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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley


From the Earliest Times to the End of the Meiji Era



Editor of the "Japan Mail"

With the Collaboration of BARON KIKUCHI

Former President of the Imperial University at Kyoto

With 150 Illustrations Engraved on Wood by Japanese Artists; Half-Tone Plates, and Maps



It is trite to remark that if you wish to know really any people, it is necessary to have a thorough knowledge of their history, including their mythology, legends and folk-lore: customs, habits and traits of character, which to a superficial observer of a different nationality or race may seem odd and strange, sometimes even utterly subversive of ordinary ideas of morality, but which can be explained and will appear quite reasonable when they are traced back to their origin. The sudden rise of the Japanese nation from an insignificant position to a foremost rank in the comity of nations has startled the world. Except in the case of very few who had studied us intimately, we were a people but little raised above barbarism trying to imitate Western civilisation without any capacity for really assimilating or adapting it. At first, it was supposed that we had somehow undergone a sudden transformation, but it was gradually perceived that such could not be and was not the case; and a crop of books on Japan and the Japanese, deep and superficial, serious and fantastic, interesting and otherwise, has been put forth for the benefit of those who were curious to know the reason of this strange phenomenon. But among so many books, there has not yet been, so far as I know, a history of Japan, although a study of its history was most essential for the proper understanding of many of the problems relating to the Japanese people, such as the relation of the Imperial dynasty to the people, the family system, the position of Buddhism, the influence of the Chinese philosophy, etc. A history of Japan of moderate size has indeed long been a desideratum; that it was not forthcoming was no doubt due to the want of a proper person to undertake such a work. Now just the right man has been found in the author of the present work, who, an Englishman by birth, is almost Japanese in his understanding of, and sympathy with, the Japanese people. It would indeed be difficult to find any one better fitted for the task--by no means an easy one--of presenting the general features of Japanese history to Western readers, in a compact and intelligible form, and at the same time in general harmony with the Japanese feeling. The Western public and Japan are alike to be congratulated on the production of the present work. I may say this without any fear of reproach for self-praise, for although my name is mentioned in the title-page, my share is very slight, consisting merely in general advice and in a few suggestions on some special points.


KYOTO, 1912.


During the past three decades Japanese students have devoted much intelligent labour to collecting and collating the somewhat disjointed fragments of their country's history. The task would have been practically impossible for foreign historiographers alone, but now that the materials have been brought to light there is no insuperable difficulty in making them available for purposes of joint interpretation. That is all I have attempted to do in these pages, and I beg to solicit pardon for any defect they may be found to contain.

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