Societies. The Japanese of our day have taken kindly to societies and associations of all sorts. They doubtless feel that their nation has to make up now for the long abstinence from such cooperative activity which was enforced during the Tokugawa regime, when it was penal for more than five persons to club together for any purpose.
The six most influential societies at present are the Military Virtues Society, with over 982,000 members; the Red Cross Association, under the immediate patronage of the Empress, with a membership of over 930,000; the Ladies Patriotic Society, with over 140,000; the Agricultural Society, with over 9,000; the Associated Temperance Unions, with some 9,000; and the Sanitary Society, with nearly 7,000. These, and not a few of those next to be mentioned, have branches in the provinces, and most of them publish transactions. The Educational Society, the Geographical Society, the Oriental Society, the Economical Society, the Philosophical, Engineering, Electrical, Medical, Historical, and Philological Societes, and the Gakushi Kwai-in, an association with aims kindred to those of the Educational Society, have done excellent work. We have, furthermore, a Society of Arts, Judicial, Anthropological, and various other scientific and literary Societies, a Colonisation Society, a number of Young Men's Christian Associations and Women's Temperance Societies, an Association of Buddhist Young Men, and others of various hues and complexions, not to mention political clubs, of which the number is very great and continually changing.
Some of the Japanese societies have eccentric rules. Thus, there is one called the Mustache Society, whose members consist of amateur singers,—of the male sex only, for no one without a mustache is eligible. The object of the Growlers' Society is to ventilate discontent and emphasise every public grievance. The Dotards Society, on the contrary, is a clique of antiquated wits and passées beauties who have prudently determined to make the best even of old age, and to have a good time up to the very end. The Pock-mark Society, we believe, still exists, though vaccination has sadly thinned its ranks. The Society for the Abolition of Present-giving has (thank Heaven!) come to grief. In no country of the world do les petits cadeaux qui entretiennent l'amitié play a more charming part than in Japan. Japan is becoming prosaic fast enough in all conscience. Why ruthlessly pull up by the roots the few graces that remain?
Books recommended. The Gakushikaiin, in Vol. XV. Part I., and The Japanese Education Society, in Vol. XVI. Part I, of the "Asiatic Transactions, both by Walter Dening.