Japan (2)

Japan This archipelago in eastern Asia consists of one large island, Hondo (mainland or continent), not called Nippon by the natives, but formerly so named by foreigners, three other large islands, Shikoku (four provinces), Kiushiu (nine provinces), and Yezo (unexplored land), a number of outlying islands, Sado, Oki, Iki, Tsushima, Awaji, Goto, etc., and the more distant groups, the Kuriles (smokers), Bonin (no man's), and Riu Kiu (hanging fringe-tassels or sleeping dragon), with nearly four thousand islets. The area of this empire, called by the natives Nihon or Nippon (sunrise), or Dai Nihon Koku (great land of the sun's root, or oeigin), is, by survey of 1874, 146,571 square miles, and the population, by census of 1874,33,623,373 souls. Hondo contains nearly 15,000,000 people, and, with the islands immediately south and next to it, may be called Old Japan (native Oyashima, eight great islands), because historically conquered and colonized in early times. New Japan comprises later acquisitions and colonies, such as Ydzo and Riu Kiu.

The origin of the dominant race in Japan is not yet entirely clear to scholars, but traditions all point to Corea and northern Asia as the ancestral seats of that conquering race which, near the Christian sera, descended upon the. land over which they saw the sun rise. They found other races on the soil whom they subdued. Many of the subjugated were doubtless of near Asian origin, like their conquerors, but there were also the straight- eyed, black-haired Ainos, who now occupy only Yezo and the Kuriles, whither they were in early: times (from the 4th to the 13th century of our sera) driven. The conquerors, by the superior force both of their fetiches and dogmas, as well as of their valor, arms, and agriculture, made conquest only after long struggles. The farmers and warriors finally pacified the fishers and hunters, and established both their political rule and imported religion, Shinto, over "all within the four seas." The first mikado or emperor, deified as Jimmu Tenrmno (heavenly king), is said to have begun to reign B.C. 667, in his miya or palace-temple, near the miyako (city) of Kioto — but of Japanese dates, until the introduction of almanacs and writing, with methods for keeping record of time, from China, in the 3d century and later, no one can speak with certainty, and Japanese traditions that antedate the Christian aera are chronologically worthless.

The first form of government was a rude species of feudalism, in which the mikado was suzerain, and his relatives or captains were rulers of the conquered land, which had been duly parcelled out into districts. This order of things continued until the 7th century, when the centralized system of pure monarchy, introduced from China, was carried out, and the mikado, as sole ruler, was assisted by six boards or ministries of government, and all provincial officers were appointed in and sent out from Kioto. Several centuries were necessary to bring this method to perfection, and in the distant provinces military families who had kept the peace and put down insurrections at first made themselves necessary to the central government, and later, at the capital, transferred their energies to ambitious schemes in the palace itself. The introduction of Buddhism led the mikados to neglect the sceptre, and to become Buddhist monks, or live in gross licentiousness under cover of a professedly holy life. This paved the way for the rise of the shoguns (known later as kubo sama, "Tycoon," etc.), who gradually concentrated the powers of the executive in their own hands, while nominally the mikado was the fountain of honors. Exaggerating the mikado's "spiritual" importance for his own ends, the shogun usurped the functions of military and civil administration, and held the army, the treasury, and the appointing power. Yoritomo, at Kamakura, in 1192, began the dual system of government, which, with slight intermissions, lasted until 1868, though Iyeyasu, at Yedo, in 1604, established the order of things in Japan with which, until 1868, foreigners have been most familiar. Side by side with this spectacle of two rulers and two capitals grew up the elaborate feudalism of Japan, which has so attracted the attention of students, and which in its perfected development was unique in Asia.

The story of the introduction of Portuguese Christianity into Dai Nippon, as given by professor Schem in volume 4 is in the main an admirable one. We note only the following needed corrections: Tanega (seed island) for Yanega, Hideyoshi for Fide Yose, Iyeyasu for Yie Yazoo, Hirado for Firando, Yedo for Yeddo, Bakafu for Rankfu, Ise for Isyay, Riobu for Ryoby, etc. We may add that, in 1877, most interesting relics — documents, books, tapestry — of the Japanese embassy to the pope were discovered, and that while in Japan, in 1873, the writer identified the place of imprisonment and burial of "Sedotti" (Jean Baptiste Sidotti), "the last Catholic priest" who, in 1709, landed in Japan, and "was never again heard of" until the Reverend S.R. Brown, D.D., unearthed the account of his inquisition and trial, written by a Japanese scholar. Further, the recently found correspondence of the Dutch superintendents of Deshima requires us to relieve the Hollanders of much of the odium resting on their names for assisting with cannon to crush the "Christian" insurrection at Shimabara, in 1627 (not "at the close of the 16th century"), in which very much fewer than seventy thousand "Christians" were either concerned or injured.

For two centuries and a half after the expulsion of the Romish priests, the supposed extirpation of Christianity, and sealing of all the doors of the empire against foreign influences, Japan rested in peace in the calm of despotism. But while the successors of lyyasu, in Yedo, supposed that the duarchy feudalism and national isolation were permanently established, great currents of thought began to move under the surface. These were finally to break out in floods that should sweep away the old and bring in a new sera never dreamed of by ancient or modern man in Japan. These movements were intended to effect the overthrow of the shogun and his abasement as the emperor's vassal, the replacement of the mikado on his throne as sole ruler, the abolition of the feudal system, the disestablishment of Buddhism, and the restoration of Shinto as the state cultus. All was ready, or nearly so, for upheaval, when the squadron of American steamers, under commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, swept into the bay of Yedo, July 8, 1853. After his treaty, and those made later by Townsend Harris, our consul-general, and European envoys, and the opening of the ports to foreign residence and commerce, the men who had wrought to undermine the shogunate bent their energies to the expulsion of the foreigners and the dictatorial isolation of "the holy country " from the rest of the world. The advent of foreigners precipitated a crisis long preparing, and in the chaos of conflicting elements that kept the country in commotion from 1859 to 1870 foreigners resident on the soil could see little but the occasional outbursts of incendiarism, assassination, riots, and blood. shed, culminating in the civil war of 1868-70. In this the progressive party was successful. The mikado was reinstated to supreme power in the capital, which had been removed from Kioto to Yedo (bay-door) — which received the new and more appropriate name, Tokio (eastern capital) — the office of shogun was abolished, and its last incumbent retired to Shidzuoka (where he died in 1884), feudalism was abolished, and the three hundred or less petty territorial rulers or daimios were retired to private life in Tokia, the hereditary pensions of the military-literati, or idle privileged classes, were capitalized and extinguished, society was reconstructed on the simplified basis of "the three classes," nobles, gentry, and common people. From the centralized government in Tokio now proceeded the most radical measures of reform, political, social, and moral, which, in their rapidity and frequency, served to show that the mikado's advisers were making all haste to be "civilized." The goal of their agonizing race was the equality of Japan among the nations of Christendom, and the abolition of the odious extra-territoriality clause from the treaties. Dependence was not placed alone upon development of industrial and military resources, although these were carefully attended to, and wisely, for new Japan was not yet purged of the old spirit of feudalism. Several insurrections had to be quelled, one of them, the Satsuma rebellion in 1877, being on a scale which threatened for a time the very existence of the government, and cost the country twenty thousand lives and a hundred million dollars. By means of telegraphs, steamers, improved rifles, ships, and cannon, backed by the valor of peasant conscripts, led by officers of modern education, peace was won after seven months' war. Political education by means of newspapers (now two thousand in number in Japan, or more than in both Spain and Russia) and debating-clubs proceeded apace, resulting finally in the establishment of local assemblies, a franchise based on property qualification, and the solemn oath-bound promise of the mikado that, in 1890, a national parliament should be formed, and the government (changed from absolute despotism) become a limited monarchy. And this in Asia! Such is the political outlook in Japan. Let us now glance at her religious condition.

When the treaties lifted the seals from the closed doors of the empire, and missionaries from the three great divisions of the Christian Church entered Japan, the Roman Catholics searched at once for, and soon found, remnants of the 17th century converts, numbering in all probably five thousand. Preserving a few Latin words of sacred import, and some of the characteristic forms of the Roman ritual, with here and there an image or picture of the Virgin or of Jesus, these descendants of the martyrs were, despite their debased and half heathenish condition, Kiristans. With this advantage of historic continuity the Roman Catholics began their work simultaneously with the Russo-Greeks and American Protestants. Persecutions soon broke out, and were carried on both by the old shogun's and the new mikado's government. The writer has a vivid recollection of seeing, on a bitter cold winter's day, in the mountains of Echizen, a gang of these wretched prisoners roped together and led by jailers while tramping in the snow to their place of duress in the volcano craters of Kaga. The intercession of diplomatists, and especially of the Reverend G.F. Verbeck, then the trusted servant of the government, and president of the Imperial University of Tokio, finally stopped these inhuman proceedings. Fear of the censure of Christian nations, and their threatened final refusal to expunge the extra-territoriality clause from the treaties, have compelled the Japanese to cease from persecution in every form. In 1872 the anti- Christian edicts, which, since 1600, had denounced "the corrupt sect," and promised rewards to informers, were removed. Later, both Buddhism and Shinto were disestablished, the department of religion was abolished, and the vexatious burial laws repealed, "and thus it has been brought to pass that Christianity has been, by the action of the Japanese government itself, placed upon a footing of perfect equality with the old-established and recognized religions of Japan. In other words, within twenty-five years from the first Protestant mission in the empire, Christianity secures a position before the law which it gained in ancient Rome only after the delays and persecutions of over three centuries." About thirty Protestant missionary societies now have representatives in Japan, most of them from America. In addition to the usual methods of missionary, work by the foreign teachers, the Japanese themselves carry on matters pretty much in their own way. Almost every form of Christian effort in vogue among us is quickly adopted by the Japanese brethren. Preaching services held in public halls and theatres by a number of speakers during several days in succession are very popular and effective. Social meetings for the promotion of harmony and Christian fellowship are frequently held in individual churches or unitedly by different churches or denominations. The Japanese are good public speakers, enjoying the privilege of a participation in social worship, and being emotional and sympathetic. There are few of those pauses of dead silence which so afflict our own meetings for prayer. The telegraph, now ramifying throughout Japan, often bears such messages as these, "Konnichi Mitami Kudari, Kitokwai furuu" (today the Holy Spirit has come down, and the meetings are full of fervor). Prayer-meetings held exclusively for and by women, scripture-reading leagues, young men's Christian associations, popular lecture courses, and religious periodicals, edited by native Christians, supplement the foreign missionary's work, and that of the American, Scotch, and Bible societies, and thus fill the whole land with light and truth. Old missionaries declare that the native Church members, who are very apt at first to join the Church from intellectual conviction, show a most cheering growth in spiritual knowledge. The preaching of the young licentiates or pastors, at first dealing almost exclusively with morality, becomes more spiritual, Christ and his cross being the prominent theme. The complete New Test. has now been in the hands of the Japanese for five years, and the year 1886 will, D.V., see the completed Bible in their homes. The Scriptures are published in three styles of print and diction, so that all classes may read them. Ninety thousand copies and portions of the Scriptures, and one hundred and sixty thousand tracts were distributed by the tract societies last year. Turning away from China as the mother country of knowledge and inspiration, the Japanese now look to Europe and America. A company of literary men and scholars are endeavoring to do away with the use of Chinese ideographs, and to print books and newspapers in the Roman character. Familiarity with their own phonetics, or syllabary of forty-eight letters, makes the final adoption of the Roman alphabet easy. The Romaji-kai is the newspaper in which they are showing how a native boy may now learn to read better in ten months than he could of old in ten years.

Much of the literary, social, political, as well as moral progress made by the Japanese, results either directly or indirectly from missionary labor, suggestion, or stimulus. In addition to their preaching, teaching, translation, and healing, they have conferred-upon natives and foreigners alike a lasting benefit of incalculable importance by their aids to the mastery of the language, and their other publications. The following statistics of Christianity in Japan are from the paper read before the Osaka Conference in April, 1883:

Protestant Roman Catholic Bishops 3 Greek Missionaries 145 43 5 Priests (Japanese) 11 Ordained Ministers 49

Unordained Evangelists, Catechists, etc 100 202 106 Bible women 37 Converts 4987 26,180 8863 Contributions $12,064 $4373 Schools: 3 Theological 7 71 Students 71 74 Mixed 39 2020 Scholars 1520 Boys 9 Scholars 454 Girls 15 Scholars 556

Sunday 109 Scholars 4132 Organized churches 93 148 Churches or chapels 80 Preaching places ? 281 Hospitals 5 In-patients 795 Dispensaries 8 Patients 24,898

Of the dangers that beset the churches of Christ in Japan we do not here speak, but refer the reader to the following recent works for a more thorough study of the country and people, and the work for Christ in the sunrise kingdom.

Literature. Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan (1874-85 volume 1-14; Leon Pages, Histoire de la Religion Chretienne au Japon; Griffis, The Mikado's Empire (New York, 1876; 4th ed. 1884); Corea, the Hermit Nation (ibid. 1882); Bird, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (ibid. 1881); Rein, Japan (ibid. 1884), and the works of baron De Hubner, E. Warren Clark, E.J. Reed, Isabella Carruthers, W. Gray Dixon, Henry Faulds, and others. (W.E.G.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.