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He is regarded by many as “the greatest soldier, if not the greatest man, whom Japan has produced.” If this statement can be successfully challenged, the palm will certainly be awarded to Iyeyasu, who, by the victory of Sekigahara in 1600, became the virtual ruler of the empire.
5. Tokugawa Feudalism [1603-1868 A. D.]. Iyeyasu founded a dynasty (Tokugawa) of Shõguns, who, for more than 260 years, ruled at Yedo, surrounded by faithful vassals, and who at least gave the empire a long period of peace. He brought Japanese feudalism to its perfection of organization. His successors destroyed Christianity by means of a fearful persecution; prohibited commercial intercourse, except with the Chinese and the Dutch, and allowed it with these only to a limited extent, and thus crystallized Japanese civilization and institutions. It may be true that “Japan reached the acme of her ancient greatness during the Tokugawa Dynasty”; but it is also true that by this policy of insulation and seclusion she was put back two and a half centuries in the matter of progress in civilization.
The long years of peace under the Tokugawas were also years of literary development. Chinese history, literature, and philosophy were ardently studied; Confucianism wielded a mighty influence; but Japanese history and literature were not neglected. The Mito clan especially was the centre of intellectual industry, and produced, among a large number of works, the Dai Nihon Shi (History of Great Japan), which is even to-day the standard. The study of Japanese history revealed the fact that the governmental authority had been originally centred in the Emperor, and not divided with any subordinate; and the study of Confucian political science led to the same idea of an absolute monarchy.
1 Previously Portuguese, English, and others had enjoyed the privilege.
Thus the spirit of Imperialism grew, encouraged, perhaps, by clan jealousies and fostered by antiforeign opinions, until “the last of the Shõguns” resigned his position, and the Emperor was restored to his original sole authority. Then the leaders of the Restoration abandoned their anti-foreign slogan, which had been only a pretext, and by a complete but wise volte-face, began to turn their country into the path of modern civilization, to make up for the lost centuries. But the story of this wonderful transformation belongs to the next chapter.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Griffis, in his “ Japan in History, Folk-lore, and Art,” gives interesting glimpses of Japanese history; and many other works on Japan present a brief treatment of this subject. There is an official “ History of the Empire of Japan," originally prepared for the World's Columbian Exposition. Hildreth's “Japan as it Was and Is” is especially valuable for the period of seclusion. Knapp's “ Feudal and Modern Japan" is instructive in its contrasts. The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan abound in valuable material. For a single volume on this subject, Murray's "Japan" in the series of “ The Stories of the Nations " is the best.
HISTORY (NEW JAPAN)
OUTLINE OF TOPICS : Birth of New Japan. — Nineteenth Century Japan ; calendars ; six periods : (I) Period of Seclusion, chronology and description; (II) Period of Treaty-making, chronology and description; (III) Period of Civil Commotions, chronology and description; (IV) Period of Reconstruction, chronology and description, especially the “Charter Oath"; (V) Period of Internal Development, chronology and description ; (VI) Period of Constitutional Government, chronology and description ; summary of general progress. Bibliography,
ULY 14, 1853, was the birthday of New Japan.
suite first landed on the shore of Yedo Bay at Kurihama, near Uraga, and when Japanese authorities received, in contravention of their own laws, an official communication from Millard Fillmore, President of the United States.
It may be true that, even if Perry had not come, Japan would have been eventually opened, because internal public opinion was shaping itself against the policy of seclusion ; but we care little for what “might have been.” It is, of course, true that Perry did not fully carry out the purpose of his expedition until the following year, when he negotiated a treaty of friendship; but the reception of the President's letter was the crucial point; it was the beginning of the end of old Japan. The rest followed in due course of time. When Japanese authorities broke their own laws, the downfall of the old system was inevitable. Mark those words in the receipt — “in opposition to the Japanese law.” That was a clear confession that the old policy of seclusion and its prohibitions could no longer be strictly maintained. A precedent was thus established, of which other nations were not at all slow to avail themselves.
But although New Japan was not born until the second half of the nineteenth century, it suits the purpose of this book a little better, even at the expense of possible repetition, to take a survey in this chapter of that entire century, in order that the real progress of Japan may thereby be more clearly revealed in all its marvellous strides.
Of course, the employment of the Gregorian calendar in Japan is of comparatively recent occurrence, so that it would be quite proper to divide up the century according to the old Japanese custom of periods, or eras, of varying length. This system was introduced from China and has prevailed since 645 A. D. A new era was always chosen “ whenever it was deemed necessary to commemorate an auspicious or ward off a malign event.” It is interesting, by the way, to notice that, immediately after Commodore Perry's arrival (1853), the name of the period was changed for a good omen! Hereafter these eras will correspond with the reigns of the emperors.
1 For lists of eras and emperors, see Appendix.
But it is really more intelligible to divide the history of the century into six periods of well-determined duration. Each one of these periods, moreover, may be accurately named in accord with the distinguishing characteristic of that period. It must, however, be clearly understood that these distinctions are not all absolute, but rather relative. It is also possible, without an undue stretch of the imagination, to trace, in the order of the periods, the general progress that has marked the history of New Japan. These periods are as follows:
I. Seclusion (1801-1853).
V. Internal Development (1879–1889).
It is of special interest for Americans to notice that the third and fourth periods are almost contemporaneous with the periods of Civil War and Reconstruction in the United States.
We now take up each period in detail.
1. Period of Seclusion (1801-1853).
1804. Resanoff, Russian Embassy.
1 Or [VII. Cosmopolitanism (1899- )].