselle qui ne travaille pas, qui n’a pas de rentes, et qui cependant trouve le moyen de bien vivre,” she is not far removed from that frail sisterhood, and that she is as little typical of the Japanese woman as that brilliant gallery of demi-mondaines from Manon Lescaut to Fanny Legrand is typical of the French. Mrs. Fraser brings before us a new and fascinating world where the best types of Japanese womanhood are to be seen in a circle accessible to few Europeans outside the diplomatic corps, and shows us that in the serene atmosphere of the Japanese court and in the quiet bosom of Japanese noble families are to be found ladies combining grace with dignity and sweetness of manners with the elaborate courtesies of the feudal days.

In The Custom of the Country,2 Mrs. Fraser tells some pretty tales of Japanese life. The second title of the book, Tales of New Japan, naturally calls to mind The Tales of Old Japan. But Mr. Mitford’s book has become a classic, for few writers have caught so faithfully the spirit of Old Japan. Japan has now, like other countries, inexorable historians who seem to take a malicious delight in destroying our heroic ideals, in dragging down our preux chevaliers from their pedestals, and in dismissing as pure figments the most cherished incidents in our annals ; and we have now to rewrite our national history, to reconsider the traditional judgment on our heroes, and to reconstruct our tales of love, fidelity, and self - sacrifice. But all this iconoclasm will not in the least affect the high value of Mr. Mitford’s Tales. Japan was, when he came to the country, in the throes of a mighty upheaval; and when he wrote, she was at the threshold of that complete renovation which is still in progress at the present moment. He came at the very instant when a writer was wanted to save from oblivion the institutions which had been ruthlessly doomed with the old order of things. What was needed at the time was a picture of the old-world Japan, an exposition of its spirit as reflected in the daily lives of its people, a description of the military system under which lived the samurai, chivalrous, sensitive to shame, quick to revenge, and ever ready to sacrifice life to honor. And this task Mr. Mitford effectually accomplished, especially as the world knew little as yet of the country, by transcribing the most popular tales current in Old Japan.

But the times have since changed. We have now enough and to spare of books that deal in a loose way with the manners and customs of the country. We need now books written with more accurate and sympathetic knowledge. In stories of Japanese life, we should not be content with merely Japanese names and Japanese peculiarities of speech and manner; we should insist upon something more characteristic that could be recognized underneath our new tegument of Occidental civilization. In this respect most of the tales airily told by writers with little or no real knowledge of the country are sadly wanting. A certain quaintness and bizarrerie are believed to be all that is necessary to stamp a thing as Japanese, and no attempt is made to present the undercurrents of Oriental life. Mrs. Fraser, however, is different from these writers of quasi-Japanese stories. Her residence in the land enabled her to give a Japanese background to her pictures, and her woman’s sympathy helps her to understand the little pleasures and petty trials of Japanese domestic life. Of the five tales in her book, only one, the longest, is exclusively Japanese. It contains a few errors of detail natural in a writer who has not mixed intimately with Japanese in every station of life, and cannot converse freely in their language or read it with enjoyment. Not the least amusing incident in the tale is the clandestine visit which the Son of the Daimyos pays to his ladylove. All he does when he finds her alone in the garden is to open his arms suddenly and draw her to him. “ She lay there a moment like a gathered rose, and . . . then she broke away from him and fled.” The lover, however, is satisfied. Mrs. Fraser, knowing that lovers do not kiss in Japan, treats them gingerly when she has brought them together ; and feeling that she has not been completely successful, covers her retreat with a dithyramb which opens : “ Verily, love is a strange passion — from West to East, the whole world round, it is ever the same ; ” and leaves the reader to infer that love is strangest of all in Japan. The Marquis de la Mazelière, on reading an ancient Japanese love story, exclaims : “ Aucune tendresse; les amants japonais ne connaissent ni pression des mains, ni baiser.” But kisses and hand-pressings are not the sole tokens of love ; love that laughs at locksmiths can surely find vent in a thousand other ways. It is not that we are strangers to kisses ; it is because we have not exploited their possibilities, nor made of them the important factors that they are in Western society. We have confined them to the expression of sexual love and, as such, kept them out of decorous literature ; and even in these latter days, we have taken Western civilization too seriously for kisses and flirtations to acclimatize as innocent social diversions. Mrs. Fraser did well, therefore, not to make the Son of the Daimyos kiss Miss O lone ; but she might have let the girl give a more tangible proof of her love than lying a moment like a gathered rose on her lover’s breast. The second longest tale, The Custom of the Country, which gives its title to the collection, suffers somewhat from its being published only a few months after the Diplomatist’s Wife ; for the opening scene at Atami seems to have been faithfully transcribed from the fifth and sixth chapters of that book. It is both unwise and inartistic to show too clearly the source of knowledge in a work of imagination, for it impairs the scenic effect if the same setting is repeated.

The Japanese honorific is always a stumbling-block to the foreigner. It has no analogy in English. In Japan, politeness requires that certain terms of respect should accompany the expressions used when a superior or even an equal in social standing is addressed or spoken of. This custom has become so essential a part of Japanese speech that we use these terms without attaching to them the full force of their original signification. They are often translated “ honorable ” or “ august ” by English scholars; but honorifics occur so frequently in ordinary conversation that it is almost impossible to find an English equivalent that shall not unduly emphasize their import, and it happens in many cases that an attempt to render them succeeds only in making nonsense of a speech which is perfectly intelligible in Japanese ; as when Mrs. Fraser puts into a Japanese naval officer’s mouth meaningless expressions like “Is it honorably so ? ” and “ I am surprised at what you honorably say.” Mrs. Fraser exposes herself to another charge when she makes her characters mutilate their English in a manner no Japanese would be guilty of. It is a favorite stage device for exciting laughter to introduce a foreigner who struggles with the intricacies of the English language. His nationality is indicated by his interspersing a few words of his mother tongue ; but it should really be inferred from his pronunciation and the construction of his sentences, which would be influenced by the phonology and syntax of his native language. No foreigner ever speaks English in the way he is represented on the stage ; and to imitate it with accuracy, one must be able to speak that foreigner’s own language. In fact, just as it takes a wise man to play the fool, it requires a linguist to give a foreign accent to his own tongue. Un-Japanese as is Mrs. Fraser’s imitation of broken English, the fault is aggravated when O-Haru in She Danced before Him exclaims to Charteris, “ More better ! Ingirishu urashi,” which is neither English nor Japanese. When an author and the characters of her creation set to murder one another’s tongue, we may well pity the reader who has to make his way through the carnage.

In his Essai sur l’Histoire du Japon, the Marquis de la Mazelière writes with that lucidity which has made his countrymen great masters of the expository style. The easy flow of narrative carries us along to the end, and leaves us wondering at the unity which seems to bind the whole history of Japan. The marquis’s history differs from all other histories of Japan in presenting lifelike pictures of the successive periods of which it treats. The continuity of history is cunningly insisted upon ; and the writer displays great skill in working out his theory that the advent of the Americans and Europeans in 1854 only hastened an inevitable revolution which would have, without their intervention, produced the same results. The forces which bring about such a cataclysm as Japan underwent in 1867 are so complex and take so long to come to a head that it would be idle to speculate on the probable consequences, had any one of them been absent; but it may be asserted with considerable assurance that if the advent of foreigners had not precipitated matters, the revolution would hardly have borne the same fruits, and certainly would not have been carried out to the same degree of completeness. For the revolution brought two distinct and not necessarily concomitant results, — the overthrow of the Shogunate and the national reorganization on the Occidental models. The rule of the Tokugawa Shogun was on the wane, and the great territorial lords were eager to supplant it. The advent of Commodore Perry and the subsequent conclusion of the treaties were the proximate causes of the revolt, the immediate object of which was the restoration of the Imperial authority. Any other pretext would have served as well for the insurrection against the Shogunate ; but such a revolution would not have inevitably led to national reorganization, for it would, in all likelihood, have left the feudal system itself untouched. It is true that, as ports were already being opened in China, Japan would have, sooner or later, come into contact with the foreign powers and been convinced of the superiority of Western civilization ; but if a fully established government, imperial or Shogunal, had entered upon the task of national reorganization, its work would have been hopelessly impeded by vested interests and hereditary rights. It was, therefore, most fortunate that this undertaking should have devolved upon a post-revolutionary government without past associations to hamper its procedure. And this simultaneity of the fall of the Shogunate and the commencement of the national reorganization was the natural consequence of the arrival of a handful of foreigners in 1854. And because we shall, when we have assimilated all that we are absorbing from Occidental civilization, impress upon it the same stamp of our national genius as we have impressed upon the religion, learning, and arts which we borrowed from India, China, and Korea, it is but just that we should acknowledge to the full the debt we owe to the little band whose coming opened the road to Western science and culture. The marquis introduces the reader to a fine sample of constructive statesmanship in the consolidation of the empire under the new régime; but it will not detract a jot from his tribute to the leading statesmen of the reconstructed monarchy to admit their indebtedness to the opportunity afforded them by the timely arrival of the Western strangers in the last days of the Shogunate.

On looking more carefully into the history, we perceive that the marquis sets out with strong preconceptions. He makes meagre material go a long way; but at the same time he does not take the trouble to discriminate between fact and fiction, and lays promiscuously under contribution events which are fully authenticated and those which are still in dispute or even admitted to be fictitious. He also carries too far his habit of seeking analogy between Japanese and European history. Analogues are appropriate when there is a complete correspondence between the objects compared ; even partial correspondence may be tolerated if the points of agreement are defined ; but without a formal statement of its incompleteness, an imperfect analogy is apt to give an entirely false idea of the matter it proposes to illustrate. The marquis has evidently been a very careful student of works relating to Japan, especially of the valuable papers to be found in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan ; but he has often followed them without taking into account the fact that these monographs are prone, from their very nature, to exaggerate the importance of their subjects. The botanist and the entomologist, for instance, would differ on the relative importance of bees and flowers ; the marquis follows sometimes the entomologist and sometimes the botanist; in other words, he has not, in embodying the specialist’s work in his history, freed himself from the specialist’s bias and taken the catholic stand of the general historian. On the whole, however, the Essai sur l’Histoire du Japon is, to the uncritical, one of the best general histories of Japan in a European language.

Nothing but praise is due to Mr. Stafford Ransome’s Japan in Transition.3 Mr. Ransome is not seduced by novelty ; he is a practical engineer who carefully weighs his words and gives reasons for his opinions. He is critical; but his views are generally favorable, because he starts, as he himself confesses, with a firm belief in the solidity of Japan’s recent progress. He writes with a sympathetic appreciation of the magnitude of the obstacles Japan has had to encounter in her struggle for progress, and of the difficulties which menace her future advancement. A writer is sometimes accused of undue bias if he is led by his knowledge of a country to speak in high terms of its inhabitants ; but it is only human nature that he should leave the land of his sojourn with kindly feelings and a permanent interest in its welfare, and forget whatever discomfort or annoyance he may have been put to in the recollection of the many little acts of courtesy and friendship experienced in his daily intercourse with the people. We should rather suspect the man who could write with rancor of a nation whose hospitality he has enjoyed, when it is easy to disapprove and protest with the gentle remonstrance of a friend. Mr. Ransome’s forecasts of the political and industrial future of Japan are matters which I shall not undertake to indorse or controvert ; but his survey of the actual condition of the country is extremely well written. Among minor matters, however, mention may be made of a singular notion he seems to have that we Japanese resent being addressed in our own language by foreigners. The Japanese from whom he got this idea probably wished to air his English; for Japanese students often try to test their proficiency in the language by conversation with foreigners, even when they are perfect strangers, as witness the case of Mr. Fraser, the cyclist, who says that he was catechised by Japanese, and on one occasion asked, in Ollendorff’s style, if his mother, his sister, and his mother’s cousin’s aunt liked beer ; but the youth who put these questions wanted, no doubt, to ascertain if hereditary alcoholism would account for the insane conduct of a traveler who amused himself by turning a somersault while he was being saluted with the usual politeness by a geisha.

It is always a pleasure to read Mr. Lafcadio Hearn’s books. His latest, In Ghostly Japan,4 continues his studies in the popular phases of Buddhism, of which the Gleanings in Buddha-Fields was the first installment. Buddhism, as it appears in popular traditions and superstitions, has a great attraction for him ; for, from his first work on the country, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, Mr. Hearn has treated by preference matters connected with the religions of the land. But though there are few subjects more interesting than vulgar beliefs and superstitions, one cannot but regret his inclination of late to devote himself almost exclusively to these studies ; and foolish as it would be to complain of the choice a writer has deliberately made, it seems a pity that Mr. Hearn has not taken up a wider range of subjects. For no one else has written with such charm of Japan, and no one could write with more grace and feeling on the simplest impulses of life. The first piece in his Kokoro, which describes an occurrence at a railway station in Kyushu, is certainly one of the daintiest sketches he has ever written. True, the confrontation of a murderer with a child in arms, the son of his victim, at the entrance of a railway station, was an incident of high dramatic interest, of which the policeman who brought it about had but little idea. He did it on the spur of the moment, and Mr. Hearn, impressed like all the other spectators of the affecting scene, has brought out its deep pathos in language of great beauty. A slight sketch like this makes us wish that Mr. Hearn would take to something more than short essays ; he has written nothing on Japan equal in length to his tales of West Indian life. But while we deplore this reserve of a writer who possesses every quality of style, except humor, we have reason to be grateful for whatever he gives us.

Dr. J. C. Calhoun Newton’s Japan: The Country, Court, and People is a very comprehensive work, and undertakes to tell us all about the country, its history, art, and institutions, in little more than four hundred pages. It has, unfortunately, the failings incidental to small books of encyclopædic pretensions. The vast amount of information which Dr. Newton has collected he gives in a very crude form ; and he has evidently written the book in a great hurry, for its style is, however excusable in hack journalism, too slovenly for a serious work. While thus we halt before extraordinary sentences like “ Dying in New York, there was profound grief,” or “ Bringing a jar of tea-seed and a book of directions, the cultivation of tea spread rapidly,” the author’s meaning is far from clear in the statements, “ The defeat of the Opposition was oft repeated, and as often resolutely renewed,” and “ Such a movement (the sweeping away of Old Japan), while right in its direction, was dangerous in the extreme to the best interests of the nation.” There is also a refreshing airiness in many of Dr. Newton’s explanations. Every defect of character, for instance, is attributed to the absence of Christianity. The doctor allows his prejudices against Buddhism to override his judgment. “ It is remarkable,” he observes, “ how all corrupt priesthoods of corrupt religions follow even the bodies of the dead with oppressive enactments. By law the family names had to be registered in the temple books ; otherwise the priests could deny burial.” If a simple enactment made from judicial considerations is to be taken as a proof of religious corruption, in what light are we to regard that far more cruel law which, not content with refusing burial in consecrated ground, exposed to gratuitous ignominy the body of the poor wretch who should, in a fit of insanity, take away his own life ? I am not defending Buddhism; I only wish to remind a too zealous writer of the proverbial sauce, and to suggest moderation to those who do not live in stoneproof houses. Again, in speaking of a Buddhist college at Kyoto, the doctor says : “ The writer has himself seen upon the shelves of its library English books upon the Bible, and has met young Buddhist priests upon the cars with New Testaments in their hands. Their aim was to study the Jesus doctrine so as to demolish it.” It is difficult to understand the tone of irritation in this remark. These Buddhist priests deserve praise for their study of the Bible; for since religious propagandism has suffered most from ignorant opposition, one would have thought it a matter for congratulation that Christianity should find in the professors of a rival religion an eagerness to master its tenets and doctrines. If such men could be convinced of the superiority of Christianity, theirs would not be, as is often the case with others, mere lip conversions for the sake of material benefits received or expected. Dr. Newton’s bitter hostility to Buddhism will not further the cause of Christianity. To the Japanese who has been taught to prize as the first of virtues unfaltering loyalty even to a fallen master or a lost cause, there is something especially repugnant in the apostasy from the faith of his forefathers; and his path to conversion should rather be smoothed by a greater insistence upon the points of resemblance between the old religion and the new. Dr. Newton lays stress upon the innate religiousness of the Japanese ; but his remarks in this connection may be summed up in the general proposition that, for most of us, belief in God or fetich is the normal state of mind.

Again, the debt Japan owes to America is inestimable. The United States has always been friendly to her, and its citizens have rendered her invaluable services. But while we acknowledge our great obligations to America, it would not be just to pass by what we owe also to England, France, and Germany. The patriotic bias which omits mention of these countries makes the chapter on Intercourse between the United States and Japan in Dr. Newton’s book read very much like a company promoter’s prospectus. But with all its defects, the book deserves to be read for its valuable information, which only patient labor could have brought together.

It is highly gratifying to a Japanese to find that of the eight most recent works on his country seven are the outcome of careful study. The fact that so many books should have been published within the brief space of fifteen months testifies to the interest which Japan continues to excite in the world ; and since recent events have brought the Far East within the range of practical politics of the Occidental Powers, it is of the utmost importance to us that the condition of the Extreme Orient should be universally understood. And convinced that further acquaintance will only cement the friendly relations which already subsist between us and the rest of the world, we Japanese cordially welcome every work written with the serious intention of making our country better known to other nations.

Jukichi Inouye.

  1. A History of Japanese Literature. By W. G. ASTON. New York: D. Appleton & Co. 1899.
  2. The Custom of the Country. By Mrs. HUGH FRASER. New York: The Macmillan Co. 1899.
  3. Japan in Transition. By STAFFORD RANSOME. New York : Harper & Bros. 1899.
  4. In Ghostly Japan. By LAFCADIO HEARN. Boston : Little, Brown & Co. 1899.