National Geographic : 1933 Mar
JAPAN, CHILD OF THE WORLD'S OLD AGE After due scrutiny and appraisement, rewards are meted out, not to rhymesters, for there are none, but to the poets. But let us come down to facts and fig ures of area and population and of facili ties of movement by land and sea. Travel to-day in the Japanese Empire is one of luxury and detailed convenience as compared with what existed in the time of my first visit, in 1870. Japan proper is now threaded with 15,413 miles of rail ways and trolleys, rivers are crossed by countless bridges, and the ocean paths to all continents are traversed by ships that move with an affluence and punctuality that are akin to the movements of the heavenly bodies. Three thousand three hundred and fifty steam and motor vessels and 15,497 sailing ships are registered in Japan's merchant marine; rivers and bays teem with small motor and sailing craft. The air is flecked with airplanes flying on regular schedules. THE JAPANESE TAKE TO THE AIR Aside from the military and naval air force, Japanese pilots are now flying more than a million miles annually over com mercial air lanes. Between Tokyo and Osaka there are two services daily; another line dispatches planes every day, except Sunday, to Korea (Chosen) and Dairen, with five intermediate stops. This latter line is to be extended to Manchuria. For some little time, too, the Japanese have had in project an air route to Shanghai, even tually to join up with the Chinese airways which link Nanking and Peiping with that commercial port. How well the writer remembers the seven-hour debate in 1871, when the mak ers of the New Japan discussed the re spective merits of railways or armaments, to provide the best means to defend and unify the nation just emerging from feu dalism. The vital question was, "Shall we expend the revenues derived from, or possibly because of, the abolition of feu dalism on a modern army and navy? Or shall we build a railway from the northern to the southern end of the Empire, even if it pays no dividends for a thousand years ?" Local prejudices of the nearly three hundred petty feudal factions had to be turned to healthy nationalism if Japan was to be fused into a modern nation. How to break up the sectional quarrels, animos ities, and customs? Wherewith? By a national army and navy or by railways and education ? Strikingly enough, a compromise was effected, largely through the wise counsel of G. F. Verbeck, a Dutch-American mis sionary. To the eagerly listening company Ver beck said: "Peace is the hope of the Chris tian, the desire of all patriots and of good men in every age; but war is the history of mankind." Then he outlined a plan of national development, both intellectual and material. It was electric, unifying the opinions of the Japanese leaders and in time securing both military defense and internal unity; the unity won by brains and the printed page proved fully as potent as that gained by arms in the field. It was the public schools and universal education that made certain, from the first, the victory over illiterate Russia. It was the mental training of youth in public school literature, as fully as military re form, that created the Japan we know to-day. Intellectual preparation for change had been in progress a century or more before the arrival of President Fillmore's peace ful armada of 1853. Japan's modern history is truly as much one of interior discipline as of any reinforcement coming to her from the outside. PERRY'S VESSELS IGNITED A LONG SMOLDERING FLAME Had Perry's squadron not appeared in Yedo Bay, there would undoubtedly have come, and quite probably before the twen tieth century, a revolution in Japan, re quiring new policies, new executive move ment, reconstruction of government and society; and an outlook, such as was never before, had taken place on the world at large.* On the other hand, America's interven tion under Perry was really an extension and fresh application of the Monroe Doc trine. It came at an opportune time. The old Mikado, or Emperor, Komei, was nearing his demise, and his son and heir, Mutsuhito, who was destined to rule the * See "The Empire of the Risen Sun," by William Elliot Griffis, in the NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE for October, 1923.