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An Introduction to the History of Japan by Hara





G. P. Putnam's Sons New York and London The Knickerbocker Press 1920



The military achievements of Japan in the last twenty years have done much to make the world appreciate and acknowledge the intrinsic worth of the Japanese nation. It is, however, very doubtful whether the other nations find in us many other things to admire besides our military excellence. Some of them, indeed, without fully investigating their deeper causes, have entertained serious misgivings as to the probable consequence of our military successes. The continual occurrence of anti-Japanese movements in the various States of America and in the dependencies of Great Britain and Russia, countries with which Japan is most intimately connected, has been chiefly due to this want of knowledge as to the real state of affairs in Japan, the progress in the arts of peace, in science, literature, art, law and economics.

Japan has a brilliant civilisation of which we can justly be proud. In fine art, we have painting, sculpture, architecture, lacquer-work, metal-carving, ceramics, etc.,--all of striking quality; in literature, our poetry, fiction and drama are worthy of serious study; in music and on the stage our progress has been along lines which accord with the development of our distinctive national character, and is by no means behind that of Europe.

Europeans and Americans, however, have failed as yet to appreciate the essential worth of Japan's civilisation. Some foreigners, it is true, speak highly of Japanese fine art, praising Japan as a country devoted to art; but the works that they admire are not always essentially characteristic of Japan, nor are they representative works of Japanese fine arts. The number of foreigners aware of the existence of an influential literature in Japan is extremely limited.

For such regrettable ignorance, however, we can blame no one but ourselves; for we have made very little effort to promote the appreciation of our civilisation by other peoples. If Japan, in her eagerness to learn the best of European civilisation, continues to disregard the necessity of making known her own civilisation to peoples abroad, the world's misconception of Japan will forever remain undispelled. It is our duty, indeed, to demonstrate to the world the fact that Japanese literature and art have foundations not less deep than those of our Bushido.

On the other hand, we must have the broadness of mind to recognise and correct our faults, so that we may make ours a civilisation that will compel the admiration of the world. Whether or not European civilisation, which we have to some extent adopted, is really good for the wholesome development of our nation is a question which still awaits our mature consideration. In order to enjoy unrestricted the future possibilities of the world, we must look at things not only from a national, but also, from a world-wide point of view, abandoning the present Far Eastern exclusiveness and endeavouring to improve our position in the family of nations not by military achievements but by pacific means. This is, indeed, the surest way to make Japan one of the First Powers both in name and in reality.

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