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A Handbook of Modern Japan

Ernest Wilson Clement

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
THIS book, as its title indicates, is intended to portray Japan as it is rather than as it was. It is not by any means the purpose, however, to ignore the past, upon which the present is built, because such a course would be both foolish and futile. Moreover, while there are probably no portions of Japan, and very few of her people, entirely unaffected by the new civilization, yet there are still some sections which are comparatively unchanged by the new ideas and ideals. And, although those who have been least affected by the changes are much more numerous than those who have been most influenced, yet the latter are much more active and powerful than the former. In Japan reforms generally work from the top downward, or rather from the government to the people. As another1 has expressed it, “the government is the moulder of public opinion”; and, to a large extent, at least, this is true. We must, therefore, estimate Japan’s condition and public opinion, not according to the great mass of her people, but according to the “ruling class,” if we may transfer to Modern Japan a term of Feudal Japan. For, as suffrage in Japan is limited by the amount of taxes paid, “the masses” do not yet possess the franchise, and may be said to be practically unconcerned about the government. They will even endure heavy taxation and some injustice before they will bother themselves about politics. These real conservatives are, therefore, a comparatively insignificant factor in the equation of New Japan. The people are conservative, but the government is progressive. This book endeavors to portray Japan in all its features as a modern world power. It cannot be expected to cover in great detail all the ground outlined, because it is not intended to be an exhaustive encyclopædia of “things Japanese.” It is expected to satisfy the specialist, not by furnishing all materials, but by referring for particulars to works where abundant materials may be found. It is expected to satisfy the average general reader, by giving a kind of bird’s-eye view of Modern Japan. It is planned to be a compendium of condensed information, with careful references to the best sources of more complete knowledge. Therefore, a special and very important feature of the volume is its bibliography of reference books at the end of each chapter. These lists have been prepared with great care, and include practically all the best works on Japan in the English language. In general, however, no attempt has been made to cover magazine articles, which are included in only very particular instances.