National Geographic : 1933 Mar
VOL. LXIII, No. 3 WASHINGTON MARCH, 1933 THAE MAGAZllHE COPYRIGHT, 1933, BY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICSOCIETY, WASHINGTON, D. C. INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHTSECURED JAPAN, CHILD OF THE WORLD'S OLD AGE An Empire of Mountainous Islands, Whose Alert People Constantly Conquer Harsh Forces of Land, Sea, and Sky BY WILLIAM ELLIOT GRIFFIS AUTHOR OP "THE EMPIRE OF THE RISEN SUN," IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE WHEN occidental man first thinks about the Far East, China and Japan are envisaged as being much alike-indeed, almost as twins. But time enables him to discriminate. Historically, China is old and ethical. The burden of all her literature is, "What ought I to do ?" Japan is young and es thetic. The burden of her thought, as recorded for a thousand years, is, "What is beautiful?" Geologically, China is pre-ancient; Ja pan is recent. Long after Mother Earth had settled down to rear her earlier brood of lands, Japan, the youngster, arrived. The land masses now occupied by China, India, Europe, and America were already adult when the earth-mother brought forth Japan, destined to be long and thin, with out such rotundity as China possesses. She lies, even after a life experience of many centuries, sprawling through some 2,500 slender miles. In China, Nature's forces are relatively static, but Japan is in the center of earth and sea convulsions and violent air dis turbances. Throughout long ages, these cosmic forces have profoundly influenced the bodies, habits, and mental outlook of the Japanese people. In contrast with the conservatism, phlegmatic temperament and age-old stolidity of character in China, we see developed in Japan a more mercurial and daring people, ready to change, yet able resolutely to face the drawbacks of both Nature and inheritance.* Only about threescore years ago Japan shocked her elders in Asia by departing politically and socially from the ancient ways and turning toward those of "the western barbarians." In Nature, also, Japan has changed within our remembrance; Bandai San, one of the eruptions on her pretty face, mis behaved. For hundreds of years, so far as known in human records, perhaps dur ing millenniums of unrecorded time, it had been entirely dormant. As suddenly as the discharge of a cannon, it blew off its rocky cap in 1888 and killed more than 4oo00 human beings. Curiously enough, in Japanese the same sound, san, serves to the ear for either "mister" or for "mountain." The one-time medieval frontier village, Yedo, and the swift-growing national capital, Tokyo, t which it became, was * See "The Geography of Japan," by Walter Weston, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE for July, 1921. t Exact transliteration of Japanese names re quires the use of certain diacritical marks, thus: Takyo, Kyushu, Ryukyfi. In this article the simpler English spellings have been used. The new Map of the World, which members received with their December, 1932, issue of the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, may be consulted for these transliteration symbols.