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vanished into their impenetrable isolation, the real fête began, and we beheld approaching that famous reproduction of a daimio's escort, which we had all been so impatient to see. I do not suppose there was ever before so fantastic a public parade. First came heralds who advanced with slow, supple, measured strides, archers with their bows resting on their shoulders, and infantry with their guns wrapped up in scarlet cloth followed slowly, executing as they passed a singular sort of ballet. They kicked up one foot, until it touched the middle of the back, and flung out the opposite arm, brandishing their weapons with gestures like those of swimmers. The halberdiers were equally frisky; only they flung into the air and dexterously caught again their long halberds, bristling with tufts of horse-hair. The cooks, the quartermaster-sergeants, the clerks and the porters-all the long procession of army servants-swayed regularly from side to side as they walked. The officer who carried the Prince's umbrella, used it and his own tall cane like a drum-major, and he who bore the royal shade-hat performed at intervals a solemn caper. Men carrying big boxes danced under their carefully balanced burdens and the enormous coffers covered with black and adorned with armorial bearings in white, which were hung along a flexible bamboo pole, rolled like boats in obedience to a definite rhythm. Amid these mechanically moving figures, graver even than they and progressing at a funereal pace, advanced the samurai, wearing a particularly awkward kind of surplice with stiffened sleeves and fastening at the shoulder, and having their hair all drawn up into one little knot on the top of an otherwise shaven poll. They wore two sabres in the belt, and escorted the closed litter of the daimio-an empty litter, by the way, for the managers of the show had not ventured to
introduce any vulgar representative. The vehicle was all the more impressive for that reason, followed as it was by a splendidly caparisoned horse, which a groom led by the bridle. Imagination supplied the figure of a rigid and speechless prince with glassy eyes, imprisoned in the awe which he inspired, venerable by all that his priestly attitude suggested of long tradition and immemorial constraint.
Assuredly the cortège had its comic side; those imperturbable mountebanks reminded the spectator irresistibly of certain sections in the parade of a travelling circus. Still, I could not forget that less than thirty years had elapsed since the last of those lordly processions had come dancing into a Japanese city. What was to-day only a masquerade had then represented an indisputable authority. Every forehead bowed before it, and Japan gloried in offering to its princes this fantastic sort of homage.
In the private gallery whence we thus beheld the passage of history, there was an old daimio in a frock coat, named Nabeshina, who wagged his head and murmured: "Yes, that's the way in which I used to travel!" And a nephew of the last of the shoguns, a plump, affable little man, much less like a shogun than a notary, remarked: "I used to see my father going about in just such a vehicle when I was ten or twelve years old."
There was also among the illustrious Japanese by whom we were surrounded, a naval officer of timid aspect, whose fat, good-natured face flushed every time he spoke, and who contemplated the spectacle with evident curiosity. He was a brother of the Empress-an Ichijo-but he had no suite or attendants of any kind, and nobody took any notice of his presence. There were other princes and heirs of princes mingling freely with the diplomatic world, and creating no more sensation
than the most obscure of the invited guests. The light which for ages had bathed them in a sort of supernatural radiance had been withdrawn from their phantasmal persons. Plunged from the topmost heights of feudality to the rank of officials in a modern state, their position as bureaucratic underlings or government employés constituted their sole claims to distinction. The rosette of the Rising Sun in their buttonholes marked them as capable servants; and these men, already broken into our usages, and mixed up with the mass of common humanity, looked on laughingly at the burlesque reproduction of their ancient pomp.
The procession halted. After old feudal Japan came old feminine Japan. The Japan of florid dances and harmonious attitudes appeared to spring anew from the soil. It was really a wonderful vision-a bit of fairyland seen in broad sunshine, surrounded by a sombre multitude. The best danseuses of Tokio, clad in robes of every soft yet vivid hue imaginablethe long lines of their costume barred by broad sashes or obi -in white, purple or gold, waved their fans like so many butterflies, fluttered their broad, rainbow-hued sleeves and twirled the gilded frames of their parasols, of which the radiating sticks all bound with flowers and ribbon, ran like wheels through a blossoming meadow. This parti-colored elegance, this beautiful harmony of gesture, the thin music which trembled through space like the resonance of a single wire, the virginal modesty of the poses taken under those dazzling veils, the very childishness of their grace, revealed in the people, whose dreams of beauty had taken this visible form, a singular simplicity in alliance with a most delicate fancy. For hundreds of years the self-same dances had delighted Japanese eyes; their image remained engraven upon every soul, gentle or simple, cultured
or untaught, humane or bloodthirsty, like the gardens of seaweed and coral which blossom alike under glassy and agitated seas. They were no mere pastime of a pleasureloving society. I saw in them the poetry of a race, the living expression of an art at once popular and subtle. Of the thousands of spectators, whose eyes were fastened upon their slow evolution, there was, perhaps, not one that did not keenly appreciate their rhythmic refinement. Peasants, artisans, merchants, officers, students, soldiers, nobles and princes, all the immense concourse experienced the same emotion, took the same delight in the time-honored caprices wherein the genius of their ancestors had found expression.
It was a most attractive crowd. I watched them curiously as the tradeguilds, mythological cars and the military cavalcades defiled along. All the big chariots and legendary tableaux were hugely admired, for there the populace beheld those heroes and fables with which the theatre and the professional story-teller had made them familiar from their infancy. They quite understood the monstrosities and the splendid extravagances of the show. What they did not understand-though it was a picture out of so recent a past -was a nobleman surrounding himself with such pomp whenever he went abroad, the order to fall flat before his footsteps loudly proclaimed in his van by outriders and lackeys, the terrible respect exacted by the samurai, the hereditary veneration which lifted the daimio above the level of humanity. Among the aged spectators there were some, indeed, who threw up their heads and said, as proudly as though they had been testifying to a miracle, "I've seen that myself!" Others appeared staggered as by the sudden revival of an image long effaced; and others again retired into their recollections and al
lowed nothing to escape of the confused memories which agitated their souls. The more ingenuous youth stared, laughed and jeered. "What fools there must have been in those days!" At the passage of a herald, commanding bows to the ground according to the ancient formula, I heard one voice exclaim: "Shut up, you old idiot! We don't do that sort of thing nowadays." The display of the princely cortège was less offensive to them than the notion of obeying a prince. Across the archaic forms, whose buffoonery was far less shocking to them than to us, the people mocked at the loyalty they had outgrown and the ancient principle of authority.
What more striking illustration could have been offered of a complete rupture with the past? For myself, I turned back towards that past so little known, so difficult to know, of which the long shadow overlay and submerged the significance of all that I beheld. I have always felt the inconvenience in remote and rather baffling countries of not knowing the background of their history-that which enfolds the secret of their present conditions. In Japan I longed to take my seat on the schoolbenches and learn beside the little Japs that history with which the teachers themselves are, as yet, but imperfectly acquainted-but so that at least I might have impressed upon my own mind the image, whether real or illusory, which is present in theirs. For after perusing their chronicles, talking with their pundits, going all through their ancient provinces, I have come to the conclusion that nobody, whether European or Japanese, can now form a clear idea of the country's past. The former does not know how to collate the archives; the latter is wholly without critical sense, and has not our love of truth. We are reduced to chronologies, anecdotes, intuitions and hypothDid you ever see a mountain
landscape on a foggy morning? I find that I can distinguish only the highest peaks of Japanese history, and I am not quite sure that I am not misled by the light which illumines these. Nevertheless, I have continually to refer to them in order to ascertain my bearings in the present.
What I see is a people of keen but rather short-lived energy, which develops only under impulses received from without, whose very originality reveals itself chiefly in imitation, whose genius appears to me complicated, rather than complex. It is the most singular mixture of crude ideas and abnormal sentiments. I suspect the simplicity and hesitate amid the confusion. Up to the seventeenth century I grope amid legends, with no sure lights except those of custom and tradition. From the moment the European sets foot in Japan, I trudge along more confidently by the light of his lantern till I come to the great blaze of the Restoration. There I still hesitate a little before novelties which seem to me, after all, to be only logical metamorphoses. But I would fain fortify myself against my own timidity; and since I am neither an historian nor a philosopher, I shall make a bold attempt to treat the history of Japan philosophically. It is a traveller's privilege.
The origin of the Japanese is mysterious, and mysterious their language. The difficulty they themselves experience about identifying their ancestors was what long persuaded them that their origin was divine. They are not quite yet convinced of the contrary, and the manuals of history put into the hands of school-children still postulate the fact that the Goddess of the Sun was the first Empress of Japan. Their language naturally seems to them the finest in the world because they know no other. It was formerly supposed
among them to be the only form of articulate speech, whence its nameKotodama, the miraculous language. Modern science has not decided whether they came from Mongolia by Corea or from the Malay Archipelago by way of Formosa. One ingenious hypothesis attributes to these adorers of the Kami the doubtful paternity of Ham the son of Noah. Astonishing traces of the Mosaic law are certainly to be found in their most ancient customs. The Basques enumerate with stupefaction sixty Japanese words, which are perfectly intelligible to them, for the reason that they heard them spoken above the cradle of their own race in the Ural Mountains-all which the philologists say amounts to less than nothing. Crypts are occasionally opened at Tokio containing Malayan arms, tools and vases. The symbols of Shintoism are also to be found in Corea. The very inquisitive persist in asking what manner of pilgrims they can have been who dropped the skulls which are to be found on some of the hills of the great Nippon range. It really matters very little. Enough for us to know that there were invasions of the Japanese archipelago some centuries before the commencement of our era, by tribes both of Huns and Malays; and that gradually they dispossessed the kind of hairy Esquimaux, the Ainos, who themselves probably had first exterminated the cave-dwelling aborigines.
In the fabulous world of volcanic Japan memories of conquest are mixed up with memories of eruption, each enhancing the horror of the other; and the plumes worn by its heroes resemble those which issue from the craters of its burning mountains. It is all but the vast shadow cast by a primitive kind of feudal order, slowly organized and then slowly decimated by a few of its more able members, up to the point when an imperial authority is fully
recognized. When, between the fourth and sixth centuries of the Christian era, Chinese civilization overflowed into the archipelago, it found a regular society, a sovereign of uncontested divinity, and gods of the soil, who were in fact identical with the land itself and its progeny, at once graceful and terrible. The influence of a temperate climate and harmonious horizons was already beginning to cover the stern virtues of the warrior with the first dawn of courtesy. A certain inborn simplicity, whereof the love and pride of arms have never quite despoiled these islanders, waited only the blowing of a warmer wind to ripen into social grace.
But, left to themselves and their own intellectual devices, they display a thinness of thought and a poverty of invention from which one would hardly augur positive greatness. There was nothing in the miserable condition of the Ainos calculated to enrich the imagination of their victors. Those whom they slew were poorer than themselves. In the fourth century A.D., they were still ignorant of writing. But this was probably the epoch at which their prosody became fixed;-a prosody without accent, quantity or rhyme, consisting of alternate verses of five and seven feet. At once embryonic and definitive this poetry is the sole original art to which they can lay claim.
The national vanity of the Japanese is wounded by these modest beginnings inconsistent with their boast of
a divine descent. They have tried to turn them to their own advantage, and one of the most ardent defenders of Shintoism, Hirata, who wrote near the beginning of the nineteenth century, has undertaken to show that their lagging civilization is in itself a proof of superiority; like the late development of certain great minds. M. Diafoirus adopts the same view. But that philosopher would have been better inspired
if he had gone back to the time when religious, literary, artistic and industrial China invaded Japan and respectfully considered the remarkable springs then so unexpectedly set in motion. What is truly marvellous is, not that a comparatively rude country should have submitted to the domination of an empire whose arts and philosophy still flourish bravely, after the lapse of so many more ages; but that having accepted it, almost slavishly, the native genius of the conquered land should have been able still to assert itself, and even to leave an ineffaceable imprint on the foreign civilization to which it ought, by rights, to have succumbed.
From the very first glimpse we get of the Japanese people, as incapable of originating anything new, as they are skilful in embroidery on the canvas of others, and very inferior to the great Asiatic nations who have realized in durable forms their most essential ideas, we find in them a social quality which appears incompatible with their high temper, and an intellectual subtlety truly astonishing in a race just issuing from the darkness of barbarism. It seems to be in some sort the effect of that beautiful nature which isolates them from the rest of the world, and, at the same time, feeds their souls. Their sufferings from the earthquakes, which are steadily diminishing in severity, have left them an inheritance of mild melancholy. Their scenery has a soothing effect on all who contemplate it. If the multitude of mountains and streams favors the growth of small, separate communities, the unfailing elegance of the widely diversified landscape develops among the people an identical sense of harmony and opens their minds to the same order of beauty. I will even go so far as to say that the history of the Japanese is but a surface reflection of subterranean struggle. They, too, have had their outbreaks and convulsions,
their tidal waves, which have flung alien ideas far inland over their old trodden routes, like the ships which are stranded by inundations high up among the fields. And yet the final result of all these frightful shocks has been less one of grandeur than of singularity and grace.
The civilization of China distributed Japan into classes and categories. China set up her bureaucracy there. created ministers, arranged long graduated scales of titles and emoluments. Her fundamentally democratic spirit made no sensible encroachment on the aristocratic feudality of the Japanese. If she separated the civic from the military power, it was to the advantage of the latter. The influence of that most pacific of all empires, where the soldier is relegated to the lowest social rank, determined and sanctioned in an adjoining country the supremacy of the warlike caste; insomuch that while in China the merchants were on the top of the heap, Japan-a mere colony and province of Chinese thought-delighted in degrading them. Finally Buddhism, when transplanted to the archipelago, soon lost its character of transcendental idealism, even to the point of arming its monks and fortifying its monasteries.
Yet, in the very heart of that society of which the insular vigor so adapted and transmuted every exotic doctrine, the imperial court gave the culture of China a more passive reception. As the worn-out heirs of ancestors who had all but consummated that marvellous work of original centralization, which had given them an immortal name, the mikados, availing themselves of the new division of power, surrendered that sword of which the sheath was fastened by strings only to generals who were designated, by way of distinguishing them from the barbarians, the shoguns; and contented themselves