- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Apr 1915, p. 134-142
- Shortt, Rev. C.H., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's experience living in Japan for the last 14 years. The difficulty of generalising about a nation of 54 million people with such a long history. The speaker's good luck to have been in almost the whole of "the sixty-six provinces," and to have met a great many different classes of people in Japan. Increasing attention turned towards Japan since 1868, when the Emperor was restored to his proper place as the real ruler of Japan. The succession of the three wars in which Japan has been engaged since then. The nations of the world beginning to estimate Japan in the proper way, and how that has affected their policy. What most of the travellers find when they come to study Japan. Comments upon the people and culture and history of Japan. Relations between Japan and Great Britain. How Japan has carried out her obligation in the war. How we can personally show our appreciation. Japan suffering from the prevalence of one or two horrible slanders that have gone all over the earth and are commonly believed by everybody. Doing what we can to contradict these slanders. Discussing and dispelling the slanders. Making friends with the Japanese.
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- 8 Apr 1915
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AN ADDRESS BY REV. C. H. SHORTT, M.A.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, April 8, 1915
Mr. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,-It gives me a very great deal of happiness to have the opportunity of meeting you all today and speaking to you, and I want first of all to thank you for giving me this opportunity to be here and speak on the subject of that second home of mine, Japan, where I have been living for the last fourteen years and upwards. I would have very little excuse for speaking on the subject at all if I had not been there as long as that. When I first arrived in Japan I had the pleasure of meeting an old Canadian who had been there since 1872. He said, " How long have you been here? " I said a week. Then he asked, " Have you written your book? " I did not understand him, but he said, " If you do not write your book about Japan now, you will never write it." If writers would only wait more than a week there would not be so much rubbish written.
It is difficult to generalise on a nation of 54,000,000 people, with a history such as theirs, but the longer we live there the nearer we get to understanding at least how much there is to know. I have been living there fourteen years and have had the good luck to have been in almost the whole of " the sixty-six provinces," and to have met a great many different classes of people in the country; it is owing to that fact that I have the impudence to speak about Japan at all, because if I do not know anything about it, I ought to.
Everybody knows that ever since 1868 there has been increasing attention turned towards Japan. I say 1868, because, as you all know, that was the year that the country was opened, at the time of the restoration of the Emperor to his proper place as the real ruler of Japan. From that time forward the country has been open, and therefore attention has been turned towards it; but the thing which drew most attention to Japan was, of course, the succession of the three wars in which she has been engaged. First of all the Chinese war, then the Russian wax, and now the present war. That has turned people's attention to Japan, and one of the consequences of people turning their attention to that country is that the various nations of the West have begun to estimate Japan in a proper way. That has affected all their policy. First of all there came the move in the early nineties, begun by Great Britain, towards revising the old treaties, because they found they must consider Japan on the same footing as any other properly organised country, not as it had been treated before. Then followed the Anglo-Japanese alliance in 1902, which has since been twice revised and extended. Then came another move, and Great Britain again led in raising her legation in Tokyo to an embassy, thus recognising Japan as one of the ten great powers. The others followed afterwards, but I am glad to say Britain was the first. All these things turned a good deal of attention to Japan, besides the increased travel and the abundance of literature which has been produced on the subject. People have found out a number of things about Japan itself and about the people; I cannot stop today to talk much about any of those things; you have multitudes of books to read and pictures to look at. I have some more important things I should like to speak of.
You know all the travellers find pretty much the same thing and tell about the same story; they say, of course, that when they came to study Japan they found it was indeed a civilised country, and not only that, but a country with a very ancient civilisation-in fact a highly-civilised country. When it was opened it was not a new thing; there is no mushroom growth there. If they had not had so much behind them it would have been impossible to adopt the number of things from the West they did, so quickly. When people have understood that, they have ceased to wonder so much at the suddenness of the movements in Japan. They found it was a highly-civilised country when opened, and that it had behind it about the same length of history as Great Britain, that is, a thoroughly written and established history. It is nothing, of course, to compare with the length of the history of China, but it has about the same length as our own, and an intensely interesting history, well worth your study. They found the people were clean, polite, lawabiding, artistic, and many other things with which you are quite familiar. One thing was commonly said-I found it in many books and in speaking with many people-they said, " Are not the Japanese the French of the Pacific? " I say in the main that is true. If you must make them the Anything of the Pacific, if they are anything more than themselves, then they do perhaps resemble the French more than any nation in Europe. There are a few particulars in which this is very manifest. Living among the French for a while, one finds them very warm-hearted, and you find the Japanese the same. They have quick perception just like the French; provided the language difficulty is out of the way, an idea is grasped instantly, precisely like the French. The French love their word "solidarite"; they love to act as one body, and they always do; that is precisely the same with Japan, and always has been, they love to move and act as one great body; solidarity is a popular word there as in France. And there is another point of great concern to us; they have an exceedingly high sense of national honour like the French. That is the reason why the French so often have remained faithful to an ally when it was greatly to their own disadvantage, and I am perfectly sure the Japanese will do the same thing, even if it is greatly to their disadvantage. I say that concerns us now, because that brings us down to the period of the present war. The fact that Japan is proBritish is nothing new, and had nothing to do with the alliance, because that sentiment was there before. I remember what a relief it was to arrive in Japan in 1900. I had been travelling about Europe just before that, having been in the United States and then in Europe, mostly in France. Then I came out from Naples in a German ship; there were a great many people from Holland on board--and the Boer War--was going on! You can imagine pretty well what the atmosphere was all along; it was not exactly pro-British. To arrive in Japan and find the people not only pro-British, but enthusiastically pro-British, was indeed a relief. After the greatest victory in the Boer War, the only ruler in the world who sent congratulations to England was the Emperor of Japan. I say those things ought not to be forgotten, and I do not think they are forgotten. When this horrible war broke out last summer, Japan was put to the test. A request was sent by the British Government on the 4th of August to Japan to participate in the war. A very short time was taken to consider it, though the alliance did not demand it. The government sent in its agreement at once, and said they would participate in the war. There was rather an amusing thing connected with that, which perhaps you missed. They had no love for Germany before, none whatever, and no reason to love Germany, for you may remember that it was owing to Germany coming into what was called the Triple Interference, after the Chinese War, that it was necessary for Japan to yield back to China everything she had won from her. They were not at all surprised at Russia and France taking that action, because Russia wanted it herself, and France was her permanent ally, and therefore backed her up as she always will back up an ally. But what Germany had to do with it nobody in Japan could see, and nobody else, outside of Germany. But they " butted in " as we say, and sent a demand from Berlin to Tokyo that Japan should recede to China the territory she was now occupying. The wording of that I cannot give you, but it was remembered in Japan, and as soon as this war broke out and Japan was asked to come into it, she sent an identical note, copied exactly from that one, asking Germany to recede to China the territory she was occupying. Of course it was indignantly refused, coupled with a threat that after the Emperor had humbled England and France, and had conquered Russia, he would deal with Italy and Japan. One of the Tokyo newspapers, just after that, put a very short note upon it, saying, " Then we have plenty of time to prepare."
Well, you know how they have carried out their obligation. You noticed, I have no doubt, how completely they swept out the eastern and western Caroline Islands, the Ladrones, the Marshall Islands, and in the North Pacific everything that Australia and New Zealand had left, and then turned down to Tsing Tao and reduced the fortress in twenty-nine days-the only German fortress, by the way, which has yet been taken by anybody. She also patrolled our coasts for us; she sent over the best of those magnificent battle cruisers, which they have been building recently in Japan itself, and the Izumo has been patrolling the British Columbia coast for us ever since the beginning of the war.
Now what do you think we ought to do personally in the way of showing our appreciation of all that our western neighbour has been doing, and the attitude that she has kept up so strictly all the way through? I think you and I can do a good deal personally, because the only thing Japan really suffers from now is the prevalence of one or two horrible slanders that have gone all over the earth and are commonly believed by everybody, and it is only fair that you and I should do what we can to contradict those slanders. I do not say to take it on my word, but look into them well and if they prove to be slanders, nail those lies, and you will be doing a good act, because they are injuring Japan very greatly throughout the world at the present time.
One of those slanders, commonly heard, is that the Japanese are dishonourable and dishonest and untrustworthy as a nation. People ask me about that all the time, everywhere I go, and it is quite worth our while to help them get rid of that. There is nothing so hard to get rid of as a thing that has any truth mixed up with it at all. Somebody has said that the most dangerous lie is the one that has most truth in it. There is a little truth mixed up in that horrible lie, and it is just as well that we should know where it is so as to be able to distinguish. I spoke of the opening of the country in 1868. Before that time, the whole organisation of the country was feudal, as you know. Beneath the nobility, the people were divided into four classes, sharply marked off one from another. It is not so now, but was in those days. The lowest of these classes was the mercantile class; the merchants were very much despised, and to a great extent they deserved it. People act as they are expected to act, and nothing was expected from the merchants, and not very much was got from them. What happened? In that year all the old barriers were broken down, equality was proclaimed among all classes, and there is now no recognition of this class by law, although, as in other cases when a similar thing happens, it takes a long time for the customs based on these conditions completely to die out. As soon as foreign merchants were admitted to the five treaty ports in Japan, as soon as merchants came there from all the countries of the earth, the old mercantile people were the ones to rush down to those ports, because there was something to be got; and what they did not know they learned from those foreign merchants. Then you must remember that until the revision of the treaties, which came into action in 1900, these were the only people the foreign merchants ever met. These were the only people they knew anything about, and they judged the whole nation by one class, one restricted class, too, and one class that by no means represented the rest of the nation. That is the amount of truth there is in it; those merchants from all the countries of the earth went about the rest of the world and filled it with stories about Japanese dishonesty, many of them no doubt true. What has happened since that? As a matter of fact, all the classes are now going into business, anti it is not necessary for me to tell you, for you know about the strong business concerns that have been built up in Japan, which simply could not have been built up if they were people such as these stories represent,
I must try to nail the most ludicrous lie I have ever heard circulated about Japan. It has not any truth in it at all; it is made absolutely out of the whole cloth, and yet I hear it continually. I can hardly quote it without laughing. It is this: people say, " Isn't it true that the Japanese are so dishonest that the banks all have to employ Chinese clerks? " I have heard that over and over again, and all the missionaries from Japan have the same experience; wherever they go they hear this story. Where did it come from? It not only is not true, but it never was true; I do not believe there ever was a solitary Chinaman employed in a Japanese bank; I do not believe any bank dare do it, even if it wanted to. There is just a possibility that the solution one person gave is the right one, and what he said is that when the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which is a British institution, put a branch in Tokyo and in Kobe, they brought their Chinese clerks to those two banks, and for some years they remained there. Now they have substituted Japanese clerks, but some travellers may have gone to that bank and have mistaken it for a Japanese bank--when it was really a British one--and seeing the Chinamen there jumped to the conclusion that the Japanese had to employ Chinese clerks. It may have come from that, but some person must have put it into his book or magazine article, because it has circulated around the earth, and it has no truth whatever in it.
Another charge against Japan now is that she is grasping, looking about for opportunities to grasp other people's territory. Some people tell you that they began by emigration, getting people into the countries and increasing influence, and so on, and so on, ultimately intending to grab the country, and that she has some ulterior designs upon China now; some one even asserted that she was going to annex the whole of China. That sort of thing is commonly said, and it is just as well to be able to nail that lie, because that is a very unfair charge indeed. I do not think anybody can bring up any substantial facts on which =use any such opinion. None of the other wars have been undertaken in any such spirit at all. Until she does something to cause such a charge to be brought, it is not fair to bring it against her. I am not concerned with the California question, nor with the Australia question, nor any other one, but we are concerned all of us, as Canadians and as Britons, with the British Columbia question, and all I would say is that we must do our best to try and get those British Columbia people to be a little less hot-headed. One of them told us we must expect them to be hot-headed because they are a province of young men; I thought that came very well from British Columbia, and I hope that all will realise that. We must try to get them to look at things, not provincially, but imperially, if they can; and by all means to get them to distinguish the issues. The British Columbia issue has nothing whatever to do in any respect with the California one, even if some of the California and Seattle agitators want to drag British Columbia into it, and to drag Great Britain in. Keep your eye on them; that is what they did before in 1906, and with some success. We have nothing to do with the California matter, and do not let them mix it up. Another thing, try to get them to remember that when they are dealing with Japan it has nothing whatever to do with the Chinese question or with the question commonly called the Hindoo question -although I do not think there is a Hindoo in it the question of India and the Sikhs from there. The question of India is a domestic matter for the British Empire only. The Chinese question stands altogether by itself, and must be dealt with individually until there is a government in Pekin that people can deal with. The Japanese government is recognised everywhere as a government that another nation can deal with, and a government that never yet has broken any of its treaties, and therefore one that must be dealt with as they would deal with the government of France or any other country. Keep the issues on this side separate, and keep the governments on the other side separate, and then we shall not have any difficulty. It is too big a question to go into at all closely; but I ask that this should not be allowed to bias anybody's judgment in regard to Japan's action; it is no proof at all that she has any grasping ideas. People say Isn't she proving it now? She is trying to grab a piece of China. Now what has the Japanese government done? They have said from the beginning if Germany would not relinquish what she got from China, Japan would take it from her. She did that, and included with it the whole of Kiao Chow Bay and the railway concessions depending on it. That is what the trouble is about, whether it included the railway concessions or not, and now China seems to have yielded. Japan will not give that back till the war is over. They have no confidence at all in the President of China, and I do not think anybody has much reason to have confidence in him. Outside of China he is not trusted. In that case it would not be safe to hand that territory back, because it might be sold to another country tomorrow, might be sold to Germany again, or Russia, or the United States, and Japan does not intend that anything like that shall happen until the war is over; and then with the full agreement of her ally Great Britain, and the other allies; what is fair will be done you may be sure.
All I shall say in conclusion is that it is the wisdom of Canadians, as well as their high privilege, to make friends, real friends, with our neighbours to the west of us, the island Empire of the East, which resembles in so many respects our own mother country. It is our wisdom to make real friends because when one gets underneath the outer crust of customs, and so on, which are a little different from our own, and when one lives among them, it is astonishing how very much like ourselves they all become. If we make friends with them we shall not then have misunderstandings, and if we make friends with them and a misunderstanding comes up, through a mischief-maker or in some other way, it can be easily settled because we shall know them. Let us make every effort to know one another.
A vote of thanks was tendered to the speaker on motion of Mr. Akira Yamauchi, Councillor of the Department of Agriculture and Commerce of Japan, seconded by Mr. S. Ubakata, of Toronto.