The Land of the Rising Sun
V ERY different to China and her long sleep, is the story of wakeful Japan, that "child of the world's old age."
"The two most wonderful men in the world," said Louis Kossuth, "are Prince Bismarck and the Emperor of Japan."
Let us see how this Emperor or Mikado earned his
The first knowledge of the Japanese Empire was brought to Europe by
With China, she had resented the interference of foreign traders, and rejected all attempts to introduce
Western civilisation. She was as
carefully sealed to the outer world, as the enchanter's famous casket. In the midst of the pearly waters of the
northern Pacific Ocean, she lay in her
And so it happened one day in the year 1853, when the Japanese were living "like frogs in a well," they were
rudely awakened from their dream of peace and security by the sight of some American
Commodore Perry had been sent by the United States, with a friendly letter from the President to the Emperor of
Japan, his "great and good friend." The letter pointed out how near the two countries were to one another, and
how important it was they should be friends and live peaceably together. As the great
"Never has the clash of foreign arms been heard within the precincts of our holy ground," they cried as with one voice. "Let not our generation be the first to see the disgrace of a barbarian army treading on the land where our fathers rest. Peace and prosperity of long duration have enervated our spirit, rusted our armour, and blunted the swords of our men," they added, with heavy hearts.
The great ships sailed away, and eight months later returned for the answer. Meanwhile war in the Crimea
had broken out, British
So the treaty was signed. Japan's beautiful ports were opened to foreign trade; the enchanter's casket was unwillingly unsealed at last. Other nations soon followed the example of the United States, and obtained treaties allowing them to trade. And to their great surprise, instead of barbarians, the Japanese found these foreigners kind and just. Soon after the entrance of the foreigners, a party of Japanese went to Europe; they travelled about from city to city, and returned in two years, astonished with all they had seen and heard.
"It is not the people of the West, who are the barbarians," they exclaimed on landing. "We ourselves are the barbarous people."
And what did the foreigners find in this mysterious country of the Japanese? They found an empire about the
size of the British Isles, a group of islands "set in a silver sea," and thickly populated with quaint and
fascinating little people. They found a mountainous district, with one volcano—Fujiyama, the peerless
mountain—towering above the rest, short rivers and streams racing to the sea, and good harbours. Japan
was a land of flowers. Gardening there had been brought to a fine art. From the humblest cottage to the
Emperor's palace grounds, grew a profusion of wild roses, camellias, orchids, violets, and lilies, while much
skill was lavished on the celebrated chrysanthemum of
The country was ruled by the Emperor in name, by the Shogun in deed. This dual control brought endless confusion, to the newly awakened empire; but it was not easy to abolish, in a moment, the manners and customs of hundreds of years. But the state of things grew unbearable, and at last the Shogun was forced to resign. Somewhat pathetic are his last words.
"I surrender the whole governing power into the hands of the Imperial Court. This is the best I can do for the interests of the Empire."
The resignation of the Shogun was followed by one of the most remarkable events in modern history. The chief
Thus at one stroke the lands of Japan passed to the State, and the feudalism of long years was no more.
Japan had awakened. The period of "enlightened peace" had begun.