Address by the Rev. Egerton Ryerson, M.A., Missionary in Japan, on Thursday, April 13th, 1905.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,-
There are few, I suppose, who are not to some extent interested in the Empire of Japan. Her achievements in this War have called forth our admiration, but we have also been attracted by the marvelous changes that have taken place in that country during the past forty years. It is my purpose today to try to show in some way how far Japan has become Occidental and how far she remains Oriental. It will be impossible to do this fully but we may look at some indications of this change from the East to the West. In the past it has been our custom to think of Japan as an oriental nation. We have classed her with China. We think of the two peoples as being very much alike and certainly, superficially, they look much alike. Their complexion, their hair, their physique, to some extent is similar, but when you examine the history of the two nations you find that there has been little racial connection between them.
In fact if we go back, back through the ages, we find that there is no historical record of any racial connection between China and Japan. It seems to me to be the greatest exaggeration when people flippantly talk about the Yellow Race. Certainly Japan has had some racial connection, perhaps before the dawn of history, with China. Her physique will indicate that. But she is also connected with the Malay races to the south of her; and her connection with China has been not chiefly a racial one; she has in the past owed much to that country; she derived her ancient civilization from the Continent of Asia. From about the sixth century onward Chinese civilization began to pour into Japan. Chinese art was copied but improved upon. The Japanese then as today do not adopt things wholesale; they adapt them to suit their own circumstances. Chinese learning was adopted; the Chinese method of writing was adopted and is used still today. The Chinese method of writing is rather complicated. They have no alphabet. Each idea is represented by a sign, and as they have a good many ideas they require a good many signs; in fact there are some Chinese dictionaries which claim to have as many as 40,000 characters, but it is said that with a knowledge of about four or five thousand one can get along very well. Japan still employs these characters in her writing. The newspapers use them. The setting up of type in a newspaper office in Japan is rather a difficult process. Small boys are employed to run about the room and collect the type.
Why has not Japan discarded this? Because it is intrinsically connected with their language. With the Chinese characters came Chinese words and these Chinese words are used in the book language of Japan. The written language is different from the spoken language, and it is impossible to write the written language with our characters. An attempt was made to introduce our Roman characters. Some years ago a Society was formed for that purpose, but it was found to be impracticable. A Japanese in hearing the book language read would not be able to understand it; he must see the characters. In fact even in conversation it is not uncommon to see a man explain some word he has used by writing it on his hand. Japan, then, has been unable to discard this cumbrous method of writing, but gradually the spoken language is being used more in books and in newspapers. The reason why it is not used altogether is, in addition to natural conservatism, such as makes us continue to use a cumbrous method of spelling, the written language is briefer than the spoken language, and naturally when they can write in a sort of shorthand they do not wait to use the longer forms. Together with writing came Chinese literature and in the past the youth of Japan was brought up in Chinese Classics. These have not been altogether discarded today; they are taught in the schools of Japan; but gradually they are being put aside. As Western learning- is coming in there is no room for the old Chinese learning and so it is going to the wall. It is said that the schools of Japan today have too much in their curricula, it is overloaded, and so it will be necessary to cut it down, and when that cutting down is done it will be the cutting away of Chinese literature.
Japan still continues to keep up the old customs and old methods of living. We hear a great deal about the New Japan and the new civilization that has been adopted but when one goes out into the country one sees people living much as their ancestors lived; their houses are the same; the same straw mats on the floor and the same paper windows; the food the people use is largely the same; in all these cases, though, there is a tendency to adopt things from the West, especially among the wealthier people. Among the wealthy people in the Capital and in some of the large cities some of the houses are built half in Japanese style and half in Western style. I remember visiting the Governor of one of the Provinces and being received in his foreign room. I must say it was not an attractive room, with a round table in the centre and chairs set stiffly on each side, and as one looked through the picturesque Japanese rooms beyond one rather wished one could go in and sit on the floor and be received in pure Japanese style. The Japanese also are to some extent adopting Western food. Bread is being used more than it was in the past and at the Osaka Exhibition Canada had a very good exhibit of flour. Canadian flour ought to be more exported to Japan. Most of the flour used in that country comes from the United States but there is no reason why we should not send them flour from our own country; and in fact the splendid exhibit at the Osaka Exhibition has done much to stimulate the trade in flour with our own country.
The Japanese as a whole still wear their own dress. The women, especially, have been conservative in this respect. At Court, however, both the men and women wear foreign clothes. The Marquis Ito was anxious to have foreign clothes introduced into the country and for a good reason. He said that the Japanese would not be received in Western courts and considered to be on a level with Western people if they did wear their native dress. We think so much of clothes. The men among the lower classes wear their own clothes but among business classes the men have largely adopted our clothes. The reason is that they are more convenient. The Japanese clothes with the narrow skirt (that is, the clothes of a gentleman) are not convenient for the rush of modern business life, so they have been discarded for Western clothes; and boys in the schools from the age of fourteen upwards wear a uniform with short jacket and trousers. In Tokio an attempt is being made to introduce Western dress among the girls in the schools. There are some schools where it is a rule that the girls must wear our shoes and stockings and some schools also have a rule that they must wear hats. But still, on the whole, Japan looks much as it looked in the past and the customs are much as they were in the past.
Yet she has adopted Western civilization. Forty years ago when the leaders of the country came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to keep the West out, they determined to compete with the West by adopting Western ideas and methods and so they sent Embassies to different countries and examined the ways of life in the various countries of the world, methods of government and so on, and they have based their modern Japan upon what they have found in the West. The Navy is based upon that of England; their Army is based upon that of Germany; their law is based upon that of France; their Government is largely German as well as the police; their postal system is like that of the United States, only better. In fact the postal system is as good as anywhere in the world. There is free postal delivery in all parts of the country. There is no such thing as going to a country post office and waiting around for your mail. The letters are delivered by small boys who wear a uniform partly foreign but partly Japanese, wearing straw sandals, and who run about from door to door delivering letters. They must always keep on the run and so the letters are promptly and well delivered.
Japan has its railways and telegraphs. The railways are chiefly based upon those of England but to some extent adapted to their own conditions. In Tokyo there are electric cars and some of the cars are better than I have had the opportunity of riding in anywhere else at all. Japan has adopted the outside of our Western civilization but she has not stopped there, and I do not believe that the changes in' Japan are purely superficial. It is not simply that she is putting on an overcoat of Western civilization that she can throw off again; she is changing actually in her methods of thought. There are several things bringing this about. First, there are the schools. Japan has a complete school system based largely upon that of the United States. They have everything in the way of schools from the kindergarten to the university and in visiting a Japanese school one would see that it was very much like a school here, with desks, seats, blackboard, and maps, and in some of the scientific laboratories they seem to be exceedingly well equipped. The schools are bringing the children up in Western ideas. Western geography and Western history is taught and so the rising generation will be largely Western. The power of heredity is not so very great after all, and children who have been brought up in our own thoughts and in our own ways of living will not be so very different from ourselves.
Then the newspapers are exerting a great influence in Japan; and counting newspapers and periodicals there are more than 1,000 in that country. These keep the people posted in all that is going on in the rest of the world. One sometimes meets a man who will ask about an article in the London Times which he has seen translated in his own paper and he has his opinions with regard to that. To show how closely we are connected with the rest of the world there, the Toronto fire was reported in some of the local papers in Japan the day after it occurred. We heard the extent of the fire, the amount of the loss. People of all classes read the newspapers-they are published cheaply and in reading them they are absorbing Western ideas. This is making a radical change in the nation. Together with newspapers of course the presses are sending out quantities of other literature and many of our English and Western books are translated into Japanese. Then Christianity, I believe, is in that country changing the ideas of the people quite apart from the growth of Christian bodies. Christian ideas are permeating the nation, and the humanity that has been shown in this present war, the kind treatment that has been shown towards the enemy and their prisoners and their wounded, has not been entirely due to Japanese character. I do not wish to under-estimate at all the Japanese character, they have many noble traits, but yet they are absorbing Christian ideas and Christian ideals.
If one nation more than any other is influencing Japan it is our own nation. The English language is being studied in all the schools in Japan, above the primary schools; that is boys from thirteen or fourteen years upward all learn English. I am not very sure about the girls' schools. But the English language is being well studied and it is not an uncommon thing to find boys of seventeen or eighteen who speak English very well. They have a great desire to learn our language and in travelling about the country one continually makes friends of young men coming up and using the opportunity of meeting one for practicing English. The language of our country is used by the people in many ways. For instance, the railway tickets in Japan are printed on one side in Japanese and on the other side in English. The people consider it rather stylish to use English. In even out of the way parts of the country, up in the mountains, one may occasionally see signs in English, even in places where a foreigner would never go. Some of the English signs in Tokyo are rather amusing. For instance, a city transfer was described on one sign as " An internal railway, baggage sent in all directions." The influx of the English language is bringing the people of that country close to ourselves. With the language come English ideas and so we draw nearer and nearer together.
Japan has felt very grateful to England for what has been done for her in the past. England was the first country to revise the treaties with Japan on equal terms and for that Japan felt exceedingly grateful. The alliance with England has also been a cause of self-congratulation among that people. There was a great rejoicing in Tokyo and many parts of the country when that was announced and on account of that we are well received wherever we go. I remember last year travelling with a Bishop and at one town receiving a right-royal reception. It was simply because the Bishop was an Englishman. We were first taken to a school where the Bishop spoke on an ethical subject before about 500 students. After that about twenty-five or thirty leading citizens, lawyers, judges and doctors gave a dinner at a foreign restaurant; everything was in foreign style and there were, I think, about fifteen courses, beginning with oysters on the shell and ending with ice cream. That evening the Bishop spoke before about 200 members of a certain Club. The next morning he spoke at a large girls' school where there were about 400 girls and after that we were again entertained at a very good luncheon entirely in Western style: This is simply an illustration of the good feeling of the Japanese towards ourselves.
We should then sympathize with the Japanese; we should treat them with respect. The victories of Japan, her achievements in the Chinese War in relief of the legations at Pekin, and also in this present War, have forced people to treat her seriously. Russia was disposed to do otherwise but I think she has probably changed her opinion now. But our respect for Japan should not be based simply upon her military and naval achievements; it should be based more upon her achievements in peace; upon her great progress in Western civilization and her commercial achievements of a peaceful kind. Japan has been in the past perhaps backward in commerce. The Japanese in the old days were not accustomed to business. In fact the business man was looked upon as being of the lowest class. First -came the soldiers, then the farmers, then the artisans and last of all the merchants. But today that has been changed and people are going into business from the nobility down, but still, as business was despised in the old days, the business methods are not altogether ideal, and it has been hard for Japan to change them altogether quickly. This has to some extent accounted for the fact that the Chinese are looked upon generally as better business men than the Japanese.
But Japan has great business firms today who are carrying on their business on methods that would be approved of anywhere. She has the usual banking institutions and in these everybody is Japanese. It is quite a mistake that some people have that Chinese are employed. Chinese are employed in the ports but not in the banks or throughout the country. Japan has developed a wonderful foreign trade. After twenty years, the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, or Japan Steamship Company, has achieved wonderful success. They have a fleet of seventy vessels running to America, Australia and England. Japan's advance then in the arts of peace should call forth our sympathy and as Japan advances Westward we should draw closer to it and should give Japan all the help we can. We English-speaking people have especial opportunities in that direction. We have the same ideals; we stand for religious freedom and freedom of speech; we stand for the integrity of China and the open door in the far East; and the victory which, I trust, will not be long delayed-the victory of Japan in this present war will mean the progress of mankind politically, socially and morally.