1 Ch. 36: The Debate Over Seclusion and Restoration



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In fostering the production of various goods by the people the government should first try them out to find the best methods and tools, and then sympathetically guide the people in using them. A great deal of labor can be saved and conveniences obtained in various production methods, including sericulture, and in the use of various agricultural tools. These the government should try out, and after the confidence of the people is won, it should help them carry out these methods. When however a new method, even though convenient, is forced on people, generally they will have no faith in it.

Artisans and merchants should be given comparable consideration. Rice and money should be loaned and better methods should be taught them in order to assure them their livelihood. . . . [442-3]

Because it is important that we make our country economically and militarily strong (fukoku-kyÇhei) and because the samurai should individually play their parts, they should be paid stipends according to their ability so that they will not be pressed with immediate needs for food and clothing, and they should be given housing near their place of employment. For example, those who wish to take up seafaring should be permitted to live near the waters and should be given the tools of seamanship. Those who desire to go into sericulture should be permitted to dwell near mulberry fields and should be given rooms for raising silkworm cocoons. Each should have his livelihood stabilized in the place he prefers, he should be able to get married and rear children. Those near the sea would eventually be used in the navy. Those near the mulberry fields should be trained for service as soldier-peasants. The requests of all those who wish to serve their country in other capacities, as swordsmiths, gunsmiths, and the like, should be granted. . . . [443]

Governing a country means governing the people, and the samurai are the instruments for governing the people. Although the teaching of filial piety and brotherly love, trust and loyalty to both samurai and commoners is the basis of rulership, the sages have explained that these teachings are not possible without material means. Therefore, all the more so in the present period of decline we should give priority to gaining economic strength. . . . [443]

Because of the fact that in recent years trade has been initiated by foreign countries, the average person believes that this was the start of commercial intercourse, but this is by no means the truth. From the very beginning commerce with foreign countries has been an important part of the trade of a country, and its path has been firmly fixed by principles inherent in Heaven-and-earth [nature]. Those who govern others must be nourished by the latter, and those who nourish must be governed. This is the way of trade, and the same applies to government. Nourishing the people is the main work. . . . This is the natural principle (shizen no jÇri). Yao and Shun's rule of all-under-Heaven was none other than this. . . . [446-7]

In our country from the middle ages wars have followed in succession, the Imperial Court has become weak, and various lords have parceled out groups of provinces, each defending his own territory while attacking others in turn. The people were looked upon as so much waste, and the severity of forced labor and the arbitrary collection of military rations knew no bounds. Good government was swept away from the land; it was a period in which one who was skilled in warfare became a great lord and one who was clever in strategic planning became a renowned minister.

In the KeichÇ [1596-1615] and Genna [1615-24] periods when a period of peace had come, these old ways remained. The great retainers on the war council, including Honda Sado-no-kami [1538-1616], all strove to make the foundation of the Tokugawa household supreme and firm, and not once was consideration given to the people of the realm. Although there are said to have been many outstanding rulers and ministers from that time to the present, all have continued the work of administering the private affairs of one household only. The various lords have followed this pattern, and according to the old ways handed down from their ancestors, they have planned with their ministers for the convenience and security of their own provinces with a barrier between neighboring provinces.

As a result those who are known as great ministers in the shogunate and in each of the provinces have not all been able to disentangle themselves from the old ways of national seclusion. They have devoted themselves to their lords and their provinces, while their feelings of love and loyalty for the most part ignore the virtues of the good life and on the contrary invite the resentment of the people. All this leads to troubles in ruling the land. Japan has been split up thusly and lacks a unified system. Therefore we must admit that Envoy Perry's observation in his Expedition to Japan1 about the lack of governmental administration in Japan when he arrived here in 1855 was truly a discerning one. . . . [447-8]

All systems, including currency, are transmitted and executed throughout the land by the power of the supreme government in the interest of the Tokugawa household without in any way benefitting the empire or the people. For Perry to call this “lack of government” was indeed correct.

Under the system of national seclusion Japan sought safety in isolation. Hence she experienced no wars or defeats. However, the world situation has undergone vast changes. Each country has broadly developed enlightened government.

In America three major policies have been set up from Washington's presidency on: First, to stop wars in accordance with divine intentions, because nothing is worse than violence and killing among nations; second, to broaden enlightened government by learning from all the countries of the world; and third, to work with complete devotion for the peace and welfare of the people by entrusting the power of the president of the whole country to the wisest person instead of transmitting it to the son of the president, and by not having ministers bound in service to the ruler they endeavor to work together with one aim: to achieve peace and serve the common good. All methods of administrative laws and practices and all men who are known as good and wise throughout the world are put into the country's service and a very beneficial administration—one not solely in the interest of the rulers—is developed. . . . [448]

In England the government is based entirely on the popular will, and all government actions—large and small—are always debated by the people. . . . Furthermore, all countries, including Russia, have established schools and military academies, hospitals, orphanages, and schools for the deaf and dumb. The governments are entirely based on moral principles, and they work hard for the benefit of the people, virtually as in the three ancient periods of sage-rule in China.

Thus when the various countries attempt to open Japan's doors according to the way of international cooperation, who would not call Japan foolish for persisting in her old seclusionist views, for ruling for the benefit of private interests only, and for not knowing the principles of commercial intercourse? . . . [448-9]

The present Manchu rulers of the Qing empire originated long ago from the northern barbarians, entered China as conquerors of the Ming empire, and changed their national customs. Their early emperors, like Kangxi and Qianlong, were wise and virtuous. They carried out enlightened rule, made innovations in culture and in teachings, and brought about an effective peace. However during the Daoguang [1821-51] and Xianfeng [1851-62] eras, more than a hundred years after the opening of their country, China became weak with the corruption and extravagances of a long peace. She was ignorant of the fact that countries beyond the seas had been expanding knowledge by investigating science and logic, had been carrying out benevolent rule out of respect for justice, and had been strengthening their countries economically and militarily (fukoku-kyÇhei); in other words, they were not like other foreign countries that had long since died out. China continued to hold the same views as she did in ancient days when she looked down with contempt on barbarian peoples.

As a result, during the latter years of the Daoguang era China was badly defeated by England in the Opium War, which ended in the inevitable peace treaty. . . . Her humiliation was extreme.

Nevertheless the court, lacking in men of ability and being refined and elegant but irresolute, had not the least intention of learning from these costly experiences. . . . [449]

China and Japan are close neighbors. The results of China's debacle are right before our eyes, causing us to shudder so that we cannot calmly sit back and watch. Because of this we must in accordance with divine virtue and sage teachings observe today the conditions in all countries, greatly develop the system of our government in promoting the welfare of the people by innovating an enlightened rule, and earnestly make our country strong economically and militarily in order to avert indignities from other countries. However, this does not mean that Western ways should necessarily be looked up to in all respects. . . . [450]

Military Reform: Strengthening the Military (KyÇhei-ron)

In discussing arms for the present day, we can adhere to the use of the traditional hand-to-hand fighting, or we can stress the fierce Western rifle columns. What are their respective advantages and disadvantages?

In the old days either way would do for Japan at home, but today we cannot refuse contacts with the overseas countries that have greatly developed their navigation. In the defense of an island country like ours a navy is of prime importance in strengthening our military. In Japan up to the present nothing had been heard concerning regulations for a navy. Furthermore nothing had been observed of Western naval methods, so how could we know how to apply them? Navigation has progressed so much in the world today that we must start the discussion on the importance of a navy. Let us put aside for the time being the problem of Japan.

In Asia there is China, a great country facing the sea in the east. She early developed a high material culture, and everything, including rice, wheat, millet and sorghum, has been abundant for the livelihood of the people. In addition, there has been nothing lacking within her borders as far as knowledge, skills, arts, goods of daily use, and playthings are concerned. [But] from the Imperial Court down to the masses of the common people extravagant habits have come to prevail. Although China permits foreigners to come and carry on trade, she has no intention of going out to seek goods. Moreover, she does not know how to gain knowledge from others. For this reason, her arms are weak, and she must suffer indignities from various countries.

Europe is different from China. Her territory touches Asia on the east and is surrounded by seas on three sides. She is located in the northwest part of the earth, and compared to Asia she is small and is lacking in many things. Hence it was inevitable that she should go out in quest of things. It was natural that her nations should develop navigation to carry on trade, to fight each other with warships, and to attempt establishing possessions with monopoly controls. . . . [451]

This year [1860] English and French forces have attacked the Manchu empire, taking Tientsin and pressing on to the capital at Beijing. Russia is watching from the sidelines to take advantage of a stalemate and is like a tiger waiting to pounce on its prey. If Russia has designs of dominating China, then a great force must be mustered to prevent this. England must also be feared.

With the situation beyond the seas like this and growing worse all the time, how can Japan rouse her martial vigor when she alone basks in peace and comfort and drills her indolent troops as though it were child's play? Because there is no navy a defense policy simply does not exist. . .

For several decades Russia had been requesting permission for trade in vain. England's requests also had been rejected. Therefore America long and carefully laid out plans, and in 1853 her warships entered Uraga Bay, and bluffing with her armed might, she eventually unlocked our closed doors. Thereafter the Russians, English, and French came in succession and set up procedures for peaceful trade.

Japan has consequently gained some information on the conditions beyond the seas. However, we still cling to our antiquated views and depend on our skill in hand-to-hand fighting. Some believe that we can quickly learn to fire in rifle formations and thus avert indignities. Indeed, our outmoded practices are pitiable. . . . [453]

When we consider England, she prevents indignities being committed by foreigners, and she rules possessions. . . . In 1848 there were 673 well-known English navy ships, of which 420 were in operation. Steamboats are included in these figures. There were about 15,000 cannons, 29,500 sailors, 13,500 marines, and 900 officers. In wartime, France had 1,000 navy ships and 184,000 sailors. Today she has over 700 steam naval vessels, 88,000 fighting men, and 240 armored warships. Compared to former times there are twice as many fighting men. In 1856 there were over 200,000 troops.

In our Bunroku era [1592-95] during the Toyotomi campaign in Korea, Japan had 350,000 troops, not an inconsiderable figure when compared with England's. Moreover the circumstances of Japan and England are very much alike, and therefore our militarization should be patterned after that of England, with 420 naval vessels ships, 15,000 cannons, 29,500 sailors, 13,000 fighting men, and 900 officers in the navy. Military camps must be set up in the area of our open ports, and warships must be stationed there in preparation for emergencies. They can go to each other's assistance when circumstances require, and they should be adequate to forestall any indignities. England is situated in the northwest, and her land is not good. But with the advantages of a maritime country, she has seized distant territories and has become a great power today.

Better yet, Japan lies in the central part of the earth, and we excel in the advantages of a sea environment. If the shogunate should issue a new decree and stir up the characteristic vigor and bravery of the Japanese and unite the hearts of the entire nation with a firmly established military system based on clarified laws, not only would there be no need to fear foreign countries, but we could sail to various lands within a few years, and even if the latter should unloose armed attacks, we could with our moral principles and courage be looked up to for our benevolent ways.

Even though there is the need for a navy, it cannot be built without an order from the shogunate. Nevertheless, if each province were to take action . . . we could first of all take those from the samurai class who have the desire to become apprentices in navigation and in accordance with their ability give them a moderate salary so that they can take care of their daily needs. They should live near the sea. At first they could ride in fishing vessels and catch fish or sail to foreign lands in merchant vessels. Thus they would learn about the wind and waves while on the seas.

The shogunate should in addition build two or three vessels of the cutter-schooner type. . . . Each vessel would according to its plan engage in trade, whaling, or the like. If profit is made from trade, this should be divided among the members of each ship. The original fund would again be put to use. With this experience in seeking profits according to man's normal impulses, impoverished samurai and others can be greatly benefitted . They can be trained in techniques while enjoying their work.

Furthermore, those who have an interest can be taught the skills of surveying or of astronomical observation. These can be learned in actual work in the field. The samurai who constantly go back and forth to foreign countries can broaden their knowledge through observation . . . Hence when the shogunate finally issues a new decree, they will most certainly be able to offer their services in the navy.

We have now discussed how navigation must be learned first and how this knowledge can eventually be put to naval use. But how can this [alone] be called strengthening the military (kyÇhei)? It is said that there is no military reform which excels the way of the warrior (bushidÇ), which is to cultivate that spirit in actual practice. . . . [453-7]

The Way of the Samurai (ShidÇ)

Yokoi ShÇnan was still teaching in Kumamoto when Matsudaira Yoshinobu (Shungaku) asked for his advice with regard to educational reform in 1853, a year of crisis with the arrival of Perry. ShÇnan responded at that time in writing, reviewing the history of schooling in China and Japan, and deploring the overemphasis on bookishness and literary skills.1 This had been a major issue among Neo-Confucians from the Song on down, highlighted by Zhu Xi's advocacy of universal schooling in his preface to the Great Learning and Zhu's stress on moral action rather than belle-lettres. However, ShÇnan's distinctive synthesis of the civil and military (absent in Zhu Xi) is summed up seven years later in the third of his theses. In the process he reaffirms the mental and spiritual discipline, the “Method of the Mind” (shinpÇ) central to Neo-Confucian cultivation, and decries the influence of Zen in divorcing military arts from moral cultivation. The issue here is between bun understood as civil (i.e. civilizing, humanizing) arts, or as letters in the sense of belles lettres or proficiency in literary styles. ShÇnan argues for “letters” and military arts that are joined as one in serving humane, civilizing purposes, rather than as separate, value-free specializations devoid of any moral values.
Although couched in terms of the familiar “Way of the Samurai,” ShÇnan is defining a new leadership ideal of humane practical action for the world at large, beyond simply “enriching the state (country) and strengthening the military.”

Everyone knows that letters (bun) and military arts (bu), as samurai functions, are essential to the way of rulership. However, today what is known as letters means familiarity with the classics and histories, or entering into superficial discussions about the arts that have come down from ancient times, but it has come down to nothing more than memorizing texts and composing Chinese poetry. Military arts include horsemanship and swordplay, but in practice it is nothing more than discussing shades of meaning or lofty mysteries, or else admiring the fierceness of swordplay or exaggerating the importance of beating others in combat. Therefore the scholar looks down on the warrior as being stupid, rough, and not of much use. On the other hand, the warrior cannot stand the conceit and softness of the scholars. Both groups are unyielding in their disrespect for each other. Consequently a rift has opened up between the two avenues to rulership; this impasse is a general defect throughout Japan resulting from a failure to clarify the basis of the samurai way of life. . . . [458]

The original meaning of bu [warrior] lay in the realm of the mind-and-heart and not in techniques. Although one has not heard that the crossed lance (daijãmonji) of Lord KatÇ Kiyomasa [1559-1611] and the art of the spear (tombo-giri) of Lord Honda Tadakatsu [1568-1610]1 were transmitted and used in training, nevertheless they originated from the disciplining of the whole mind-and-heart. . . . [459]

In the [Edo] period when commanders of the empire could not train in actual warfare, warriors had to seek a teacher to get this training. However, teachers and pupils both stressed the method of the mind-and-heart (shinpÇ) over skill and technique. Consequently in the old days those who were skilled invariably were masters of the situation. . . . Miyamoto Musashi [1584-1645]1 was a guest teacher for the Hosokawa family and worked on plans for provincial affairs. . . . Musashi's military teachings were based on the principle of the one-directedness of the mind, but he constantly taught moral self-reflection, self-control, regulating the household, and ordering the state [from the Great Learning] as the basis of the Way of the Samurai. Simply to talk of empty, bare-handed thrusts was too much like the emptiness of Zen meditation and would degenerate into the moral void of the Emptiness principle, to the neglect of practical judgments in both study and military combat. . . . [459]

Generally, it is difficult to rule a state, during peace or war, without the right men and it is hard to find such men among those who have not attained mastery of both the civil and military arts. Although it has been known in both past and present that this mastery of civil and military arts is essential to the education of men of ability and character, it is not well understood that its basis rests on the method of the mind-and-heart, without which the attempt to gain men of character through training in today's letters and today's military arts is like trying to cook sand into a meal. We know that as a result it is difficult to obtain men of both character and ability, and thus to rule the state properly. . . . [460-1]

Through letters to clarify the principles of moral duty as an aid to good government and through the military arts to train for courageous combat so as to strengthen the body for any emergency—these are carried out in those feudal domains known for their realization of the Way, but when the basic meaning of the civil and military arts is lost, the effectiveness of schools in training men of ability and character is lost. . . . [461]

If one wishes to learn the way of the warrior based on moral principles, he must study the way of serving one's lord or father on down to the conduct of intercourse with one's friends, and must also study the way of regulating one's household and ordering the state. . . . [461]

As can be seen in [Zhu Xi's] preface to the Great Learning the main idea of schools in the three ancient dynasties of China was to teach the way of “self-discipline for the governance of men” which began with such household duties as “sprinkling and sweeping, and responding to others,” all based on the individual's moral nature, with each person exerting himself to fulfill his proper function, and without any compulsion whatever being exerted on each other.1

By contrast, in schools today the classics and histories are memorized and discussed and the [separate] military arts are practiced. Rules and systems are set up,2 and all pupils are driven to acquire [the specialized] knowledge to be used in their occupation. Depending on their strong points, some go into letters, some into military training, thus they become divided into opposing factions within the school. As a result letters lack the [civilizing] function of letters, and the military arts lose their own substantial reality. . . . [462-3]

All men have parents; all samurai have lords. To serve lords and parents with loyalty and filiality, to know the Way for humans to act as true human beings, is something inherent in their Heaven-endowed moral nature and not something that awaits formal instruction. To pursue the underlying principles of the moral nature and correct one's conduct in accordance with the Way is the civilizing function of letters; to control the mind-and-heart and discipline one's impetuosity, and to test these in skilled practice so as to accomplish worthy deeds, is the function of the military arts. Although the method of testing appears to be no different today, the attempt to control the mind through special techniques, is indeed fundamentally different. . . . The method of mind control (shinpÇ) practiced by earlier persons [in Neo-Confucianism], practicing techniques for cleansing impurities from the mind [in quiet-sitting] and engaging in lofty [philosophical] discourse about it, is nothing but empty talk. . . . [463]

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