Modern History Sourcebook:
from Fifty Years of New Japan, 1907-08
By comparing the Japan of fifty years ago with the Japan of today, it
will be seen that she has gained considerably in the extent of her territory, as well as
in her population, which now numbers nearly fifty million. Her government has become
constitutional not only in name, but in fact, and her national education has attained to a
high degree of excellence. In commerce and industry, the emblems of peace, she has also
made rapid strides, until her import and export trades together amounted in 1907 to the
enormous sum of 926,000,000 yen. Her general progress, during the short space of half a
century, has been so sudden and swift that it presents a rare spectacle in the history of
the world. This leap forward is the result of the stimulus which the country received on
coming into contact with the civilization of Europe and America, and may well, in its
broad sense, be regarded as a boon conferred by foreign intercourse. Foreign intercourse
it was that animated the national consciousness of our people, who under the feudal system
lived localized and disunited, and foreign intercourse it is that has enabled Japan to
stand up as a world power. We possess today a powerful army and navy, but it was after
Western models that we laid their foundations by establishing a system of conscription in
pursuance of the principle "all our sons are soldiers," by promoting military
education, and by encouraging the manufacture of arms and the art of shipbuilding. We have
reorganized the systems of central and local administration, and effected reforms in the
educational system of the empire. All this is nothing but the result of adopting the
superior features of Western institutions. That Japan has been enabled to do so is a boon
conferred on her by foreign intercourse, and it may be said that the nation has succeeded
in this grand metamorphosis through the promptings and the influence of foreign
civilization.For twenty centuries the nation has drunk freely of the civilizations of Korea, China,
and India, being always open to the different influences impressed on her in succession.
Yet we remain politically unaltered under one Imperial House and sovereign, that has
descended in an unbroken line for a length of time absolutely unexampled in the world. We
have welcomed Occidental civilization while preserving their old Oriental civilization.
They have attached great importance to Bushido, and at the same time held in the highest
respect the spirit of charity and humanity. They have ever made a point of choosing the
middle course in everything, and have aimed at being always well-balanced. We are
conservative simultaneously with being progressive; we are aristocratic and at the same
time democratic; we are individualistic while also being socialistic. In these respects we
may be said to somewhat resemble the Anglo-Saxon race.
Source:From: Okuma, Fifty Years of New Japan (Kaikoku Gojunen Shi), 2d Ed., (London:
Smith, Elder, 1910), passim.Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg
has modernized the text.
This text is part of the Internet
Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and
copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright.
Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational
purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No
permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.
© Paul Halsall, July 1998