Chapter II. Japanese History and Religions
Foreign relations--Internal history--Feudalism--Arrival of Portuguese and Spaniards--The three great Shoguns--Beginning of present régime--Shinto--Confucianism--Buddhism--Christianity--Persistent effect of the early Roman missions.
Of Japanese external history there is scarcely any nothing practically but peaceful relations with China, embassies from time to time, invitations to Chinese saints and sages to come as teachers to Japan. Relations with Corea of a different kind; an invasion and conquest of the country, perhaps half mythical, but leaving solid results in the theory that Japan had sovereign rights there; a second invasion and half conquest under Hideyoshi shortly before A.D. 1600. This was almost more truly a raid on a great scale than anything more. Hideyoshi always said he was going there to take command of it, though he never went, but he sent for the work his more restless feudal nobility, probably hoping to exhaust them with fighting and secure the succession to his own family. At that time the Japanese so harried Corea, and drew away to Japan so completely the intelligence and artistic skill of the nation, that it has been of no account ever since.
The relations of Japan with Portugal, with the Sovereign Pontiff, and, in a less degree, with Spain, from 1549 to shortly after the year 1600, had important political bearings, especially as leading in the end to that [162/163] complete and deliberate self-isolation, which was not broken till 1853. During the interval the very limited trade which was allowed to the Dutch, under most; humiliating conditions, had no historical importance, and left no results worth 'mentioning, beyond some use of firearms and some slight knowledge of Western medicine--the names of many drugs being to this day Dutch words transliterated.
A few salient points stand out in the internal history of the people.
In the earlier ages the mikados, or emperors, led their own armies, and were known, more or less, no doubt, by their people; but more and more they became puppets in the hands of ministers, who tended themselves to become hereditary, like the Mayors of the Palace in Prance. But in Japan the process was not at any point a supersession of the emperor and his family as the sacred heads of the people. Instead of this, the emperors were accounted more sacred, and as being more sacred, they were less seen, and became more absolute nonentities in the actual administration. They were the mystery hidden behind the visible government; and as, with truly Oriental acquiescence, they accepted this role, and allowed great families to govern in their name, so also the people, with truly Oriental acquiescence, were too reverent to pry into their seclusion, or express an opinion by word or act about what was going on in the sacred precincts of the palace.
Hence the dynasty survived unbroken, for it was a support, not a hindrance, to those who successively held the reins of power and authority. We in the West may naturally ask, "Was there never a man among the emperors who asserted his independence?" No doubt some may have wished to do so, but their court, the nobles of which ranked higher than any one else in the land, [163/164] was dilettante, if not worse. An estimable emperor spent his time on poetry, art, or refinements of courtesy; a bad one, on coarser pleasures. Being a sacred person, he could not have hands laid upon him, but it was only natural that in due course he should renounce worldly things and give himself to religion, nominating a successor. If a Buddhist, he would shave his head, found a monastery, and live in it, surrounded, it may be, with the same indulgences as before, for no one would interfere with that. If, as emperor, he began to have a will of his own, his minister would hint that it was time for such retirement, and this hint came in some cases as early as eighteen or even fifteen years of age. During one long period, at least, it seems seldom to have been as late as twenty-five. He nominated his successor, perhaps a son or brother of three years old, and thus there might be many emperors living in retirement after abdication, while the emperor of the time endorsed all which his minister, not, be it observed, one of the court nobles, determined to do. There was, however, a determined effort on the part of the emperors to recover their power shortly after Yoritomo's time (the end of the twelfth century).
Outside the court there grew up a feudal nobility versed in affairs, one family or one person among whom was for the time the leader, because he had the sacred authority of the emperor behind him; but rivalry with him was not sacrilege. To his own vassals he was almost like a god, but not so to his fellow-noblemen, or to their vassals. In fact, the feudal system in Japan, rising independently, was far more perfectly developed and lasted far longer than that in Europe. It is regarded as coming to completeness under the famous Yoritomo in the twelfth century, and it was in full force, till broken down by the need of more compact unity in face of Western influences, at the accession of the present emperor in 1868.
 In some respects, the course of its development was not unlike that of feudalism in Europe. In England, however, the power of the king, who was never, except in Stephen's case, one of the feudal nobility, but in a class by himself above them, kept the petty wars of the nobility in check, and gave a certain power of united action to the nation. In Japan the feudal noblemen, or daimyos, were practically little kings, as they were in England under Stephen, each struggling to increase his territory and his influence by war and by alliances. From time to time a great man appeared, who obtained for himself a certain influence and control over the whole country, and, acting in the name of the emperor, brought a little more order into the administration; but, on the whole, it may fairly be said that petty civil wars were perpetual till 1600, and that they ceased altogether from shortly after that date till the Western peoples appeared on the scene. [The position of the shoguns was, in some respects, analogous to that of the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire in mediaeval times. They were princes, with principalities of their own, chosen to preside over the other princes, with certain half-defined authority and awe attaching to them through their special relations to the sacred authority behind them, but depending for its maintenance on their power of making themselves respected, either by force or by diplomacy.] During their continuance, it can hardly be doubted that if Japan had been within reach of ambitious neighbours it would have been as helpless to resist aggression as was Prance during the period of the English wars.
But China being the only neighbour, no foreign dangers did arise (except that from Kublai Khan) till the middle of the sixteenth century, when Portuguese, and, soon after, Spanish, ships appeared in Japanese waters. At first, they were welcomed for the trade they brought, and the Jesuit missionaries who came in their ships, and carried forward the work which St. Francis Xavier began [165/166] in 1549, were willingly received as part of one and the same concern. Almost immediately, however, the foreign trade became a fresh cause of civil war. The nobleman to whose harbour the foreign ships came, derived great profit, and others became jealous. But when the Portuguese, who had first visited Kagoshima, in the province of the Prince of Satsuma, found Hirado, at the other end of the island of Kyushu, more convenient, and went there instead, the conflagration blazed up. Henceforth the Satsuma princes, the most powerful and independent in the land, were violently opposed to those who had thus secured the trade, and included in their hatred the religious preaching which accompanied the trade. Thus the missionaries became, whether they would or no, involved in the petty politics of the country.
Nor was this all. The Spaniards followed the Portuguese to compete for the trade. They also brought Spanish Franciscans and others, who competed with the Jesuits that came from Portugal. There were high words between the representatives of the rival nations, and unveiled jealousies between the rival messengers of Christ's gospel. The Japanese soon learnt that the Portuguese, and still more the Spaniards, were in the habit of first trading with and evangelizing, and then conquering and absorbing, the countries they discovered, and the loose talk of their officers and seamen did not veil the fact that the destiny of Mexico might be in store for Japan. Was not the Church in full partnership with this aggressive policy? Had not Pope Alexander VI. partitioned the heathen world between Spain and Portugal? Were not the missionaries his emissaries, subtilely preparing the way? Nay, more than this. A Christian nobleman of Japan had the power of the foreign Church behind him to support his cause. Ambassadors from some of these Japanese kinglets were [166/167] sent to Europe, who visited the Kings of Spain and Portugal, but who paid homage to the head of their Church. One great nobleman even signed a document purporting that he laid his province at the feet of the Pope--the foreign potentate--to receive it back from him. All this took place in the course of about fifty years, and (the northern part of the islands being unsubdued by the Japanese, and quite untouched by the foreigners) within the southern part alone the number of Japanese Christians who recognized the Pope as their head is variously estimated at from 500,000 to 1,500,000. Was not the situation really serious? How could civil wars be stopped in such a state of chaos? How could Japan be strong or orderly while it remained but half subdued? Or how could it regulate its own destinies whilst its several noblemen were bringing in foreign allies to strengthen them against their rivals, and whilst hundreds of thousands, an ever-increasing number, were owning spiritual allegiance to a foreigner, who was himself a temporal potentate, with authority over other potentates, and claiming a right to assign the world to whom he would?
Two things may be said. First, however little the missionaries may have been in fault, there is small blame to the Japanese for taking alarm, and thinking that, for the safety of the country, not only must (1) the country be brought under one government, and (2) the civil wars of the nobility be stopped, but (3) that for this purpose the foreign influence must be wholly excluded; and that this could not be done so long as there were any Christians of the Roman allegiance (and the Japanese knew no other) remaining in the land.
Secondly, the crisis was such as might well call great men into existence--greater than had usually appeared in the unambitious annals of Japan. Three such men [167/168] did appear--all contemporaries as regards age, but succeeding one another as the leading power in the state; mutually acquainted, but not blood relations; very different in character and policy, yet all working towards the same three objects of vital importance to the country. Their names were Nobunaga (supreme from 1565 to 1582), Hideyoshi (1582 to 1598), and Ieyasu Tokugawa (1598 to 1616). The two first contributed their part to the work, but failed to secure the headship to their families. The third founded a dynasty of hereditary shoguns ("Tycoons," in the language of English books of thirty years ago), or commanders-in-chief. The last of these Tokugawa shoguns, Keiki by name, was removed from office by the present emperor on the advice of his counsellors, and is now a highly respected old gentleman, to be seen riding his bicycle in the streets of Tokyo, his son being chairman of the Upper House of Parliament.
We cannot go in detail into the history of these men, but of their characters, and the effect which they had upon after-times, a few words are necessary. One leading feature of each of the three characters is touched off in a Japanese epigram. Nobunaga says--
"The cuckoo will not sing!
Then I will kill it."
"The cuckoo will not sing!
Then I will make it sing."
"The cuckoo will not sing!
Then I will wait till it does sing."
Nobunaga despised and savagely persecuted the Buddhist priests, but encouraged and coquetted with Christianity. He never pretended, however, to be a [168/169] Christian. Hideyoshi issued edicts to expel the missionaries, and when the Franciscans, twitting the Jesuits as time-servers, defied his edict and held Christian festivals and processions in his capital under his very nose, he crucified six Christians, missionary and Japanese; but his edict was meant to be only in terrorem, if the Christians would but be quiet, for he kept a Jesuit as his secretary all the while. He employed Japanese Christians also in high positions, but in Corea more than in Japan. He seems to have felt that his Christians were his best men, but that they might become unmanageable, and it might prove necessary to get rid of them.
Ieyasu was perfectly calm and cold-blooded in the whole matter. He felt the absolute necessity of getting rid of Christianity for the success of his aims. He proscribed it, bribed and terrified leading men away from it, arranged all things so as to make the lot of a Christian exceedingly hard and degrading, and for those who would not yield he unwillingly began the work of the most refined torture and extermination, which his grandson, Iemitsu, carried as near completion as was possible. If the discovery of many thousands of concealed Christians in Kyushu, who had been waiting, generation after generation, in peril of death, and who recognized the French priests at Nagasaki in 1865 as what they were waiting for, did not provide visible proof to the contrary, no one would have doubted that Christianity had really been stamped out more than two hundred years before.
In other branches of their work the two first named had achieved considerable success. Japan was beginning to feel and act as one in face of the foreigner, and a strong hand was checking internal feuds; but in this, too, it was the waiting and thorough policy of Ieyasu and his grandson that completed the internal pacification, so that [169/170] there was no civil war for two hundred and thirty years; completed the unification, so that Japan emerged as one country under one sovereign; and completed her independence of the foreigner by watching the coasts, forbidding all foreign travel or trade to Japanese, and all access to Japan from abroad. The only exception was that of the yearly Dutch ships which lay off the sandy flat of Deshima, with their sails and rudders removed till they had sold their goods upon the beach, sent one of their number, shut up in a closed palanquin under guard, to pay his homage and offer his presents at the capital, and were then permitted to depart.
The Tokugawa shogun was by birth no more than the head of the feudal nobility. He held his patent from the emperor. But in virtue of that patent, and by most able policy and astute organization; by maintaining the dignity of the nobility through an elaborate etiquette, while never being without hostages for their good behaviour; by wasting their time and resources in dignified frivolities, while being exceedingly severe on their interferences with each other; and by encouraging fine arts and literature for those of higher tastes, with the help of that Buddhism which has done little, so far as one can see, for the morals, but much for the culture of the nation; the dynasty of the Tokugawas managed to hold on its way, and to keep the reins in its hand, and on the whole to serve the country exceedingly well, till modern conditions forced Japan out of its isolation, and the old organization and policy became not only inadequate, but impossible.
Then came the great change of 1868, with the accession of the present emperor, which some call a revolution, and others a restoration. It is a revolution, if we regard a dynasty of commanders-in-chief, legitimately holding office from father to son for two hundred and [170/171] fifty years, as having acquired a prescriptive right which cannot be arbitrarily swept away; but the form which the process took was that the emperor said, "I shall no longer depute a member of this family to govern for me. I shall take the reins of government myself," and thereupon went from Kyoto, his old capital, and established himself in Yedo (which then changed its name to Tokyo, or the "Eastern Capital"), whence the Tokugawas had all along administered the government. Viewed in this way, which is, of course, the accepted way in Japan, the change was simply a restoration, or resumption of his powers by the emperor, who had always been de jure, and meant henceforth to be also de facto, ruler.
Such a change could hardly have taken place without bloodshed; too many old rights and customs were suddenly broken down, and too many persons found their position radically changed by no fault of their own. But the civil war was short and not very bloody, and reprisals were very few.
If it is asked how it was that such a system collapsed so easily, the answer is twofold. First, very new conditions needed new men and new measures. But secondly, the time was ripe, and the old system and its officers were effete. The system was essentially military, though it served also for police and for administration of justice. But the soldiers might not labour or trade: it was beneath them. They were maintained, most of them very poorly, out of the rice paid as tax by the farmers. A military class, even though it be encouraged in culture and chivalry, must deteriorate if it has for seven generations no military duty whatever.
The external and internal peace sapped the quality and energy of the ruling class. No important and difficult duties pressed upon the noblemen, who therefore frequently left their duties to others, and became feeble, [171/172] if not debauched, themselves. A sort of quixotism, and the observance of a fantastic code of courtesy, custom, and honour, occupied the time and thoughts of the soldiery who had nothing to do. Those of more refined tastes became literary and artistic, or merely sentimental and romantic; the rougher sort became swashbucklers. The total result as a process of deterioration became not unlike the two extremes in the decay of feudal chivalry in the West, which are represented by Don Quixote on one side, and the robber-knights of the Italian hills, pictured for us in "I Promessi Sposi," on the other. The ideal of Japanese chivalry, called bushido, was certainly very high, but without the opportunity for exercising the sterner and more strenuous virtues of the soldier, how could it fail to become fantastic and unpractical? and thus, though courage, loyalty, patriotism, and the martial spirit were there in abundance, for practical purposes in time of stress, they proved utterly inefficient, and the whole system fell to pieces.
Some notice of Japanese religions, especially as affecting ideals and character, is necessary; but the subject is too long to be dealt with in a publication like this, and for further information the reader must be referred to books and articles.
[The fullest treatment of the subject will be found in Griffis' "Religions of Japan." The articles by Sir Ernest Satow, in the early editions of Murray's "Handbook to Japan," now probably scarce, are excellent. Cobbold's little book, "The Religions of Japan" (S.P.O.K.), is a convenient summary, interesting but not deep. An article in the Asiatic Transactions, vol. 22, part 3, by the Rev. Arthur Lloyd, with other things from his pen, such as his poem "Nichiren," approach sympathetically, and yet, unlike Sir Edwin Arnold's works, truly and sanely the character and influence of Japanese Buddhism. The Rev. A. Lloyd was chosen by Mr. Kuroda, one of the few really learned and high-principled Japanese Buddhist priests, who, recognizing the thoroughly corrupt condition of Japanese Buddhism, yet enthusiastically believing in the religion, are working for its reformation, to translate for him a tract of 41 pages, "The Light of Buddha," largely distributed in the Osaka Exhibition of 1903. The same Mr. Kuroda wrote a tract of 27 pages for the Chicago Parliament of Religions (1903), which was endorsed by the heads of all the important Buddhist sects of Japan. These two tracts are of the greatest value, representing Buddhism as those who believe in it and wish to propagate it would present it to the world at the present day. A short article by the Rev. J. T. Imai in the South Tokyo Diocesan Magazine for April, 1903, on the present influence of the old religions in Japan, is of quite exceptional value on the question how far they may be regarded as dying.]
 To begin with "Shinto." The word means the "Way of the gods," or "of God." In origin it would seem to have been a nature worship, in which the worship of the origin of our life, i.e. worship of ancestors or of the sovereign, is a large part, at the present day the most living part, in Japan. For though the sun, "Taiyo-Sama," the great mountains of Japan, the fox as the emblem of good luck and of plenty, with the Yaoyorodzu no Kami (literally, 8,000,000 gods), get their measure of reverence, of offerings, and of pilgrimage, and show the multitude of aspects of nature and its powers that have called for consideration and attracted worship to themselves in past times, and still are recognized with all the paraphernalia of religious rites; yet it would generally, we think, be acknowledged that loyalty to the emperor, and in a less degree dutifulness to parents, are almost the only traits of value connected with the traditional Shintoism of Japan.
The practice of washing out the mouth and pouring water over the hands, and of offering the brief prayer, Harai tamae, kiyome tamae ("Vouchsafe to drive away [evil] and to purify [me]"), as a preliminary to all special prayer, bears unmistakable witness to a time when the thought was living that without holiness no [173/174] man must come before God, though for ages the usage seems to have been nothing but a form.
Shinto has no literature and no teaching, and practically little or no relation to morals. The symbol, however, in every Shinto temple is the mirror, which is intended to represent holiness, purity of heart--God, as the reflection of the essential image of the soul. Indeed, among those who profess to desire a combined religion for Japan, it is customary to say that the "pure heart" of Shinto, the "illumination" of Buddhism, and the "love" of Christianity are at the bottom the same. Yet a revival of it would be little more, so far as we can see, than a more perfect observation of the ceremonies. The character of those ceremonies and the Shinto architecture are more pure and simple than those of Japanese Buddhism, and for this reason they appeal more to the taste of the cultured classes.
Moreover,: the Tokugawa rule had associated itself intimately with Buddhism, so that the restoration of the emperor to power naturally put Buddhism somewhat out of fashion, and brought forward Shinto, in which the emperor himself was the principal object of a religious veneration indistinguishable from worship. Before this, however, towards the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, there had been a revival of Shinto, which was one of the causes leading up to the restoration. At this moment, though the constitution of the country expressly declares all religions free and equal before the law, and says that the acts of veneration paid to the emperor's picture, etc., are not the worship of a god, but may be regarded as historical and loyal customs, yet those acts on occasion of the emperor's birthday are, as we have seen with our own eyes, unmistakably religious in character, and must be so understood by all who have not been taught otherwise; and, so far as any one is attempting to revive [174/175] Shinto as a power, this is done by associating, not love or respect, but rather awe, with the thought of the emperor. [There appears to be a revival, perhaps intentional in the highest quarters, of Shinto ideas. Not only did the despatches of the generals and admirals during the war uniformly ascribe their successes to the virtues of the emperor, but the emperor's own announcements ascribed them to his ancestors, and at the close of the war the leading members of the imperial family went in state to the ancient imperial shrines to make their acknowledgments, and the emperor instructed his leading generals and admirals to do the same. The commemoration of those who fell in the war took the form of homage paid to their spirits with incense and offerings in a Shinto temple by the emperor in person and the people, high and low (1906).]
It is an interesting fact that in the ritual formulated at the command of the present emperor for the marriage of the crown prince, the chief feature of the ceremony is the introduction of the lady to the shrines of the imperial ancestors into whose family she is to be admitted, and of course she pays her homage and makes her offerings to them there.
In the house of a Shintoist the figure, whether doll or picture, representing the emperor, will generally be seen on the "god shelf" side by side with the family ancestors, and lights and evergreens, and perhaps incense, will be there upon occasion.
From this close analogy between the father of the nation and the father of the family, we have ventured to class the two together under Shinto. But, in reality, the educational, social, moral, and political power which has linked them together and gives them permanence is Confucianism. Shinto claims to be the primitive religion of the Japanese, not introduced from anywhere, though in fact, however many peculiar features it may have developed in Japan, it is akin to what is found in many other nations. But the doctrines of Confucius and [175/176] Menoius were confessedly imported from China at an early date. Prom the early days of civilization in Japan down to the present generation the text-books on which the Japanese have been educated were the "Chinese Classics," consisting almost entirely of what Confucius taught or collected for editing fully two thousand five hundred years ago. The Japanese could use no other books as text-books, for they had no other books to use. Almost the only indigenous literature was poetry, and the characteristic Japanese metre is so short, a;sort of sonnet of seventeen or of thirty-one' syllables, that it could express little but pretty conceits suggestively or epigrammatically stated. "The hundred songs" are taught to Japanese children, who keep up the memory of them by playing a game of quotation with them at the new year. They talk of the cherry-blossom, the moon, the nightingale, and of love; but if they have any educational, moral, or real literary value it is not such as to make earnest-minded Japanese care to talk much about them to foreigners. Of every other branch of literature, Chinese is felt to be the most dignified vehicle. The higher the style, the more Chinese it becomes. To write a philosophical book in pure Japanese would be the same kind of thing, but far more difficult and out of keeping than to reproduce "Paradise Lost" in pure Anglo-Saxon. Some Japanese proverbial expressions have come through Buddhism, and these also have the terse gritty Chinese for their vehicle; but most come from Confucius, or perhaps from his successor, Mencius. These are the things engrained in the Japanese mind.
Now, the Confucian system is not, and never professed to be, a religion at all, nor, so far as we are aware, has the worship of Confucius or Mencius come with their teaching into Japan; but the whole system is a matter [176/177] of morals and propriety resting upon the five relations between man and man in the following order: (1) Parent and child; (2) sovereign and subject, under which would be grouped lord and vassal, and probably teacher and scholar; (3) husband and wife; (4) brothers in order of birth; (5) friends. The virtues corresponding to these five relations are: (1) Reverential duty; (2) loyalty; (3) concord; (4) peacefulness; (5) straightforwardness. It will be observed that no duty from parent to child, or from husband to wife, is referred to. It would have been unbecoming to speak of these things. The good man will be a considerate father, no doubt, but there is no formal claim upon him. That a boy has, without a word, cut out some healthy portion of his body to be given cooked to his father, who was suffering in that part, is an heroic piece of filial duty to be proclaimed by imperial edict throughout the empire of China for admiration and, it may be, for imitation. The ideal, so far as the boy is concerned, is indeed heroic; but what of the fathers who, from age to age, could tolerate as the ideal such a onesided view of duty? Is it surprising that though in refined Japan, which shrinks from what looks coarse and disgusting, this form of filial duty is not found, and would not be reproduced in literature or in art; yet less sickening forms of the same self-devotion on the one hand and selfishness on the other, reappear with admiration for the sacrifice, but with no censure for the selfishness. The father of that Chinese boy would be on a pinnacle of honour for having begotten such a son; he would be pitied for having lost him, and there it would end. That any idea of fault in the father who brought up that child, or in the system which thought such a crime worthy of worship and imitation, should enter the head either of the father or of the public is in the highest degree unlikely. A case of this kind has [177/178] occurred in China within the last two years, and has been recommended to the emperor for public recognition by the most enlightened viceroy in the land.
The corresponding theme of high-souled romance, far too common in Japan, is when the old father, unable to earn his livelihood, accepts, sadly no doubt, his daughter's offer and takes her to a public place of prostitution, receiving for the sale of her body what is to become his maintenance. She is honoured for her sacrifice, and he is praised for having such a daughter, and pitied for having thus lost her presence from his home; but no thought of blame attaches to him for having allowed her to do such a thing on his account; and when, as in one story, a highwayman catches him on his way home, and leaves him as penniless after the sacrifice as he was before, the sympathetic pity for him knows no bounds. Of course Japan is awaking from this, nor can it be denied that from one point of view the ideal is heroic; but such, on the three sides of parent, of child, and of public opinion, is the working out of the Confucian system, in which the Japanese are steeped so far as their gayer, more easy-going, natures will take the dye.
Confucius, like Epicurus and others, was much better than bis system. He would have admired such acts in others, but never, we think, would have allowed them for himself. He was as much held by conscience to higher duties of an almost spiritual kind as if he had taught that there was a God in heaven. Perhaps he did believe this; but in his teaching he declined to look beyond the obvious practical duties of family, social, and political life. He would give no opinion about any strictly religious matter, such as the existence of God, or what lies beyond death. In place of God come in the customs of the good old days, and the Book of Ceremonies to keep the world from getting worse. His scheme was aimed at preventing [178/179] deterioration through the growing laxity of two thousand five hundred years ago, and it has succeeded marvellously in producing stagnation, regarded as enlightenment and superiority to the rest of mankind, for all this time in China. But it was by its modest, practical, unvisionary character that it did this.
Confucianism did not spring from the soil of Japan, and does not well correspond with the genius of the people, though its influence on Japanese character and ideals could not fail to be great. Almost any other system, if the Japanese had had the choice, would probably have influenced them more; but they had not the ohoice. Nothing else was to hand for centuries, and Confucian ideas, as moulding Japanese family and national life, provided in a sort of way a practical philosophy for Shinto, on the only side on which Shinto seems to be a moral influence at all. [We have been furnished with the following note by the Rev. J. T. Imai (1906):--"Confucianism and Shintoism.--The former no doubt supplied the philosophy and ethics for the latter. But at the Shinto revival the promoters of Shintoism began to review the other very closely, and criticized its democratic nature. The three ideal king-sages of Confucianism handed over the throne, not to their own sons, but to a wise sage subject. The motto was, Tenka wa ichinin no tenka m arazu. Tenka no tenka nari ('The under-heaven [country] is not one man's, but of the under-heaven itself [that is to say, of the people itself']). "It is pointed out that Tokugawa's great patronizing policy in favour of Confucianism was for this spirit, but the Shinto revival during the later shogunates brought forth the other spirit, that the country belongs to the emperor (the one man)."]
The history and influence of Buddhism is, in many respects, different. It came into Japan from China, it is true, like everything else; but it came later. The supposed date of its entry is not earlier than the sixth century of our era. It was superposed upon the existing [179/180] religious and ethical systems in vogue in Japan, but coming from the same source, or rather through the same channel as they, it made no attempt to dispossess them.
As this is a difficult thought to Christian peoples, but is perfectly natural in the East, it may be well to say a few words on it, for the misapprehensions on the subject are important. The great monotheistic religions--Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism--are necessarily exclusive. The adherents of the later of these religions may acknowledge the earlier as true but preparatory, and they may recognize that God, as worshipped by all, is in idea the One, Infinite, Eternal, Almighty, All-wise, All-holy, Spiritual Being, though differently and either mistakenly or inadequately apprehended by adherents of the other two religions; but each religion is none the less exclusive of the others. A Jew cannot be a Christian, nor a Christian a Mohammedan, nor a Mohammedan a Jew. Still less can any of the three belong to any other religion, for there the very idea of God is almost totally different; and if the religion be polytheistic it is in a real sense atheistic to a monotheist, for there can be no one Being in it that has what to the monotheist are the most essential attributes of Deity. Hence we of the West naturally assume that a person who is attached to one religion can belong to no other.
But this is not at all the case in the East. Practically every Chinaman is a Confucianist, and though Confucianism is hardly in any strict sense a religion, yet it takes the place of religion for its adherents. Out of these hundreds of millions of Confucianists, a good many tens of millions are Buddhists also. In Japan, by imperial order, all temples and churches have been registered within the last few years. This caused great trouble and some confusion, for no temple could be registered as belonging to two different religious bodies Each temple, [180/181] therefore, had to choose whether it would register as Shinto or Buddhist, for there is probably no Buddhist temple of any importance which does not contain some Shinto shrine, and a vast number of temples, primarily Shinto, contain Buddhist elements. The Shinto priest is distinct from the Buddhist priest; the Shinto object of veneration from that of the Buddhist; and the architecture of buildings designed for either is easily distinguished, but the Shinto shrines, led up to by the characteristic portal called Torii, nestle sometimes in considerable number under the shadow of the Buddhist temple, and Buddha sits grave and gentle on his lotus somewhere about the precincts of many a Shinto place of worship. Of the people, one will say, "I am Shinto," and another, "I am Buddhist," but this probably has more to do with the claims upon them for temple maintenance than anything else; and most persons enter upon life with a Shinto ceremony, and are buried at its close by a Buddhist priest. As there is no idea of one God in either religion, and nothing much to be in earnest about, there is nothing to cause jealousies or combats. The various Buddhist sects are far more exclusive of each other than any of them are of Shinto. [We append the substance of a valuable note on this subject by the Rev. J. T. Imai (1906):--"There was great rivalry between Shinto and Buddhism till the great priest Kukai, better known as Kobodaishi, promulgated the theory of reincarnation (or, more literally, of different revelations of one deity), and taught that the Shinto deity, Amaterasu Omi Kami, was the same, under a different aspect, as Dainichi Nyorai (one of the Buddhas), etc. Having succeeded in thus unifying the objects, no difficulty was felt. "Then when Tokugawa Iyeyasu, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, with that famous priest Tenkai as his private counsellor in government, learning, and diplomacy, patronized Buddhism in order to counteract Christianity, Buddhism took advantage of this, and the great mixture of Shinto and Buddhism was effected. This lasted till the early part of Meiji (the present reign), when the reinstatement of Shinto led to the removal of a vast number of Buddhist images from Shinto shrines."]
 For Buddhism, in Japan at least, is quite as much broken up into sects as Christianity can be, and many of these sects are of Japanese origin. The jealousies between them are often bitter, and their characteristics correspond so closely with those of some Christian sects as to show that the source of these divergencies must lie largely in human nature and tendencies rather than in abstract truth. There is, for example, the Jodo sect, which makes much of antiquity and traditional usage, and dwells on the saving power of simple faith in Buddha without works; the Tendai sect, given to austerities; the Shin sect, which encourages private judgment, and reformed the morals of the priesthood by allowing priests to marry; the Nichiren sect, emotional and unconventional, which is noisy in its worship, like the Banters.
As a religious or moral power in the strict sense, Buddhism has not been, or, at least, is not now, very great in Japan. In the first place, it is primarily a philosophy, not a religion. It leads through abstract thought to enlightenment and so to freedom. The abstract thought deals with causation first, and causation is for the Buddhist philosopher a matter or thing which has to do with phenomena, and phenomena are but ideas of the human mind. There is no concrete fact behind them. Nay, the mind itself, or the soul, is not an actually existing thing. To grasp this by meditation, so as to recognize effectively the unreality of appearances, is illumination. The person thus illuminated is, of course, unaffected by that which, as he has discovered, has no existence. Hence he is free.
Now obviously this is wholly unintelligible to ninety-nine-hundredths of mankind. It is a philosophy for the [182/183] leisured contemplative man, not a gospel for the simple. Hence Mr. Kuroda, in the more recent of the two tracts to which we have referred, after devoting thirty-five pages to the philosophy of Buddhism, finds himself constrained, as his purpose is a missionary one, to show that the masses also can find their salvation in it, that the knowledge of the philosophy is not necessary to salvation, and in the last five pages he recommends, in accordance with the tenets of his sect, invoking the Buddha under his title of Amida, with a proper disposition of mind, as in itself ample and adequate for salvation. Those who go to temples to "behold their devotions" know well the sound of the "Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu," repeated ad infinitum; words which are mispronounced Sanskrit expressions from the Buddhist Scriptures. Popular Buddhism is thus wholly removed from scientific Buddhism in Japan, and having, as a religion, no raison d'être in the country, either by origin or by any suitableness of its pessimistic view of life to the light-hearted, easy-going nature of the Japanese, it has been immensely changed in the process of time. Instead of being superior to the gods, it is extremely superstitious and idolatrous. Its priests, unless they are much belied, hold their influence through threats of hell, or rather purgatory, to which the doctrines of Karma and transmigration of souls readily lend themselves; their intervention being needed or very desirable to shorten the hideous and weary succession of rebirths through which at last Buddhahood may be reached. The temples harbour other gross superstitions--magic and fortune-telling, and the like. There is Binzuru San, the Aesculapius, whose figure sits rubbed away more than St. Peter's toe in Rome, by those who have come to rub that part of him in which they themselves have an ailment, and then to rub themselves, spreading the diseases which they hope to heal. There, [183/184] too, as guardians at the temple gate, are the ni-o, "two kings," huge and as hideous as they can be made in staring red and green, one with a lightning flash and the other with the wind in his hand. Huge straw sandals are hanging up as votive offerings before them, and their bodies are all plastered over with the paper prayers which have been chewed and then spat at them, with some hope, if they stick, that they may be answered.
But though, as a religion, Buddhism in Japan has left all its best elements behind, and has adopted all kinds of superstitious and degrading ideas which do not properly belong to it; and though, as a moral power tending to sympathy and mercy there is little to place to its credit, except a refusal to destroy life even when a poor mangled animal is writhing in hopeless agony, and in moral matters the Buddhist temple schools are bywords for what is unclean; yet the gifts of Buddhism to Japan in other ways are great. The Buddhist philosophy may be in the clouds, and, so far as it has a religious side, may be pantheistic, tending to sink the individual in the mass as a ripple is but part of the water of the lake, indistinguishable from it except so long as it continues a ripple; though it may thus depress energy, discredit active self-respect, and minimize responsibility, yet it has been the only philosophy of the country, the only thing to call out the powers of abstract thought. Again, Confucian, not Buddhist, books were the standard works for general education, yet it was Buddhist priests who generally gave the education. The whole of the older Japanese education seems to have been due to Buddhist teachers. The Chinese mode of writing may now be a great barrier in the way of the progress of Japan, but when the Buddhists came over and taught it, it was the only writing possible for the Japanese, and in several respects it is a very powerful instrument of education. Buddhist temples and [184/185] ritual may be florid and showy, often crowded with things which, side by side with Shinto simplicity and modest perfection of form, look gaudy and trumpery; yet almost all the art, as well as the literature and education, of Japan came through the Buddhists, and the greatest part of it is now to be found in their temples.
An interesting little illustration of the influence of Buddhism on Japanese art is to be found in the Torii, or Shinto portal. In pure, unaltered Shinto its lines are straight, and there are no words upon it. Where Buddhist influence has been admitted, the top line is a beautiful curve, and there is a plaque with a motto at the centre.
One last point may be mentioned. Were it not for Buddhism, the vista of a learned Japanese would have ended in China. He would have seen and known of nothing beyond. As it is, India, the fount of Buddhism, loomed dim and vast and distant on his view, seen as a land of mystery right across the Chinese Empire, as the Himalayas might sometimes be seen from the plains of India across the foothills. The Japanese outlook was certainly larger for this vision than it might otherwise have been, and Buddha in Japan sits, with his oval features, and drooping ear-lobes, and curly locks, and the jewel on his forehead, an Indian, not a Japanese, nor yet a Chinaman.
As regards Christianity as a religion of Japan, there is little that it concerns us to say. To the present day it is essentially the "foreign" religion in the popular mind. It comes to them with the many things, good, bad, and indifferent, which reach them from the West for acceptance, rejection, or adaptation. They think of it as a thing of which the good points, and especially the moral force, may be utilized to raise the criminal classes, to give better ideas of honesty in trade and still more in public [185/186] office, to mitigate the evils of education destitute of a moral basis. Or they think of it as aggressive, exclusive, and masterful; as anti-national; as creating discord and inconvenience in families; as interfering with free natural development along the line of the national instincts and ideals; as requiring much modification to suit it to their needs; as childish in its philosophy and belief in the supernatural. Buddhism, too, is "foreign," they know; but it is many centuries since foreign missionaries were among them to propagate it, and those missionaries did not push themselves in; they came by invitation, and their doctrine has already been modified to suit Japanese ideas, while their coming has left marks in philosophy and in art which are a glory of their land. Japanese Buddhism may be the daughter of Chinese, and Chinese of Tibetan, and Tibetan of Indian Buddhism, but she has long been independent of her parentage, and has gone her own way, though not at all disowning her ancestry.
The case of Christianity is different. Welcomed at first in St. Francis Xavier and his successors, it yet came uninvited, and it was, as we have seen, tangled up with trade and politics in a manner unfavourable to the internal peace of the country, and seeming to threaten it with foreign domination. Though it prospered and spread widely in the last half of the sixteenth century and a little beyond, influencing the highest circles quite as much as any other, yet it cannot be said to have left any mark on national as distinguished from individual character. Indeed, "perversity," as not falling into line with other religions, and with blind obedience to government, and denationalizing tendency leading to popular fear and hatred, were the ideas generally associated with it in the popular mind.
On the Christians themselves the effects were, of course, far more powerful. The fact that the Roman [186/187] Church, for moral reasons, dared not ordain to its celibate ministry any Japanese but the descendants of the old Christians of two hundred and fifty years before, until it had a third generation of Christian blood among its modern converts, is eloquent as to the moral seriousness and stamina introduced by Christianity. [The following statistics of the Roman Church, from the Japan Weekly Mail of August 8, 1903, will illustrate this. It should be observed that the vast majority of the Christians of old times were in what is now the Diocese of Nagasaki:--
But in truth it is not the influence of Christianity upon Japanese character which is so much worth recording, as the evidence which the history of Christianity in the islands affords of the existence of a strain of persistent toughness in Japanese character, alike in the higher and the lower classes, for which the nation gets little credit in the Western world.
As the result of a steady and remorseless policy, carried out actively for two generations, and passively, when the active work was done, for seven generations more, Christianity appeared to be quite stamped out. The pressure of penal laws, the exclusion of all foreigners [187/188] and execution of any who would not leave or who crept back to Japan, the most awful tortures of those Japanese Christians who were staunch, ingenious and protracted to the utmost in order to intimidate, the wholesale slaughter of the remnant when at last, in 1637, they were goaded into armed resistance; the patient and successful watching of the shores for two centuries and a half to prevent the landing of a foreigner or the egress of a Japanese, the provision that women should be sent across to Deshima to a handful of Dutch sailors lest they should cross the narrow channel in search, and that any children born should know nothing of their parentage; the laws which calmly sacrificed Japanese wealth, and especially the wealth of the upper class, to Japanese independence of all foreign entanglements by forbidding any rig but junk rig, and any junk large enough to go upon the ocean; the posting of notices by authority in every town in which "the perverse religion of Jesus" was proscribed in the same category with murder and adultery, with sedition and conspiracy; the provision of Christian emblems to be spat or trampled on where suspicion rested on any individual, and the responsibility for each other's good behaviour of all the group of adjoining families;--these things, and such as these, bear witness to a steady persistence in one policy of the rulers of the people at any sacrifice through eight consecutive generations.
Through the changes which have revolutionized everything in the past forty 'years, there has been the same patient, untiring, unbending forward movement for good or evil; mostly, we think, for good on the part of the real leaders of the people. The masses may cry now this, now that, and minor politicians may be self-seeking and unstable, going with the cry; but before long they look to their old leaders again. And those leaders may be entirely opportunist like Marquis Ito, or men of stiff [188/189] principle like Count Okuma, or may involve themselves in affairs and methods which bring to them little respect; but when the tide of popular feeling is against them they hold their tongues, and when the stress is past they say and do just what will carry the country along the line of progress at which they have consistently been aiming. It may be that what they say or do changes with the circumstances, but the drift and aim of their policy is quite unchanged, and in any great national crisis they would not merely sink their differences and their interests and act together, but we believe they would never dream that anything was their interest which was not for the public good.
In the previous period there was a consistent policy of keeping at all costs clear of the world's race; there is now the persistent purpose, having entered on the race, to do all that is possible to bring their emperor and their country to the foremost place in it. It is possible, of course, that rapid change in all things great and small for a whole generation may make the generation that has grown up amidst the changes incapable of bearing the dulness of a steadier advance; but certainly, not love of change, but consistent following out of a settled line of policy, is the underlying characteristic of those who most command the confidence and wield the power of the nation.
But if this is so in the governing classes, what of the nation whose destinies they guide? There is every external appearance of fickleness, of secret schemings, of mutual distrust, of dishonesty in things commercial; and at this moment, though there is abundant evidence of a determination on the part of the Government to put such things down, there is corruption disclosed among officials of all grades, so widespread that the difficulty in combatting it and in properly filling vacated posts may prove very serious. Only recently a person who, [189/190] though a paid official, may best be compared with the lord lieutenant of a county, was sent to prison for receiving bribes in connection with the choice of educational text-books. He had been sent to replace a man whose complicity in the same scandal had come to light a few months earlier. [The "text-book scandal" referred to above, is, so far as I can understand, completely a thing of the past, trenchantly and successfully dealt with. Corruption in office in Japan is singularly small in its range, especially when we consider the smallness of official stipends. In these and in similar matters the heart of the nation and of the Government is absolutely sound. The state leads, not, as in the West, follows, private opinion in moral progress. But the individuals look to the state to lead, and consequently they follow it as its ideals rise. Thus in financial matters, Government pledges are absolutely trustworthy; great international firms follow in the same line, and there can be little doubt that the private firms and individuals are fast catching the spirit of this general rise (1906).] Yet side by side with this untrustworthiness and lack of moral earnestness, who can deny that there both has been and is, somewhere among the middle and lower classes of Japan, a great toughness of moral fibre when, notwithstanding all the rigours of the government, thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands of Christians, from the beginning of the seventeenth century, without teacher, without book, in daily peril of death if discovered, had held fast to the little they could hand on by memory of Christian doctrine and practice, teaching some one to baptize and to instruct in what they had remembered of the Roman Catechism through eight generations, and watching and waiting for the return of teachers from the West?
How they recognized and sprang forward to greet the French priests at Nagasaki in 1865, eight years before it became lawful for a Japanese subject to be a Christian, is the most soul-stirring story in Marnas' "La Religion de Jesus resuscitée au Japon." Hardly less touching, [190/191] and quite as much to our purpose, is the further story how through this impolitic eagerness of theirs the Christian villages became known to the authorities, and between 1869 and the end of 1872 more than four thousand heads of Christian families were deported to other places in Japan, and treated with such rigour that when the edict of toleration came in 1873 more than twenty-five per cent, had died. These were villagers, farmers, and fishermen, wholly without social leaders.
Though there may be many disappointments, many half-hearted Christians in Japan as in England, is there not something yet in the Japanese blood which can rival upon occasion the heroes of the ancient Church, and make us pampered and self-approving children of Christendom blush with shame at the thought of what might happen if such tests of firmness were applied in Christian England? We have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.