Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/13

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JAPANESE HOME LIFE.

to any people that mold the ethics and character of the nation itself. In a word, we must enter the homes of both high and low, there to learn facts and not "foreign impressions."

But, alas! the task is one most difficult to accomplish, for it must be acknowledged that the vast majority of foreign residents, and practically all transient visitors to the country, see little or nothing of the details of the home life of the people. And why? Is the life of the people just what they see it to be in its picturesque and courteous superficiality, and is it indeed all poetry, music, and flowers, and no earnest reality?

Indeed, there is; for the word "home" has the same tender meaning in the hearts of the Japanese as with us; and the cricket that chirps so lustily on the hearths of American or English homes would find a rival songster in the cheery little fellow whose contented chirp by the side of the glowing brazier, or hibachi, makes such sweet music in Japanese homes.

Apart from the diplomatic and consular representatives from Western countries, the foreign residents of Japan are chiefly composed of merchants, missionaries, and a comparatively small number of professional men. The merchant or trading class represent by all odds the majority of the foreign community. Numerically, missionaries would come next. Indeed, it would not be an unfair estimate to state that these two classes constitute at least four fifths of the foreign population. Trading, as far as foreigners are concerned, is still limited to the treaty ports, including Yokohama, Kobé, Nagasaki, and a few others. Socially, the Japanese merchant ranks below the humblest tradesman, and, as all foreign trading with the interior must be carried on through the medium of these Japanese commission merchants, it is with this class of people that the majority of the foreign residents come in contact, and then only in their business relations, and seldom socially or intimately; although, were this the case, the idea gained of Japanese home life would be misleading, for the Japanese trader very soon learns to conform himself to the manners of his customers, and can not be regarded—as thus met—as typical of the truly Japanese.

The missionaries as well, for the most part at least, have little opportunity to study the details of the social or home life of the people they are working among. Theirs is a duty and vocation which from its very nature would render this well-nigh impossible. They are teachers, not students; they are bearers of spiritual truths, and must needs open warfare against the existing creeds of the people; and this attitude in itself would, in the majority of instances at least, debar them from entering into the pursuits or pastimes of the people. Before leaving the subject of missionaries, I would call attention to the frequent allusions made by the