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He did not know that
the gods are the authors of every human action, and this ignorance
constituted a cause of radical difference. To have acquired the
knowledge that there is no michi (ethics) to be learned and practised
is really to have learned to practise the 'way of the gods.' . . .
Many miracles occurred in the Age of the Gods, the truth of which was
not disputed until men were taught by the Chinese philosophy to
analyse the acts of the gods by the aid of their own feeble
intelligence. The reason assigned for disbelieving in miracles is
that they cannot be explained; but in fact, although the Age of the
Gods has passed away, wondrous miracles surround us on all sides. For
instance, is the earth suspended in space or does it rest upon
something else? If it be said that the earth rests upon something
else, then what is it that supports that something else? According to
one Chinese theory, the earth is a globe suspended in space with the
heavens revolving round it. But even if we suppose the heavens to be
full of air, no ordinary principles will account for the land and sea
being suspended in space without moving. The explanation offered is
as miraculous as the supposition previously made. It seems plausible
enough to say that the heavens are merely air and are without any
definite form. If this be true, there is nothing but air outside the
earth, and this air must be infinite or finite in extent. If it is
infinite in extent, we cannot fix any point as its centre, so that it
is impossible to understand why the earth should be at rest; for if
it be not in the centre it cannot be at rest. If it be finite, what
causes the air to condense in one particular spot, and what position
shall we assign to it?

"In any case all these things are miraculous and strange. How absurd
to take these miracles for granted, and at the same time to
disbelieve in the wonders of the Divine Age! Think again of the human
body. Seeing with the eyes, hearing With the ears, speaking with the
mouth, walking on the feet, and performing all manner of acts with
the hands are strange things; so also the flight of birds and insects
through the air, the blossoming of plants and trees, the ripening of
their fruits and seeds are strange; and the strangest of all is the
transformation of the fox and the badger into human form. If rats,
weasels, and certain birds see in the dark, why should not the gods
have been endowed with a similar faculty?.... The facts that many of
the gods are invisible now and have never been visible furnish no
argument against their existence. Existence can be made known to us
by other senses than those of sight, such as odour or sound, while
the wind, which is neither seen, heard, nor smelt is recognized by
the impression which it makes upon our bodies. [Motoori Norinaga].

"Although numbers of Japanese cannot state with any certainty from
what gods they are descended, all of them have tribal names (kabane)
which were originally bestowed by the Mikado, and those who make it
their province to study genealogies can tell from a man's ordinary
surname who his remotest ancestor must have been. From the fact of
the divine descent of the Japanese people proceeds their immeasurable
superiority to the natives of other countries in courage and
intelligence.*

*Although Hirata claims the superiority for his own countrymen, he
frankly acknowledges the achievements of the Dutch in natural
science.

". . . The accounts given in other countries, whether by Buddhism or
by Chinese philosophy, of the form of the heavens and earth and the
manner in which they came into existence, are all inventions of men
who exercised all their ingenuity over the problem, and inferred that
such things must actually be the case. As for the Indian account, it
is nonsense fit only to deceive women and children, and I do not
think it worthy of reflection. The Chinese theories, on the other
hand, are based upon profound philosophical speculations and sound
extremely plausible, but what they call the absolute and the finite,
the positive and negative essences, the eight diagrams, and the five
elements, are not real existences, but are fictitious names invented
by the philosophers and freely applied in every direction. They say
that the whole universe was produced by agencies, and that nothing
exists which is independent of them. But all these statements are
nonsense. The principles which animate the universe are beyond the
power of analysis, nor can they be fathomed by human intelligence,
and all statements founded upon pretended explanations of them are to
be rejected. All that man can think and know is limited by the powers
of sight, feeling, and calculation, and what goes beyond these
powers, cannot be known by any amount of thinking. . . .

"The Chinese accounts sound as if based upon profound principles, and
one fancies that they must be right, while the Japanese accounts
sound shallow and utterly unfounded in reason. But the former are
lies while the latter are the truth, so that as time goes on and
thought attains greater accuracy, the erroneous nature of these
falsehoods becomes even more apparent whale the true tradition
remains intact. In modern times, men from countries lying far off in
the West have voyaged all round the seas as their inclinations
prompted them, and have ascertained the actual shape of the earth.
They have discovered that the earth is round and that the sun and the
moon revolve round it in a vertical direction, and it may thus be
conjectured how full of errors are all the ancient Chinese accounts,
and how impossible it is to believe anything that professes to be
determined a priori. But when we come to compare our ancient
traditions as to the origin of a thing in the midst of space and its
subsequent development, with what has been ascertained to be the
actual shape of the earth, we find that there is not the slightest
error, and this result confirms the truth of our ancient traditions.
But although accurate discoveries made by the men of the Far West as
to the actual shape of the earth and its position in space infinitely
surpass the theories of the Chinese, still that is only a matter of
calculation. There are many other things actually known to exist
which cannot be solved by that means; and still less is it possible
to solve the question of how the earth, sun, and moon came to assume
their form. Probably those countries possess theories of their own,
but whatever they may be, they can but be guesses after the event,
and probably resemble the Indian and the Chinese theories.

"The most fearful crimes which a man commits go unpunished by society
so long as they are undiscovered, but they draw down on him the
hatred of the invisible gods. The attainment of happiness by
performing good acts is regulated by the same law. Even if the gods
do not punish secret sins by the usual penalties of law, they inflict
diseases, misfortunes, short life, and extermination of the race.
Never mind the praise or blame of fellow men, but act so that you
need not be ashamed before the gods of the Unseen. If you desire to
practise true virtue, learn to stand in awe of the Unseen, and that
will prevent you from doing wrong. Make a vow to the god who rules
over the Unseen and cultivate the conscience implanted in you, and
then you will never wander from the way. You cannot hope to live more
than one hundred years in the most favourable circumstances, but as
you will go to the unseen realm of Okuninushi after death and be
subject to his rule, learn betimes to bow down before heaven. The
spirits of the dead continue to exist in the unseen world which is
everywhere about us, and they all become gods of varying character
and degrees of influence. Some reside in temples built in their
honour; others hover near their tombs, and they continue to render
service to their princes, parents, wives, and children as when in
their body. [Hirata Atsutane.]"*

*The above extracts are all taken from Sir Ernest Satow's Revival of
Pure Shinto in the appendix to Vol. III. of the "Transactions of the
Asiatic Society of Japan."

The great loyalist of the eleventh century, Kitabatake Chikafusa, had
fully demonstrated the divine title of the sovereigns of Japan, but
his work reached only a narrow circle of readers, and his arguments
were not re-enforced by the sentiment of the era. Very different was
the case in the days of the four literati quoted above. The arrogant
and intolerant demeanour of Japanese students of Chinese philosophy
who elevated the Middle Kingdom on a pedestal far above the head of
their own country, gradually provoked bitter resentment among
patriotic Japanese, thus lending collateral strength to the movement
which took place in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in
favour of reversion to the customs and canons of old times.

As soon as attention was intelligently concentrated on the history of
the past, it was clearly perceived that, in remote antiquity, the
empire had always been administered from the Throne, and, further,
that the functions arrogated to themselves by the Hojo, the Oda, the
Toyotomi, and the Tokugawa were pure usurpations, which deprived the
Imperial Court of the place properly belonging to it in the State
polity. Just when this reaction was developing strength, the dispute
about the title of the ex-Emperor occurred in Kyoto, and furnished an
object lesson more eloquent than any written thesis. The situation
was complicated by the question of foreign intercourse, but this will
be treated separately.

ENGRAVING: MITSUGUMI-NO-SAKAZUKI (Sake Cups used only on Happy
Occasions such as Weddings and New Year Days)

ENGRAVING: DIFFERENT STYLES OF COIFFURE



CHAPTER XLIV

FOREIGN RELATIONS AND THE DECLINE OF THE TOKUGAWA

FOREIGN TRADE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

FROM what has been stated in previous chapters, it is clearly
understood that Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu were all well
disposed towards foreign intercourse and trade, and that the Tokugawa
chief made even more earnest endeavours than Hideyoshi to
differentiate between Christianity and commerce, so that the fate of
the former might not overtake the latter.



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