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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

To make way for the Constitutionists


As

for the new party, even Prince Ito's wonderful talents and unequalled prestige failed to hold successfully the reins of the heterogeneous team which he had now undertaken to drive. The House of Peers opposed him on account of his association with political parties, and he at once resigned the premiership. The party he had formed did not, however, dissolve. Prince Ito, indeed, stepped out of its ranks, but he was succeeded by his intimate friend, Marquis Saionji, one of Japan's blue-blooded aristocrats, and to him the Constitutionists have yielded implicit obedience ever since. For the rest, it is impossible to foresee what the outcome of the parliamentary system will be in Japan. Up to the present the principal lesson learned by politicians seems to have been the value of patience. The Constitutionists have shown that they are quite ready to support a Cabinet entirely independent of parties, where its measures seem conducive to the nation's good. Such a Cabinet was that of Prince Katsura, who, in turn, after three years' tenure of office, stepped down quietly in August, 1911, to make way for the Constitutionists, under Marquis Saionji. In a word, the nation seems to have arrived at the conclusion that these parliamentary problems cannot be safely solved except by long and deliberate experiment.*

*For minute information about party politics and parliamentary procedure see the "Oriental Series," Vol. IV.

AGRICULTURE

AND INDUSTRY

The growth of agricultural and industrial enterprise is one of the most remarkable features of modern Japan. Up to the beginning of the Meiji era, agriculture almost monopolized attention, manufacturing industry being altogether of a domestic character. Speaking broadly, the gross area of land in Japan, exclusive of Saghalien, Korea, and Formosa is seventy-five million acres, and of this only some seventeen millions are arable. It may well be supposed that as rice is the principal staple of foodstuff, and as the area over which it can be produced is so limited, the farmers have learned to apply very intensive methods of cultivation. Thus it is estimated that they spend annually twelve millions sterling--$60,000,000--on fertilizers. By unflinching industry and skilled processes, the total yield of rice has been raised to an annual average of about fifty million koku; that is to say, two hundred and fifty million bushels. But the day cannot be far distant when the growth of the population will outstrip that of this essential staple, and unless the assistance of Korea and Formosa can be successfully enlisted, a problem of extreme difficulty may present itself. Meanwhile, manufacturing industry has increased by leaps and bounds. Thus, whereas at the opening of the Meiji era, every manufacture was of a domestic character, and such a thing as a joint-stock company did not exist, there are now fully 11,000 factories giving employment to 700,000 operatives, and the number of joint-stock companies aggregates 9000. Evidently, Japan threatens to become a keen competitor of Europe and America in all the markets of the Orient, for she possesses the advantage of propinquity, and as well an abundance of easily trained labour. But there are two important conditions that offset these advantages. In the first place Japanese wages have increased so rapidly that in the last fifteen years they have nearly doubled, and, secondly, it must be remembered that Japanese labour is not so efficient as that of Europe and America.


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