Logic in the Far East works by laws differing appreciably from those which the Western mind acknowledges. We have quoted in another part of this volume the recent decision of a learned judge, who ruled that a firm which had imitated the registered label of a brand of mineral water need not be restrained from so doing, because, as it was winter time, few persons would be drinking water, and the proprietor of the label did not therefore stand to lose much by the theft. We must allow a quantum of sense in this decision:—it is not altogether unreasonable. At the same time, the sense is not that to which our Western reason would lead us. Four or five years ago, the postmen of a certain district complained of getting no promotion after long and faithful service. Their claim was found just and was acceded to, each man being granted one step upwards. At the same time, however, the salary of each grade was reduced to what that of the grade next below it had hitherto been, so that in reality the men gained nothing. In such circumstances, Europeans would have protested that insult had been added to injury; but it is not recorded that the Japanese concerned evinced any discontent. About the same time, an old-established hotel in one of the largest cities of the empire was burnt down. With us, permission to rebuild would have been granted at once (supposing any permission to be necessary):—the fact that the proprietor had carried on business successfully during a long term of years, would have been deemed the best of all reasons for encouraging him to continue. Not so in Japan. The municipality held that he had made plenty of money already, and that the other hotels in the place, which had found in him a dangerous competitor, should be given a chance. Permission was, therefore, refused for more than a twelvemonth, and when at last granted, it was accompanied with vexatious conditions. Here again we see the action of reason of a certain kind, and also a jealous regard of a certain kind for the rights of others; but the eye with which this regard and this reason view the matter appears to a European to squint. What would he say to the report published in 1899 by the directors of a certain brewery company in the neighbourhood of Yokohama, wherein an item of 5,000 yen for advertising was entered as an asset?(!) These clever folks were but looking ahead; their prophetic soul viewed as an already accomplished fact the increase to their business which such advertising would produce, and they passed the 5,000 yen to the credit side accordingly. On another occasion, the manager of a Japanese insurance company applied to an English expert for advice on the state of the firm, which seemed to be not wholly satisfactory. When the expert looked into the accounts, he discovered a deficit of 700,000 yen, which of course he advised the company to publish, adding that the best way to make it good would be to write it off from the reserve fund. A grateful acknowledgment was received; but so the reply ran—the Englishman's advice could not be taken, "because, according to government regulations, all insurance companies were obliged to hold a reserve of 500,000 yen." The accounts were therefore "cooked," and not for eighteen months more were the facts made public, when to conceal them was no longer possible. From a Japanese point of view, there was nothing specially grotesque or dishonest in this course; for is not literal obedience to official regulations the first duty of every loyal subject?
It is especially in business transactions at the open ports that the European mind and Japanese logic are brought into contact, whence frequently friction and mutual misunderstanding. Certain aspects of the mental attitude in question recur, however, so constantly that the resident European merchants have learnt how to deal with them. The peculiarity most often cited is the refusal of Japanese tradesmen to make a reduction on a quantity. We Europeans of course argue thus:—"I, the buyer, am giving a large order; the seller will in any case make a considerable profit on this single transaction, comparatively quickly and with comparatively slight trouble; therefore he can afford to lower his price. If a dozen goes at the rate of so much, the gross must go at so much less. Nothing appears to us more obvious: it is a cardinal principle of our trade. But the Japanese dealer views the matter differently. "If," says he, "Messrs. Smith and Co., instead of ordering only one bale of silk, order a hundred, that shows that they are badly in want of it, and must be able to pay a good price. Furthermore, if I sell all I have to them, I shall have none left for other customers, which may prove very inconvenient. Their expecting me to reduce my figure is another instance of that unreasonableness on the part of the red-haired foreigner, of which I and my countrymen have already witnessed so many proofs." Hence of course a dead-lock, but for the fact, already noted, that many European merchants engaged in the Far-Eastern trade have by this time learnt this peculiarity, and protect themselves against it by such devices as splitting up their orders and giving them in different names.
The subject is an extremely curious one. Sometimes, after a recurrence of astounding instances, one is apt to exclaim that Japanese logic is the very antipodes of European logic, that it is like London and New Zealand,—when the sun shines on the one, "tis night-time in the other, and vice versâ. Were it really so, action would be easy enough:—one would simply have to go by the "rule of contraries." But no; that will not do either. The contradiction is only occasional, it only manifests itself sporadically and along certain,—or rather, uncertain—lines; it is more like a fold in a garment, a crease which you know not where to expect; and the result is that the oldest resident for all that his hair has grown grey in the land of the bamboo and the jinrikisha—may still, to the end of the chapter, be pulled up sharp, and forced to exclaim that all his experience does not yet suffice to probe the depths of the mental disposition of this fascinating, but enigmatical race.
Race, yes, that is it. The word slipped accidentally from our pen; but racial difference is doubtless the explanation of the phenomenon under discussion,—an explanation which, it is true, explains nothing, a key not possible practically to fit into the lock, but nevertheless an index of the truth. Why so? Because "Man" is an exploded fiction. Instead of "Man" in the abstract, anthropology shows us races of men, each with an intellectual constitution differing slightly from other races. That each race should object to the others, should fail to enter into the ways and thoughts of the others, is but one aspect of the assertion of its own individuality. But here a distinction is called for. Europeans dislike the Chinaman or the "Nigger" instinctively, but they are not perplexed by him, because they dismiss him summarily as "a queer creature." His pigtail or his black skin accounts for his funny ways. The} would be surprised if he did think as they think. It is when different races have come to dress alike, to use the same sort of phraseology, have closely similar institutions, and in fact stand on the same general plane of civilisation, that a painful shock is caused whenever the fundamental contradiction happens to break through the surface. Many of us have experienced somewhat of the same feeling at home, in the case of persons having foreign blood in their veins. They may speak English like natives, and be imbued with English notions. Yet suddenly they will go off, as it were, at a tangent, showing that, though with us, they are not of us. We thought they were our cousins, and we make the unwelcome discovery that they are strangers after all.