Chapter Two. The Household Shrine
And the secret living force of Shinto to-day - that force which repels missionary efforts at proselytising - means something much more profound than tradition or worship or ceremonialism. Shinto may yet, without loss of real power, survive all these. Certainly the expansion of the popular mind through education, the influences of modern science, must compel modification or abandonment of many ancient Shinto conceptions; but the ethics of Shinto will surely endure. For Shinto signifies character in the higher sense - courage, courtesy, honour, and above all things, loyalty. The spirit of Shinto is the spirit of filial piety, the zest of duty, the readiness to surrender life for a principle without a thought of wherefore. It is the docility of the child; it is the sweetness of the Japanese woman. It is conservatism likewise; the wholesome check upon the national tendency to cast away the worth of the entire past in rash eagerness to assimilate too much of the foreign present. It is religion - but religion transformed into hereditary moral impulse - religion transmuted into ethical instinct. It is the whole emotional life of the race - the Soul of Japan.
The child is born Shinto. Home teaching and school training only give expression to what is innate: they do not plant new seed; they do but quicken the ethical sense transmitted as a trait ancestral. Even as a Japanese infant inherits such ability to handle a writing-brush as never can be acquired by Western fingers, so does it inherit ethical sympathies totally different from our own. Ask a class of Japanese students - young students of fourteen to sixteen - to tell their dearest wishes; and if they have confidence in the questioner, perhaps nine out of ten will answer: 'To die for His Majesty Our Emperor.' And the wish soars from the heart pure as any wish for martyrdom ever born. How much this sense of loyalty may or may not have been weakened in such great centres as Tokyo by the new agnosticism and by the rapid growth of other nineteenth-century ideas among the student class, I do not know; but in the country it remains as natural to boyhood as joy. Unreasoning it also is - unlike those loyal sentiments with us, the results of maturer knowledge and settled conviction. Never does the Japanese youth ask himself why; the beauty of self-sacrifice alone is the all-sufficing motive. Such ecstatic loyalty is a part of the national life; it is in the blood - inherent as the impulse of the ant to perish for its little republic - unconscious as the loyalty of bees to their queen. It is Shinto.
That readiness to sacrifice one's own life for loyalty's sake, for the sake of a superior, for the sake of honour, which has distinguished the race in modern times, would seem also to have been a national characteristic from the earliest period of its independent existence. Long before the epoch of established feudalism, when honourable suicide became a matter of rigid etiquette, not for warriors only, but even for women and little children, the giving one's life for one's prince, even when the sacrifice could avail nothing, was held a sacred duty. Among various instances which might be cited from the ancient Kojiki, the following is not the least impressive:
Prince Mayowa, at the age of only seven years, having killed his father's slayer, fled into the house of the Grandee (Omi) Tsubura. 'Then Prince Oho-hatsuse raised an army, and besieged that house. And the arrows that were shot were for multitude like the ears of the reeds. And the Grandee Tsubura came forth himself, and having taken off the weapons with which he was girded, did obeisance eight times, and said: "The maiden-princess Kara, my daughter whom thou deignedst anon to woo, is at thy service. Again I will present to thee five granaries. Though a vile slave of a Grandee exerting his utmost strength in the fight can scarcely hope to conquer, yet must he die rather than desert a prince who, trusting in him, has entered into his house." Having thus spoken, he again took his weapons, and went in once more to fight. Then, their strength being exhausted, and their arrows finished, he said to the Prince: "My hands are wounded, and our arrows are finished. We cannot now fight: what shall be done?" The Prince replied, saying: "There is nothing more to do. Do thou now slay me." So the Grandee Tsubura thrust the Prince to death with his sword, and forthwith killed himself by cutting off his own head.'
Thousands of equally strong examples could easily be quoted from later Japanese history, including many which occurred even within the memory of the living. Nor was it for persons alone that to die might become a sacred duty: in certain contingencies conscience held it scarcely less a duty to die for a purely personal conviction; and he who held any opinion which he believed of paramount importance would, when other means failed, write his views in a letter of farewell, and then take his own life, in order to call attention to his beliefs and to prove their sincerity. Such an instance occurred only last year in Tokyo,  when the young lieutenant of militia, Ohara Takeyoshi, killed himself by harakiri in the cemetery of Saitokuji, leaving a letter stating as the reason for his act, his hope to force public recognition of the danger to Japanese independence from the growth of Russian power in the North Pacific. But a much more touching sacrifice in May of the same year - a sacrifice conceived in the purest and most innocent spirit of loyalty - was that of the young girl Yoko Hatakeyama, who, after the attempt to assassinate the Czarevitch, travelled from Tokyo to Kyoto and there killed herself before the gate of the Kencho, merely as a vicarious atonement for the incident which had caused shame to Japan and grief to the Father of the people - His Sacred Majesty the Emperor.