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Japan: The Rise of a Modern Power
By Robert P. Porter (1918)


THE story of the way in which the Japanese people suddenly grafted Western civilisation on to their own purely Oriental culture must always be a fascinating one, and we are glad to read the excellent account in this book, where the historical sequence is followed with care and an admirable sense of proportion. It tells how the primeval Imperial dynasty fell into the hands of the Clans and the Shoguns, of the veneer of Chinese culture which spread over the Court, and of the early martial successes.  We note that the Mongol invasion failed, and that Japan has been one of the few unconquered countries. Then came the Portuguese and Spanish intercourse and missions, successful Christian propaganda, until it looked as if Christianity might become the accepted Japanese religion. The zeal of the converts went too far, however, and provoked reaction first and then fierce prosecution. The result was that, except for meagre trade with the Protestant Dutch, Japan remained a 'closed country' from 1636 to 1853. The author does not think the thought of the country remained stagnant however, but that in spite of the antiquated setting it continued vigorous enough, and when American influences opened the country the native education was quite sufficient to allow the Japanese to absorb the use of every western item of material superiority, while by no means inducing them to give up their native culture and modes of thought. This was shown in the constitutional changes, when the Shoguns fell, the semi-divine Emperor came into his own again and gave the country a constitution. We are led clearly through the period of utilitarian progress, increase of armaments, and military success, first over the reactionary Chinese, then, when German intrigue had forced on the war, over Russia, whose feet of clay showed already. In the war the Japanese have assisted the Allies greatly and far more than is realised, on account of their continual naval co-operation.

A. FRANCIS STEUART.

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