Story of Japan - R. Van Bergen
This book gives an exceptionally good history of Japan from its legendary beginnings as the Kingdom of the Sun-Goddess to its fantastic transition from a feudal society to a modern technological one near the end of the nineteenth century. The author provides many stories which illustrate the unique culture of Japan and its dedication to the Samurai virtues of courage, loyalty, honor and duty.
Our nearest neighbor across the Pacific has been reckoned among the foremost nations of the earth ever since, in the late war with China, she humiliated that vast but inert empire. Japan will have a voice in the future destiny of Asiatic countries, and in that of the islands of the Pacific.
Our schoolbooks on geography and general history touch but lightly upon the Japanese Empire, and it is for the purpose of enabling children to obtain a correct idea of the people, and of the impulses leading to the rapid progress of the past quarter of a century, that "The Story of Japan" has been written.
It was deemed essential to explain repeatedly the key to the history of Japan and to the reforms of our time, by noticing the overpowering influence of the samurai of old, who were and still are the makers of the nation.
With a very few exceptions, the nobles of Japan have been wholly dependent upon their leading samurai, who, in turn, have been influenced by the ablest of their peers. Ever since the shoguns or regents transacted the affairs of the government, these samurai have been the real rulers of the country. The people never had, nor have they now, a voice in public affairs. The shizoku or samurai, of whom there are four hundred thousand households in a population of almost forty-two millions, have absorbed all the offices, from that of cabinet minister to that of policeman, and the people are satisfied that it should be so, for the rule of the samurai has always been just.
It was the lesson received at Kagoshima and Shimonoseki that convinced the samurai of their inferiority to Americans and Europeans in warfare and engines of war, and there arose among them a great enthusiasm to master such knowledge as would enable them, in turn, to vanquish the foreigners. This was the motive of the reforms, and the same motive prompts every measure taken by the government to-day. It explains why fads have been discarded; why the people, after trying experiments in our modes of dress, diet, architecture, etc., have returned to their old customs, retaining only such features of western civilization as have proved themselves useful to Japan.
While the thread of historical events runs throughout this book, many incidents and characteristic stories have been cited to illustrate the manners and customs of the various periods. As the book is designed for children, the stories are clothed in simple form and language, which will, it is hoped, render them attractive to the young mind.
|R. VAN BERGEN.|