14 Garden Island Japan
(1) The Mighty West versus Beautiful Japan
It is not enough for Japan_s national strategy in the 21st century to complete the important post-war task of going beyond the American version of modern civilization. It must also determine Japan_s identity. To understand this more clearly, we need to examine the historical background of the concept of creating a garden island Japan with a beautiful natural and living environment.
The closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate and the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration (1868) was a period of encounter and intense mutual curiosity between Japan and the West. The Japanese, particularly the leaders of the Satsuma and Ch_hu clans that had suffered defeat at the hands of the British, became completely convinced of the strength of the West, which appeared before Japan in the form of great military powers. The Meiji government, recognizing that the might of the western powers came from economic and military strength, set about turning Japan into a great power modeled on Britain, the United States, Germany and France. Their slogan was fukoku ky_ei (_enrich the country and strengthen the military_).
The Image of Beautiful Japan
What kind of first impression did Japan make on its visitors from the West? Westerners who came to Japan on national missions, such as the American Commodore Perry (1794_1858) whose _black ships_ arrived in 1853 or Rutherford Alcock (1809_97), the first British minister to Japan, had done their homework. Most of the educated Westerners who came to Japan already possessed considerable knowledge of the country. For them, essential reading would have been the History of Japan by the German physician and historian Engelbert Kaempfer (1651_1716), which contains a detailed accounts of Kaempfer_s travels in Japan during the early 1690s. The English translation was published in 1727 and reprinted the following year, and an abridged version was produced in the early eighteenth century. According to Kaempfer_s account, _There are more varieties of wild plants with beautiful flowers and foliage here (Japan) than in any other country. These flowers adorn the plains and mountains according to the season, and various types of wild flower are cultivated in the gardens of people_s houses. Among these, the camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons are particularly fine .... They have varieties of chrysanthemum and lily, and gardens are adorned with chrysanthemums as big as roses. Lilies can be found all over the fields and mountains. When the narcissuses, irises and pinks are in bloom, there is surely no more beautiful sight in the whole world .... However simple they may be, Japanese houses are invariably decorated with some flowering plants that please the eye._
The image of Japan evoked by Kaempfer_s account is of a beautiful rather than a powerful country.
The Highly Civilized Japanese
This was the Japan that visitors from the West saw in the closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate and the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration. The English botanist Robert Fortune was a notable collector of plants. Dispatched to Japan by Kew Gardens (the Royal Botanical Gardens) in 1860 and 1861 to collect garden plants, Fortune made the rounds of the gardens of farms and temples looking for striking specimens. In his account of this travels Yedo and Peking he wrote, _If the love of flowers is proof of a people_s cultural sophistication, then the lower classes in Japan appear to be markedly superior to their English counterparts._
Heinrich Schliemann, the German archeologist famous for his passion for ancient Greece and Rome, visited Japan in 1865 before embarking upon his excavations of Troy and Mycenae. His comments include the following: _Generally speaking, Japanese homes are models of cleanliness._; _There can be no doubt that the Japanese are the cleanest people in the world._; _Japanese houses always have a garden containing a model-like pond surrounded by garden stones or a water trough filled with fan-shaped goldfish._; _If the word _civilization_ means material culture, one would have to call the Japanese a very civilized people, for they have attained the most advanced level of perfection possible in objects of craftwork without the use of the steam engine.