Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/15

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
5
JAPANESE HOME LIFE.

representatives of certain missions, to the disrespect and disregard paid to them or their teachings by the Japanese. Such assertions are too sweeping, to say the least, as well as misleading, for many of the foreign missionaries in Japan have gained the high esteem of natives, and have endeared themselves, both by their noble, self-sacrificing lives, as well as ever ready sympathy and friendliness. There have been many missionaries sent to Japan during the past decade who are educationally sadly incompetent to meet the emergencies that present themselves in Japan. It must be borne in mind that the standard of education of the present generation in Japan is most high. The works of Huxley, Spencer, Darwin, and many others have, for the most part, been translated into Japanese, and the students and graduates of the university, the Dai gakko, are able to compete educationally with men from our best colleges and universities. The eagerness for knowledge that one finds so universally displayed among the Japanese, together with the remarkable advance in this direction that the nation has made during the past twenty years, and the prominent position Japan is assuming in its relations to America and European countries—all this commands our unbiased interest and respect.

The task of endeavoring to portray a clear, although of necessity incomplete, view of Japanese home life is one of no little difficulty. It would seem almost as difficult as an adequate description of a Beethoven sonata would be without the aid of music. For there is a subtle "something" about Japan in which, perhaps, the exquisite harmony of the land—the scenery and the people—plays an important part; yet a "something" that is wont to cast a charmed spell around one, and causes a former resident, like myself, to look back to the years spent in the "Land of the Rising Sun" as to the memory of some peaceful vision of fairyland. This indefinable charm can not be described in mere word-pictures, and yet escapes few visitors to Japan, and is seldom lost even after long residence in that country.

The sense of restfulness that pervades our Japanese towns, in bold contradistinction to that feeling of noisy hurry and feverish excitement of a busy American city, has been attributed to the comparative absence of horse traffic in the former. Undoubtedly this is a potent factor, but not the only one which gives that sense of quiet and repose already referred to. The courteous politeness of the people, both rich and poor, the general evidences of light-heartedness among even the poorest laboring classes, the absence of that distracting hurry and rush so typical of our great business centers, and in addition to all this the picturesque houses and streets, the spotlessly clean homes, the evidences everywhere of a national love for the beautiful and artistic, the absence of saloons