V. THE NUN OF THE TEMPLE OF AMIDA
Meanwhile, the theatres were celebrating the war after a much more complete fashion. It is no exaggeration to say that almost every episode of the campaign was repeated upon the stage. Actors even visited the battlefields to study scenes and backgrounds, and fit themselves to portray realistically, with the aid of artificial snowstorms, the hardships of the army in Manchuria. Every gallant deed was dramatized almost as soon as reported. The death of the bugler Shirakami Genjiro(1); the triumphant courage of Harada Jiukichi, who scaled a rampart and opened a fortress gate to his comrades; the heroism of the fourteen troopers who held their own against three hundred infantry; the successful charge of unarmed coolies upon a Chinese battalion, - all these and many other incidents were reproduced in a thousand theatres. Immense illuminations of paper lanterns, lettered with phrases of loyalty or patriotic cheer, celebrated the success of the imperial arms, or gladdened the eyes of soldiers going by train to the field. In Kobe, - constantly traversed by troop-trains, - such illuminations continued night after night for weeks together; and the residents of each street further subscribed for flags and triumphal arches.
But the glories of the war were celebrated also in ways more durable by the various great industries of the country. Victories and incidents of sacrificial heroism were commemorated in porcelain, in metal-work, and in costly textures, not less than in new designs for envelopes and note-paper. They were portrayed on the silk linings of haori(2), on women's kerchiefs of chirimen(3), in the embroidery of girdles, in the designs of silk shirts and of children's holiday robes, - not to speak of cheaper printed goods, such as calicoes and toweling. They were represented in lacquer-ware of many kinds, on the sides and covers of carven boxes, on tobacco-pouches, on sleeve-buttons, in designs for hairpins, on women's combs, even on chopsticks. Bundles of toothpicks in tiny cases were offered for sale, each toothpick having engraved upon it, in microscopic text, a different poem about the war. And up to the time of peace, or at least up to the time of the insane attempt by a soshi(4) to kill the Chinese plenipotentiary during negotiations, all things happened as the people had wished and expected.
But as soon as the terms of peace had been announced, Russia interfered, securing the help of France and Germany to bully Japan. The combination met with no opposition; the government played jiujutsu, and foiled expectations by unlooked-for yielding. Japan had long ceased to feel uneasy about her own military power. Her reserve strength is probably much greater than has ever been acknowledged, and her educational system, with its twenty-six thousand schools, is an enormous drilling- machine. On her own soil she could face any foreign power. Her navy was her weak point, and of this she was fully aware. It was a splendid fleet of small, light cruisers, and splendidly handled. Its admiral, without the loss of a single vessel, had annihilated the Chinese fleet in two engagements, but it was not yet sufficiently heavy to face the combined navies of three European powers; and the flower of the Japanese army was beyond the sea. The most opportune moment for interference had been cunningly chosen, and probably more than interference was intended. The heavy Russian battle-ships were stripped for fighting; and these alone could possibly have overpowered the Japanese fleet, though the victory would have been a costly one. But Russian action was suddenly checked by the sinister declaration of English sympathy for Japan. Within a few weeks England could bring into Asiatic waters a fleet capable of crushing, in one short battle, all the iron-clads assembled by the combination. And a single shot from a Russian cruiser might have plunged the whole world into war.
But in the Japanese navy there was a furious desire to battle with the three hostile powers at once. It would have been a great fight, for no Japanese commander would have dreamed of yielding, no Japanese ship would have struck her colors. The army was equally desirous of war. It needed all the firmness of the government to hold the nation back. Free speech was gagged; the press was severely silenced; and by the return to China of the Liao-Tung peninsula, in exchange for a compensatory increase of the war indemnity previously exacted, peace was secured. The government really acted with faultless wisdom. At this period of Japanese development a costly war with Russia could not fail to have consequences the most disastrous to industry, commerce, and finance. But the national pride has been deeply wounded, and the country can still scarcely forgive its rulers.
(1) At the battle of Song-Hwan, a Japanese bugler named Shirakami Genjiro was ordered to sound the charge (suzume). He had sounded it once when a bullet passed through his lungs, throwing him down.. His comrades tried to take the bugle away, seeing the wound was fatal. He wrested it from them, lifted it again to his lips, sounded the charge once more with all his strength, and fell back dead. I venture to offer this rough translation of a song now sung about him by every soldier and schoolboy in Japan: -
(After the Japanese military ballad, Rappa-no-hibiki.) Easy in other times than this Were Anjo's stream to cross; But now, beneath the storm of shot, Its waters seethe and toss.
In other time to pass that stream Were sport for boys at play; But every man through blood must wade Who fords Anjo to-day.
The bugle sounds; - through flood and flame Charges the line of steel; - Above the crash of battle rings The bugle's stern appeal.
Why has that bugle ceased to call? Why does it call once more? Why sounds the stirring signal now More faintly than before?