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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The three metropolitan prefectures of Tokyo


Government, after various tentative and futile efforts to correct this state of depreciation, set themselves to deal radically with the problem. Chiefly by buying exporters' bills and further by reducing administrative expenditures as well as by taxing alcohol, a substantial specie reserve was gradually accumulated, and, by 1885, the volume of fiduciary notes having been reduced to 119 millions, whereas the treasury vaults contained forty-five millions of precious metals, the resumption of specie payments was announced. As for the national debt, it had its origin in the commutation of the feudatories' incomes and the samurai's pensions. A small fraction of these outlays was defrayed with ready money, but the great part took the form of public loan-bonds. These bonds constituted the bulk of the State's liabilities during the first half-cycle of the Meiji era, and when we add the debts of the fiefs, which the Central Government took over; two small foreign loans; the cost of quelling the Satsuma rebellion, and various debts incurred on account of public works, naval construction, and minor purposes, we arrive at the broad fact that the entire national debt of Japan did not exceed 305 million yen at the close of the twenty-eighth year of her new era.

A war with China in 1894-1895--to be presently spoken of--and a war with Russia in 1904-1905, together with the price paid for the nationalization of railways and for various undertakings, brought the

whole debt of the nation to 2300 million yen in 1907, which is now being paid off at the rate of fifty million yen annually. It remains to be noted that, in 1897, Japan took the momentous step of adopting gold monometallism. The indemnity which she obtained from China after the war of 1894-1895 brought to her treasury a stock of gold sufficient to form a substantial specie reserve. Moreover, gold had appreciated so that its value in terms of silver had exactly doubled during the first thirty years of the Meiji era. There was consequently no arithmetical complication connected with the adoption of the single gold standard. It was only necessary to double the denomination, leaving the silver subsidiary coins unchanged.


In the field of education the Meiji statesmen effected speedy reforms. Comparatively little attention had been directed to this subject by the rulers of medieval Japan, and the fact that the Meiji leaders appreciated the necessity of studying the arts and sciences of the new civilization simultaneously with the adoption of its products, bears strong testimony to the insight of these remarkable men. Very shortly after the abolition of feudalism, an extensive system of public schools was organized and education was made compulsory. There were schools, colleges, and universities, all modelled on foreign lines with such alterations as the special customs of the nation dictated. These institutions grew steadily in public favour, and to-day over ninety per cent, of boys and girls who have attained the school age receive education in the common elementary schools, the average annual cost per child being about 8s. 6d. ($2.00), to which the parents contribute 1.75d. (3.5 cents) per month. Youths receiving education enjoy certain exemption from conscription, but as this is in strict accordance with the Western system, it need not be dwelt upon here.


For purposes of local administration the empire is divided into prefectures (ken), counties (gun), towns (shi), and districts (cho or son). The three metropolitan prefectures of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto are called fu, and their districts are distinguished as "urban" (cho) and "rural" (son), according to the number of houses they contain. The prefectures derive their names from their chief towns. The principle of popular representation is strictly adhered to, every prefecture, every county, every town, and every district having its own local assembly, wherein the number of members is fixed in proportion to the population. These bodies are all elected. The enjoyment of the franchise depends upon a property qualification which, in the case of prefectural and county assemblies, is an annual payment of direct national taxes to the amount of three yen (6s., $1.50); in the case of town and district assemblies two yen; and in the case of prefectural assemblies, ten yen. There are other arrangements to secure the due representation of property, the electors being divided into classes according to their aggregate payment to the national treasury. Three such classes exist, and each elects one-third of an assembly's members. There is no payment for the members of an assembly, but all salaried officials, ministers of religion, and contractors for public works, as well as persons unable to write their own names and the names of the candidates for whom they vote, are denied the franchise.

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