IN trying to get an idea of what the Japanese think of sending an army to Siberia, we must be fair to the hustling, clever little Oriental folk. It is easy to get the wrong impression of a nation, especially when the medium of conversation is so difficult as that between a Japanese and an American. Few people realise how hard it is to express our ideas in Japanese. If the best scholar in Japan translated an English article into Japanese and later the next-best scholar translated the same article back into English, the differences between the result and the original text would be many and probably vital.
The Japanese does not think as the Westerner does, of course. He not only has a different way of thinking, but his mental process halts frequently when he is considering big, outside questions.
In 1911 Prince Katsura started for Russia on a world-tour. In Manchuria he was met by Hsu-Shi-Chang, one of the most astute of Chinese politicians. Hsu-Shi-Chang asked the Prince what he thought of the political outlook in the Orient.
Prince Katsura is reported to have replied laconically and with a shrug of his shoulders, “Japan is no longer Japan of the Orient; she is now concerned with world politics.”
I think that is truemore true today than ever before, but it does not mean that the people of Japan have kept pace with her Government. Maybe that is not necessary, but in the end the people have to be considered a bit, even in Japan. Public opinion does not cut much figure in the Orient yet, but one or two instances have been seen of new influences at work, and working effectually, at that.
In a country where over seventy per cent of the schools are primary schools, and where the boys and girls spend several years mastering the alphabet, or what stands for it, a mental equipment which gives full equality with his prototype in America can hardly be asked fairly of the Japanese. He is no fool, mind you. But his education is, on some counts, weird. It’s very Japanese.
Ask a Japanese school-boy who invented the telegraph, the telephone, or the gramophone. Ask him who discovered electricity. He will answer, if he thinks he knows, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred by naming some Japanese. His idea of foreign countries is vague. Japan sees to it that her sons think a lot of Japan. There is good in that idea, but there may be some bad if it is carried too far.
In a country which has a constitution of a sort, the preamble of which says it is to be ruled by a line of Emperors unbroken, eternal, descended from Heaven, and that no power on earth is to change one minute phrase or clause of that constitution except the Emperor himselfa constitution that makes the Ministers of the Crown responsible solely to the Emperor, who appoints them and dismisses them at will its world politics depend little on the ideas and opinions of the man in the street.
The voter in Japan is not much in evidence. Less than five per cent of the population have the franchise, though any man who pays taxes in a sum which is the equivalent of five dollars or thereabouts per year has a vote. A poor country? Yes. And at the same time the most heavily taxed people in proportion to their earned incomes of any people in the world. So it is natural enough that the Japanese should have a view of outside lands that is not always in the right perspective.
The people of Japan will learn. They have learned much in a short cycle. They are always learning. But democracy and anti-materialism do not mean much to them yet.
One of the editors of the Asahi called on me in Tokyo not long ago and we indulged in a lengthy chat about the fight for Constitutionalism in Japan. I had not many days before, in Karazawa, seen Mr. Ozaki, Ex-Minister of Justice in the Okuma Cabinet, who, with Viscount Kato, leader of what terms itself the Constitutionalist Party in Japan, heads the fight for Constitutionalism.
“Ozaki is no further along the road than when I saw him in 1916,” I remarked. “What are you doing, you Constitutionalists? What chance have you to make headway? Are you getting anywhere? Do you see any hope for your projects?”
He talked long and earnestly. Boiled down, his remarks held nothing but this : One day, some day, they hoped to make the Emperor see that certain changes in the Constitution were of vital interest to Japan and for Japan’s welfare. Then they might enlist the Emperor’s sympathy in their cause, and gain his support for their proposals. A campaign of educationthe proletariat educating the Crown. Interesting.
Mr. Tukotomy of the Tokyo Kokumin Shim-bun is a live man. He is a wise man, on some counts, though his contemporaries will not agree to that. His was the only paper in Japan of any weight or standing that was behind Count Terauchi when he was made Premier in October, 1916. A conversation with Mr. Tukotomy is always bright. He represents a certain line of thought in Japan that has some influence. Tukotomy’s idea in the latter part of 1917 was that Japan and America should help Russia only on condition that the great, struggling Slav nation put its house in order. If Russia adopted a Constitution and proceeded under some stable form of government, Japan and America should join hands and give what succour they could; but for either country to try to assist Russia until the internal complications were in better shape, would be, he thought, interfering with Russia’s domestic affairs. Tokotomy has travelled extensively on the Asiatic Continent, and knows well the anti-Japanese feeling in certain breasts in Siberia. He knows equally well what a hornet’s nest would be raised in the Russian Far East if Japanese interference with Russian affairs had the appearance of being forced.
To send troops to Siberia, unless there was no other way out, seemed to Tokotomy, to judge from his editorials and remarks, to risk no in-considerable asset in a growing feeling of friendship for Japan among the Russians.
The most influential paper in the commercial world in Tokyo is the Chugwai Shogyo. Its editor is Mr. Yanada. I had more than one talk with him, and found him most keen to help Russia, but anxious that no mistaken policy would undermine the commercial structure Japan had already begun to build in the way of increased trade with Siberia.
Suggestions along that line started me off among Japan’s shipping magnates, several of whom I had met. Every one of them to whom I talked referred to the great danger of incurring Russian enmity.
“It is the Chinese question all over again,” said one. “Our politicians make some move that seems to them to be a gain to us and we lose the sympathy and friendship of the Chinese. Boycotts of Japanese goods follow. The Chinese refuse or hesitate to buy anything that comes from Japan. Hatred of us and rancour against us are fomented on all sides, and it takes years of quiet spade-work to get back the ground we have lost.
“The best thing about the present Government is that it is trying hard to make good friends of the Chinese. If you want to sell goods to a man you are careful not to antagonise him. It’s the same way in Russia, or in Siberia. If we send troops there it may cause us a set-back for years in building up a market there. It’s a very good potential market, too, is Russia, and we are sure to reap much good from it. I hope nothing happens to make the Russians feel bitter against us. There is too much of that now.”
The war? Oh, yes, there IS a war. But my friend the Japanese shipping magnate was not thinking so much of the war just then as of “Business as Usual,” and more particularly, business rather more than usual after the war. But he is no exception as Japanese business men go. They never take the war into consideration when they start movements, or try to do so.
I was in Osaka in 1916 when the outcry was raised in the cotton industrial world of Japan at the British Embargo against the entry of Japanese cotton goods into Great Britain during the war. I heard the same sort of outcry in 1917 in Japan at the time of the American Steel Embargo. There was less outcry when the Japanese Government tried to get ships for the Allies, but though less noise was heard more pressure was brought to bear. Terauchi was powerless against the big shipping interests. How far he really wanted to go no man may know, but certain it is that he would have liked to have come much nearer meeting the requests of the Allies than he could do.
Big business is supposed to be very material. Big business in Japan lives up to its bad name in that regard. It is all material, every bit.
Dr. Soyeda of the Hochi, one of the most widely-read and influential daily newspapers in Tokyo, was very much against all suggestions that an armed Japanese force should be sent to Europe, when that proposal was made, for the very reason that he thought it quite possible that the day might come when Japan’s army would have to check Germany’s encroach-ment on the Orient by way of Siberia. He held that view strongly and for months elaborated italthough he, too, was chary of hurting the feelings of the Russians. He thought Japan should play her part, however, and give all assistance demanded of her, even to the despatch of troops to Siberia.
While I was in Japan an article that attracted some general attention was published over the signature of Dr. Takahashi Sakuye, who was formerly a director of the Legislative Bureau. A well-known reviewer in Japan described Dr. Takahashi as a representative Japanese, a scholar of wide knowledge, who had held one of the most important positions in the whole Japanese official hierarchy. “Dr. Takahashi’s views were;” said an authority on things Japanese, “expressed with an ability that was rare, and displayed a wide knowledge of affairs.” His views gave an interesting insight into the not uncommon combination in Japan of extreme insularity with unbounded Imperialism.
As I met more than one publicist, professor or soldier in Japan who held the viewsor most of them that were put forward in Dr. Takahashi’s symposium, the following summary of its salient features will give the concrete ideas of many prominent thinkers in Japan :
No disarmament scheme, even should a world concert of the Powers endorse it, would be acceptable to Japan. The peace of the Far East is in Japan’s keeping, and she can only be sure of herself as custodian of and guardian over it so long as she keeps her sword bright and loose in the scabbard. Japan should have a place among the world Powers, a voice at the Peace Conference when it comes. More, Japan’s voice should, at that conference, be an equal one with that of any great Power. In the settlement of questions relating to the Far East and the mastery of the Pacific, Japan’s voice should not only be equal, but predominantshould be heard above that of her partners. Japan’s part in the war is by no means negligible. She is keeping guard over the whole of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and a large part of the continent of Asia, so as to leave the Allies free to fight the enemy elsewhere. Her fleet is in the Mediteranean. Japan should, the war over, keep Kiao-chow and all Germany’s possessions among the Islands of the Pacific. That Japan should have an entirely undisputed hegemony of Eastern Asia and the Pacific Islands is an essential to that keeping the peace in the Orient which is Japan’s high mission among nations. China must be protected. Japan may take over Germany’s rights there, but otherwise no encroachments on Chinese soil must be permitted, least of all by Germany. If Germany obtained a new port in China it would “make the present war meaningless.” For that matter, no country should obtain any fresh hold on China, except that Japan should hold what she won from the enemy that it happens to be on Chinese soil is a mere circumstance. China’s affairs would be settled at the Peace Conference, but China’s voice there would be a minor quantity. Always in the foreground is the thought of Japan’s great sacrifices for Chinaher sacrifice in Manchuria when she fought Russia, her sacrifice in Kiao-chow when she fought Germany. That China did not ask Japan to fight in either instance, and that Japan, in each case, held what she had won, or hopes to do so, makes her efforts no less a sacrifice. She paid a price to free parts of China from the foreigner, and though China has just as little, or less, to say about these localities, and Japan’s voice there has drowned out all other voices, that is all part of her great policy of keeping the peace of the Far East. It is the realisation of her duty, her mission as a nation, that leads Japan along such roads.
So much for Dr. Takahashi and his theories. Many a Japanese publicist stands with him on that platform. Many an influential, thinking Japanese considered in 1918 that should Japan’s soldiers go to Siberia or to Russia to fight for the Allies, the peace of the Far East would demand many things which we Westerners would not connect with it. With the Takahashis to the fore, it would be easier to get the Japanese army into occupation of Far Eastern territory than out of it. And the Takahashis are not so negligible a quantity in Japanese life that we can afford to altogether forget them.
Among the army men in Japan the mere mention of the possibility that they might take part in the actual fighting was a tonic. They are more than keen to get into the war in real earnest.
A Japanese officer of high rank told me that he considered Japan’s sending an army to Siberia would be the finest thing that could possibly happen to Japan, as he thought that such a step would be sure to eventually lead to the Japanese forces engaging the German army “somewhere further to the West.”
“The other nations are becoming stronger, not weaker, by participation in the war,” he said. “Only Russia is weaker, and she has lost her strength through abandoning the struggle. Japan will be stronger for fighting. Japan must, too, ever bear in mind that a maintenance of her military strength is as necessary to her as the breath of life to her people. What would Japan be without armies and armaments ?
“Ours is an Island Empire. Do not forget that. We have too little raw material to suit us. To us, command of the sea is vital. lf we should lose that to an enemy, our days as a Power would be numbered. We must not only maintain a strong navy, but we must continue to be allied to the strongest naval Power.
“Sea-control must be our first thought. America, Russia, even China, are stronger than we from the standpoint of actual territory and resources. We have beaten China. We have beaten Russia. We proved the value of our army. Had we not done so we could not have made the Alliance with Great Britain which is the rock on which the whole structure of our security is built. England would not have given us an Alliance which promised us the aid of the most powerful navy on the seas unless we had something to offer in return. We had our army. We could look after matters here in the Orient.
“We proved that, to some extent, at Kiaochow. We must prove it further in Siberia, and in Russia, if necessary. Many Japanese talk about our trade with this country and with that as though it is a matter of life or death. So it may be. Much more serious to Japan than to other countries is the necessity of keeping open the lines over which must come to us those raw materials without which we could not wage war.”
The General took a book from his library shelf and read to me a few paragraphs from the pen of a noted publicist of the Japan of half a hundred years ago, one Hashimoto.
Hashimoto’s argument was that Japan was too weak to stand by herself as an independent nation. He declared that Japan must develop herself in Korea, in Manchuria, in California and in some parts of China. The Ching Dynasty had such strength at that time in China that the Japanese expansion in that direction seemed blocked, so Hashimoto advised his country to look further west, toward India. Until the day Japan had, by permeating into such other lands, gained the benefit of trade and the supply of raw materials from them, Japan, Hashimoto averred, would never be really in-dependent. In addition to this advice, Hashimoto advocated an Alliance with either England or Russia.
“That man was a seer,” said the General. “What he said fifty years ago holds good to-day. Japan must be friendlymust have Al-lies. Without them she is in a precarious position at once. We could always defend Japan from invasion, but oversea commerce is as necessary to our business life as the import of sup-plies is necessary to our military operations. Of what use would it be to us to be impregnable if we were stifled by some sea-power’s hand on our trade arteries? It is plain we must have Allies. It is equally plain we must possess some asset to give them in return. We are that asset,” he said, rising and striking his breast. “We the army. We are strong and ready to fight. Rus-sia is done. Germany will press for the Russian Far East, maybe, or at least she will strive to get the stores gathered there. We will keep Siberia from the Germans. We will keep the stores from the Germans. We want to do it. It is the justification of our very existence that we do it. It is vital that we play some partsomething more, something greater than we have yet done. A blow struck by us at Germany in this war, is a blow struck for our own national security. My countrymen don’t all see it that way, but it’s plain enough, if you have your eyes open. I can see it.”
So could I.
Ile was rightthe General. And further, Count Terauchi himself would agree with every word the General had spoken.
Security. Japan fought two wars for it. Did she get it? She obtained temporary security.
Permanent security she can never have, except at the cost of constant vigilance. Her policies must be determined by that necessity for security. Never did Japan have a better chance to cement her security a bit tighter than she has today. I believe she sees thather leaders see it. She will act accordingly. Not for business and commercial gain only. Not for money, though she is too poor a nation to leave payment of the bill out of account. But for security, first, last and all the timethat is the motive that will drive Japan and is equally the motive that will ensure that Japan will play the game, cleanly, in the manner of a truly great little Power.
Before I left Tokyo, I spoke, on Sunday afternoon, to several hundred Japanese students at the Young Men’s Christian Association. I talked to them about the war, what it had meant to the boys of France and of England, what it was to mean in the very near future to hundreds and thousands, one day to millions, of the boys of America.
“I am genuinely sorry for the boys of Japan,” I told them, “because Japan’s armies are not in the field. All the wonderful development of character, all the splendid opportunities for self-sacrifice, that the young manhood of the Western world is reaping from the war-game is going to be missed by Japan, it seems Japan’s boys would ripen and become men under that terrible test of fire through which the flower of the youth of France and England have passed. The old spirit of Bushido, the fierce loyalty to Emperor and country, the Spartan simplicity and clean, high spirit of the days of Old Japan would shine out in the young Japan of today, mellowed and enriched by something higher, something better, that comes sometimes to brave, young hearts fighting for a cause that contains no selfishness, no desire for gain or plunder or reward.”
“This is a day of high ideals and clean in-tent,” I told them. “The bigness of the game is beyond conception. It is so big it takes a boy and wraps him round until a light comes to his eyes, humble unit of the great whole that he feels himself to be, that is like the light that has shone in the eyes of crusaders and martyrs and patriots and heroes since the world began. It is only sacrifice and forgetfulness of self can put it there. The boys of the Western World are fighting for Humanity, for the Right and for God. It filters through careless young minds, filled with all the zest and fire of youth and gives them the touch that makes them great.
They all become heroes. They all become great. Would to God Japan’s young manhood could feel the touch of that master-handwhat a day it would be for Japan.”
When I had finished I went among the stu dents, and chatted with some of them. One after another came to me, there and afterwards at my hotel and said that they felt the truth of what I had told them.
Sometimes a sudden hand clasp, sometimes the glint of a tear showed depth of emotion that words could not express. The boys of Japan, student boys, think deeply on such subjects, more deeply, perhaps, than most Japanese people realize.
One fine young fellow who talked long with me about the war said, “We are beginning to see that Japan has more at stake in this world-war than we knew. Japan has never really been in the war. We can learn enough from what we read about France and England to get that idea. Japan’s heart is not in the war,not yet. But is it not possible that the day may come when Japan will play a bigger part? Believe me, we boys would welcome it. We can see that the outcome of this war means all the difference to Japanall the difference between going ahead and going back. Japan today stands divided between two schools. Years ago the old civilisation of Japan was condemned by the advanced school and a stampede was made to throw out things Japanese and adopt things Western in their stead. Naturally, materialism from the West came to us with the better elements of the new civilisation Japan was trying to absorb. The pendulum swung far, only to start back. A cult sprung up to save the old Japanese fashions and institutions. To-day Japan is puzzled. Her daily life is in a chaotic state. She is Japanese here and foreign there and often iii a sad jumble in between. Her adoption of Western Civilisation has had a check. The war is on. It’s a war between Liberalism and Militarism. In Japan there are Liberals and Militarists watching. The winning of the war by the Allies will mean almost as much to Japan and Japan’s future progress as to that of any nationperhaps more than to some. Western Civilisation, Japan thinks, is being tried, sorely tried. Will it stand the test l You can see, then, what it means to those of us who are sure Liberalism is right and Militarism is wrong. We are worried about the outcome. It means much to us. If we could only take a hand. If we could only help.”
Splendid boy! His words came from his heart. Who would not be glad, for the sake of him and his fellows, to see the Sun-Flag in the forefront of the fighting?