Houses of Sleep
Willow Woman
East West
Decline of Taste
Note on Yeats
Oscar Wilde
Again on Hokku
On Poetry
Again on Poetry
Morning Fancy
Ink Slab 




PSYCHOLOGICALLY speaking, the city of Tokyo, like the Japanese civilization, which is often unmoral, if not immoral, is a wanton growth, not a true development from the inner force of impulse; its immensity in size, and perhaps in humanity too, is not the consciousness of sure development, but more or less in the nature of an accidental phenomenon. h appeared like a mushroom without any particular reason; the wonder is that it has stayed, and grown bigger and bigger. It fairly well represents the Japanese mind in its incapacity for spiritual concentration; if it have any charm (it has, in fact, inany and many charms, often fantastic and always bewildering) it should lie in its ignoring of definite purpose, or its utter lack of purpose. It is almost too free to be called democratic; it has no discrimination.
    (My friend critic, that unique N. Y., scorns Tokyo as the human beehive of mobbishness.) Many millions of Japanese, dark in skin, short in stature, live here looking as if the increasing summer clouds had fallen on the ground, now [16] parting and anon gathering again with a sort of mystery of Oriental fatalism; the first and last impression is a weanness not altogether unpleasant, ghostly at the beginning and tantalisingly human afterward. That weariness onginates in the confusion, physical and spiritual, to speak symbolically, the strange mess of red, blue, yellow, green, and what not. (Fame be eternal of Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige, those colour magicians of art, the true exponents of Japanese life!)
    This Tokyo was at the first the town of samurai of two swords, of mind more bent on learning how to die than how to live, proper to say, founded by Iyeyasu Tokugawa, the mighty prince of the Tokugawa feudalism, four hundred year ago, whose want of artistic education made it quite natural for him not to see the poetical side of city-building; he allowed every whim and imagination of the people to take their own free course. This neglect, more fortunate than otherwise, produced a great variety in colour and humanity that system and wisdom never could create, that were at once paradoxical, but highly interesting. [17]  It is for ever the man's city, if we can call Kyoto the city of women for the sake of comparison; in consequence, it is apt to be naked, bizarre and often arrogant, but there is no other city like Tokyo, which is honest and simple. As a piece of the art the city is sadly unfinished; in its unfinishedness we feel a charm, as I said before, the charm df weariness that rather breaks, in spite of itself, an artistic unity. Consciousness of perfection is unknown to the city; while it is quick and bright on the one hand, it is, on the other, verily lazy and uncivilised, like the Japanese temperament itself. I can count, on the spot, many a street which raises an apol ogetic look, as if they did not approve their own existence even themselves ; it is quite natural, I say, as it is the city as a whole, withuot a definite purpose.
    I think that "New Japan" (what a skeptic shallow sound it has!) has little to do with the real Japan of human beauty, because it was created largely by the advertisement, for which we paid the most exorbitant price to get the mere name of that; in short, we bought it with ready cash. Therefore it is no wonder that it [18] is so perfecly strange to many of us. I hear a whisper too often at some street corner: "Is it really our Japan?" I know that old true Japan, every inch of it, was the very handiwork of the people in general, while "New Japan," "the rising country of first class in the world," as it was proudly written by a newspaper man, as I can imagine, who wears a single eyeglass straight from London, was created by a few hundred men, we might say, the Westerners born in Japan, whose hopeless ignorance of the old civilization of their old country, strange to say, helped them up to fill the highest place in the public estimate. They were almost reckless to bring everything from abroad, good or bad; we did not mind trying it under one condition, that we might change it for another if it was not fitting. We discovered profitably Shakespeare and even Ibsen lately; and it seems to me that a copy, doubtless, of the American edition of "How to Build a City" fell one day in the hands of the Mayor of Tokyo, who proclaimed in the voice of a prophet that the city should be rebuilt in the very fashion nobody, at least in [19] the Orient, ever dreamed. Figuratively speaking, we were changing our kimono of old brocade, precious with tradition, for a plain sack-coat, perhaps made in Chicago. The municipality has been for the last two or three years spending an enormous amount of money for the sudden enlarging of the streets, and the hasty building of houses of brick or stone, of white or red; but I wonder why our Japanese city should be one and the same with that of the West. And again I wonder if it was her weakness or strength that she accepted the foreign things so easily. It makes me reflect what right she has, however, to object to the foreign invasion, as she had no definite purpose as a city originally. And is it the only way to put the Western morality in the old heart of the city? Can she ever become really civilised? [20]

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