A MISSION TO JAPAN.*
LORD REDEsDALE'S account of the Garter Mission to Japan is interesting for more reasons than one. In the first place, it describes a ceremony unique in history. Never before has a Mikado of Japan received the highest decoration which our King can confer, and nothing could prove more clearly the inclusion of our ally among the great Kings of the world
than his reception of the Garter from the hands of Prince Arthur of Connaught. The ceremony, simple in itself, is an acknowledgment of equality which fifty years ago would have seemed impossible, and it is most proper that it should have found a serious and sympathetic historian.
In the second place, Lord Redesdale's account is interesting because the author is better able than most living Englishmen to compare the new Japan with the old. He was in Tokyo before the process of transformation began. He was present when a couple of fanatics made an attempt upon the life of Sir Harry Parkes, and he himself escaped assassination only by changing his plan of travel at the last moment. His knowledge and understanding of Japan, therefore, are based upon old and intimate experience. Many of the distinguished statesmen whom he met he had known in the ancient days of mystery, and as he travelled along familiar roads he was able to note the changes which what we call civilisation had brought in its train. And strange indeed it must have been to one who had experienced Japan's hatred of the foreigner to listen to the constant cheers and frequent playing of " God Save the King," and to observe the 'many marks of friendship and alliance which the Mission witnessed :—
"As I lay on the mats that night," he writes at Satsuma, "with a warm Japanese quilt over me, it was very like old times—and yet so unlike ! Here in the very sanctuary of the great Shimadsu Saburo, a name at the sound of which forty years ago Europeans trembled, a party of Englishmen were being hospitably enter- tained and receiving a welcome au& as has been seldom accorded to any man in any place. And .then people continue to ask the eternal question, `Is the country much changed since your day ?' " The greatest glory of Japan, before the war with Russia, was her perfect taste. She was the maker of beautiful things, the mother of artists, to whom ugliness was impossible. What influence have military glory and the necessity of commercial progress exerted upon her artistry P In general, Lord Redes- dale is reassuring :— " Though I have travelled now—at intervals—from north to south, from east to west," he writes, " all through these islands, never did I see aught to which the term ' vulgar,' or even ' commonplace,' could apply, save where some misguided potter Or enameller has had the unhappy thought to imitate the horrors of the vulgarest European work, which, in their innocence, they take to be what we like."
That is the beginning of decay. When a workman con- descends to make, not what he likes himself, but what he thinks some one else may like, he is already untrue to his craft. And even in Japan itself, without any temptation offered by the insidious importer, some outrages seem to have been committed. It is thus, for instance, that Lord Redes- dale describes the road to Shinhama
" It was a long drive, beyond the very farthest limits of the great city. We crossed two rivers over two ugly modern bridges of stone, which have replaced the picturesque old wooden structures of former days. It is well enough that wood should have been supplanted by stone; but why not have pre- served the beautiful old forms? The commonplace European stone and cast-iron work is altogether out of tune with the grace of Japanese art. At KyOtO and in the country I have seen stone bridges of the most charming fashion. It is a pity that here in the capital the European Vandal or his pupil should have been allowed is perpetrate these iniquities. Barring these bridges, there Is nothing that one • The Garter irtation to Japan. By Lord Bedeedale, G.C.V.O., London : Macmillan and Co. [641.] comes upon during all these miles which does not carry the impress of the many charms of Old Japan. The low wooden houses, with their paper screens in lieu of windows; the shops with little maidens doing their daily marketing; the costar- mongers with their two baskets carried across their shoulders on bamboo poles ; the blind shampooers with their whistles ; the old women stopping under their paper umbrellas, despite the rain, for a gossip with a crony ; the closely-shaven Buddhist monks—all these remind one of Old Yedo, which is now Tokyii."
That is a delightful picture, and we devoutly hope that it will
remain a truthful picture of Japan. But imitation is the sad penalty of success, and Japan, conscious of her debt to modern arms, may discover a merit in modern arts. She has already adopted, or is adopting, the fashions of the West. The tall hat and the frock-coat are already familiar to her capital. Worse still, the sad costume of London has made its way from Japanese life into Japanese sculpture. " There stands in Tokyo," says Lord Redesdale, " in one of the most beautiful spots of the city, a statue of Count Gotii. It is of heroic size.
The dress chosen is the frock-coat. The pity of it !" We echo Lord Redesdale's regret. An English soldier in a kimono would be absurd enough. But far worse is it to restrain a Samurai within the limits of a frock-coat. That is outrageous as well as inappropriate, and it will be a sad day for Japan when she carries her passion for imitation into the common habits of life.
The proverb says that one must suffer to be beautiful. One must also suffer, it seems, to be strong. And Japan has not taken a foremost place among the nations without a sacrifice. That the sacrifice, if inevitable, is worth making need not be disputed. But was it inevitable P Might not Japan achieve greatness and yet be loyal to her own exquisite grace P Are the ugly trappings of London necessary to political supre- macy ? We cannot believe it. The frock-coat has grown to the back of the English statesman. It is as much a part of him as the colour of his hair or the tint of his complexion. But it is new and strange to Japan, and we see no reason why she should not accept her new destiny without denationalising herself. However, behind the capital there lies a country which has been touched to patriotism, and which yet preserves its ancient simplicity and its ancient taste. So much is clear from Lord Redesdale's entertaining narrative, and as progress is always checked by reaction, in a few years there may be restored to Tokyo the older fashions of dress and architecture which have made her famous all the world over.