Chapter Eleven. The Japanese Smile
The Japanese child is born with this happy tendency, which is fostered through all the period of home education. But it is cultivated with the same exquisiteness that is shown in the cultivation of the natural tendencies of a garden plant. The smile is taught like the bow; like the prostration; like that little sibilant sucking-in of the breath which follows, as a token of pleasure, the salutation to a superior; like all the elaborate and beautiful etiquette of the old courtesy. Laughter is not encouraged, for obvious reasons. But the smile is to be used upon all pleasant occasions, when speaking to a superior or to an equal, and even upon occasions which are not pleasant; it is a part of deportment. The most agreeable face is the smiling face; and to present always the most agreeable face possible to parents, relatives, teachers, friends, well-wishers, is a rule of life. And furthermore, it is a rule of life to turn constantly to the outer world a mien of happiness, to convey to others as far as possible a pleasant impression. Even though the heart is breaking, it is a social duty to smile bravely. On the other hand, to look serious or unhappy is rude, because this may cause anxiety or pain to those who love us; it is likewise foolish, since it may excite unkindly curiosity on the part of those who love us not. Cultivated from childhood as a duty, the smile soon becomes instinctive. In the mind of the poorest peasant lives the conviction that to exhibit the expression of one's personal sorrow or pain or anger is rarely useful, and always unkind. Hence, although natural grief must have, in Japan as elsewhere, its natural issue, an uncontrollable burst of tears in the presence of superiors or guests is an impoliteness; and the first words of even the most unlettered countrywoman, after the nerves give way in such a circumstance, are invariably: 'Pardon my selfishness in that I have been so rude!' The reasons for the smile, be it also observed, are not only moral; they are to some extent aesthetic they partly represent the same idea which regulated the expression of suffering in Greek art. But they are much more moral than aesthetic, as we shall presently observe.
From this primary etiquette of the smile there has been developed a secondary etiquette, the observance of which has frequently impelled foreigners to form the most cruel misjudgements as to Japanese sensibility. It is the native custom that whenever a painful or shocking fact must be told, the announcement should be made, by the sufferer, with a smile.  The graver the subject, the more accentuated the smile; and when the matter is very unpleasant to the person speaking of it, the smile often changes to a low, soft laugh. However bitterly the mother who has lost her first-born may have wept at the funeral, it is probable that, if in your service, she will tell of her bereavement with a smile: like the Preacher, she holds that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. It was long before I myself could understand how it was possible for those whom I believed to have loved a person recently dead to announce to me that death with a laugh. Yet the laugh was politeness carried to the utmost point of self-abnegation. It signified: 'This you might honourably think to be an unhappy event; pray do not suffer Your Superiority to feel concern about so inferior a matter, and pardon the necessity which causes us to outrage politeness by speaking about such an affair at all.'. The key to the mystery of the most unaccountable smiles is Japanese politeness. The servant sentenced to dismissal for a fault prostrates himself, and asks for pardon with a smile. That smile indicates the very reverse of callousness or insolence: 'Be assured that I am satisfied with the great justice of your honourable sentence, and that I am now aware of the gravity of my fault. Yet my sorrow and my necessity have caused me to indulge the unreasonable hope that I may be forgiven for my great rudeness in asking pardon.' The youth or girl beyond the age of childish tears, when punished for some error, receives the punishment with a smile which means: 'No evil feeling arises in my heart; much worse than this my fault has deserved.' And the kurumaya cut by the whip of my Yokohama friend smiled for a similar reason, as my friend must have intuitively felt, since the smile at once disarmed him: 'I was very wrong, and you are right to be angry: I deserve to be struck, and therefore feel no resentment.'
But it should be understood that the poorest and humblest Japanese is rarely submissive under injustice. His apparent docility is due chiefly to his moral sense. The foreigner who strikes a native for sport may have reason to find that he has made a serious mistake. The Japanese are not to be trifled with; and brutal attempts to trifle with them have cost several worthless lives.