Things Japanese: Being Notes on Various Subjects Connected with Japan for the Use of Travellers and Others
Library of Alexandria, 1927 - 591 páginas
To have lived through the transition stage of modern Japan makes a man feel preternaturally old; for here he is in modern times, with the air full of talk about bicycles and bacilli and "spheres of influence" and yet he can himself distinctly remember the Middle Ages. The dear old Samurai who first initiated the present writer into the mysteries of the Japanese language, wore a queue and two swords. This relic of feudalism now sleeps in Nirvana. His modern successor, fairly fluent in English, and dressed in a serviceable suit of dittos, might almost be a European, save for a certain obliqueness of the eyes and scantiness of beard. Old things pass away between a night and a morning. The Japanese boast that they have done in thirty or forty years what it took Europe half as many centuries to accomplish. Some even go further, and twit us Westerns with falling behind in the race. It is waste of time to go to Germany to study philosophy, said a Japanese savant recently returned from Berlin:—the lectures there are elementary, the subject is better taught at Tōkyō.
Thus does it come about that, having arrived in Japan in 1873, we ourselves feel well-nigh four hundred years old, and assume without more ado the two well-known privileges of old age,—garrulity and an authoritative air. We are perpetually being asked questions about Japan. Here then are the answers, put into the shape of a dictionary, not of words but of things,—or shall we rather say a guide-book, less to places than to subjects?—not an encyclopædia, mind you, not the vain attempt by one man to treat exhaustively of all things, but only sketches of many things. The old and the new will be found cheek by jowl. What will not be found is padding: for padding is unpardonable in any book on Japan, where the material is so plentiful that the chief difficulty is to know what to omit.
In order to enable the reader to supply deficiencies and to form his own opinions, if haply he should be of so unusual a turn of mind as to desire so to do, we have, at the end of almost every article, indicated the names of trustworthy works bearing on the subject treated in that article. For the rest, this book explains itself. Any reader who detects errors or omissions in it will render the author an invaluable service by writing to him to point them out. As a little encouragement in this direction, we will ourselves lead the way by presuming to give each reader, especially each globe-trotting reader, a small piece of advice.