This book is a true history of the Japanese Genro, or "Statesmen of Revolutionary Times," written by an American who lived and work with the characters involved. The heroes include several clan leaders who put aside their own rivalries to overthrow the Tokugawa government, restore the emperors, and expel the hated foreigners. They succeeded in overthrowing the Shogunate, but soon realized that they could not beat the western powers, and instead committed to modernizing Japan.
A BOY OF OLD JAPAN.
I am under deep obligations to the publishers, for giving me an opportunity to tell the story of the rejuvenation of Japan. I was a witness, although at that time I did not comprehend the movement, but I, and those few who are still living, do now.
From a federation of mutually autonomous oligarchies, Japan was metamorphosed into an Empire which holds Russia at bay. From a nation occupying 150,000 square miles, it has expanded by the addition of Formosa, and its population has grown from thirty millions to forty-five millions. An oriental people adopted occidental progress, and within three decades or little more than one generation, digested and assimilated our progress.
I have known, and was personally known to the men, whose story I have endeavored to tell. They are now honored under the simple name of Genrô,—statesmen of Revolutionary Times. Of the brilliant array of patriots whose names appear in these pages, only Ito, Inouye, and OKuma remain!
I have kept the names. Why should I not? Only honor can be bestowed upon such patriots as they; and the world delights to honor them. Besides, there is a healthy spirit for the young in a true story of devotion, sacrifice, and self-restraint. How often does a child, when reading an interesting story, ask: "Papa, is this true?" In this case the father may conscientiously answer: It is.
All the characters as portrayed in these pages, were living actors in the great national drama. Of those whose names have never before appeared in print, Karassu Maru, the only impulsive noble I have ever known, was the first imperial governor of Yedo. He died in August, 1872, and I attended his funeral. Honami came to Yedo with the emperor, but he was soon sent back to Kyoto, where he was placed under guardianship.
I have enjoyed the retrospective communication with my old friends. If my readers do so, they owe the pleasure to the publishers, who suggested the composition of the book.
|R. VAN BERGEN.|
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Nov 12, 1900