Land Of Cherry Blossoms And Smoke Stacks
( Originally Published 1918 )
We have been accustomed to think of Japan as a land of cherry blossoms; wistaria, Fujiyama, and the quaint kimono; but it is becoming increasingly necessary to think of Japan as a land of smoke stacks.
Thirty-four years ago there were about one hundred and twenty-five modern factories in Japan. At the present time there are at least twenty thousand. At that period these factories employed perhaps fiffteen thousand people. To-day more than one million men, women, and children are working in the mills and factories of modern Japan.
In one year the United States buys seven million tooth-brushes from Japan, eight hundred thousand table-cloths, two hundred and thirty-three million cigaret mouthpieces, sixty-seven million paper napkins, two million imitation Panama hats, and millions of dollars' worth of silk. As Europe has little time at present to devote to world trade, Japan has taken up the task, and her salesmen are penetrating China, Malaysia, India, Africa, South and North America, and they are selling every conceivable sort of manufactured articles from toys to hypodermic syringes.
In the chemical industry alone the Japanese have learned to make forty products which they had to import before the war.
The development of manufacturing in Japan brought about so largely by the present war, has caused an invasion of the peaceful valleys by innumerable electric power plants. One of the plants established on the Nippashi River is said to be the largest in the Orient. Experts from Switzerland, Germany, England, and America were engaged to install the machinery, which included six 10,000 horse-power dynamos. Mushroom-like growths of small towns cluster about the different plants where small factories take advantage of the cheap power for chemicals, zinc, and for many other industries.
The result of this enormous stimulation to Japan's industry is that war-time millionaires or narikin, as these newly rich are called in Japan, are springing up overnight in astonishing numbers. A Japanese publication says : " The so-called narikin are making their objectionable presence known in every way. Fine mansions are being built, motor-cars are racing, geisha are attired more gaily, and summer resorts are crowded with those ` who spend money like water.' "
A noted ryoriya (Japanese restaurant) in Kobe is said to have refused to serve any dinner below fifty yen (twenty-five dollars) a head.
It is the day of big profits. A Japanese steamship company has recently declared dividends of three hundred and sixty per cent. A metal refining company -has declared two hundred per cent. It is stated that Japan now holds three hundred and fifty million dollars in gold. Japan, consequently, is not only expanding her manufactures and her trade, but is commencing to lend capital to other countries.
What of the people who make these toys, tooth-brushes, and silk goods on which the sudden wealth of Japan is based? Do they share in the new pros., perity of their country? The answer lies in the simple statement that the average wage of men factory workers is between thirty and fifty cents a day, and of women workers between ten and twenty cents a day ! Moreover, in many factories the cost of dormitory accommodations is taken from the wages, and a system of fines still further reduces the amount actually paid. The result is that factory workers, instead of making and saving money, are frequently left not only penniless, but in debt to the factory at the end of a few months. No, the factory population cannot be said to be deeply appreciative of the industrial opportunity afforded to Japan by the war. Japanese country life is being swept into the cities; it is put through the mills and comes out warped and colorless. Often it is completely destroyed in the process. It is estimated that every year a third of a million people are brought from the freedom and healthful conditions of the country to the congested factory quarters of the city.
The World-wide Lure of the City
Agents of the factories scour the rural districts for recruits. The ignorant lads and girls of the country side are told of the wonders of the city, the great buildings, the parks, the theaters, the moving-picture shows, the festivals and celebrations. Promises are made concerning fine wages, short hours, good treatment, and so on, promises which in most cases are never fulfilled. One can almost sympathize with the agents, for theirs is a tremendous and difficult task, the task of refilling the ranks of thousands who are annually ground to pieces by the factory system. Any one district is likely to be exhausted of girls in three years; and a Japanese authority states that the supply is now beginning to run out all over the country.
So great is the scarcity of labor that now, according to the Japan Weekly Mail, actual kidnaping methods are sometimes employed; and an account of the method resorted to is given in the following extract :
" The metropolitan police have recently learned that kidnapers have been selling children to various factories at the price of five or six yen each. This revelation came through the finding of two children wandering in Honjo, about a fortnight ago. When the two children, both eleven years old, were found by the police, it was ascertained that they had both been kidnaped in Akita prefecture, and were sold to a factory in Honjo for five yen a head. The two boys escaped from the factory and were wandering in the streets when they were discovered by the police.
" It is reported that many young men have been brought to Tokyo by kidnapers and, although not bad when they first arrive in the capital, they mingle with youths of bad reputation, especially after their escape from the factories to which they have been sold."
Conditions in Japan's Factories
Many factories are little better than prisons. Dormitories are erected within the factory grounds, and the workers are kept under strict observation and rarely are able to make good an escape. But if factory life is so alluring and delightful as the agents have made it appear, why should any one wish to escape it?
Let us dissect this delightfulness. First, there is the matter of hours. The large cotton-mills run in two shifts day and night, so that each worker has a working period of about twelve hours. In the silk factories and in the weaving factories the hours are even more extreme, running from twelve to sixteen a day. Rest periods and meal periods are cut short. Thirty minutes is nominally allowed for lunch; but it would be a courageous worker who would dare to displease the foreman by taking so long a time. Lunch is frequently eaten during five or seven minutes while standing, or without even leaving the running machine. Of course the brunt of this régime falls hardest upon the women and children. Little girls, scarcely in their teens, must rise every day at four-thirty and work from six in the morning to six in the evening; and, when the pressure of war orders is heavy, up to eight or nine or ten o'clock at night. Such a practise is of course absolutely ruinous to health.
Nor are the conditions of work entirely delightful. Many of the factories are dark, crowded, poorly ventilated, excessively hot; and in the cotton-mills the air is generally filled with tuberculosis-provoking dust, and modern methods of artificial moisture to arrest the dust are not commonly employed. Little provision is made for the cleanliness or comfort of the employees, except in the best mills. Accidents are frequent, because of the lack of proper safety devices. One factory in Osaka with a thousand employees has had an average of fifty accidents daily. Girls are often subjected to rough and insulting treatment at the hands of foremen. There are, of course, some men who do try to take care of the workers under their supervision.
Other troubles arise. Take for instance the dubious delightfulness of the new housing conditions for this third of a million people, annually, who have been accustomed to the open life of the country. In most Japanese factories the dormitory system prevails; the operators are thus kept in barracks within the factory compound. From ten to thirty operators sleep in a single room.
Tuberculosis Toll Is Heavy in `Japanese Industries
" In the smaller factories," reads a report of an investigation of factory conditions made by Galen M. Fisher, " the sleeping rooms are frequently upstairs over the noise, steam, and foul air of the factory itself. Although the large cotton factories allow a little more space per girl than the smaller factories, hygienically considered, they are the worst of all. This arises from the fact that the girls are divided into day and night shifts; both use the same rooms and bedding from one year's end to another. Furthermore, in winter the bedding is so thin that the girls have to sleep close together and share quilts to keep warm. The frequent change of personnel results in the same bedding being used by several different girls in the course of a year. Since the night shift sleep in the day they shut the blinds, and consequently the bedding is rarely if ever sunned. Inevitably tuberculosis and skin diseases are transmitted from one person and generation to another."
This treatment is not confined to the women workers of Japan. A description of the appalling conditions among the men employed for the work on one of the new power-plants is given by the Rev. Christopher Noss. " The contractor sublet the job to conscienceless exploiters of labor of the type of those who have built the railroads through the lonely wildernesses of Japan. Men out of a job were gathered in Tokyo by means of fine promises of big wages and easy work and sent to Odera in carload lots. Arriving, they were handed over to bosses armed with stout staves, and put to digging. Many, being unaccustomed to the work, fainted and were beaten to death, their bodies were thrown into the fills or bundled into cement kegs and buried in the mountains. Their food was vile. At night their clothes were taken from them and they were penned up. In order to discourage desertion the contractor paid them, not in cash, but in tickets, making such generous deductions for expenses that the portion remaining to the laborer amounted to three and a half cents a day (ordinary wages for such work being from thirty to forty cents without board). There was a constant ebb of the manpower through desertion, death, suicide, and de-liberate murder by the bosses, and almost every other day a fresh carload of fifty was brought in. An unsuccessful attempt to escape meant almost certain death. Yet refugees came in every day to Wakamatsu on the one side and Sukagawa on the other. One poor fellow dropped dead in Wakamatsu City Hall before he could tell his tale. Scores perished before the authorities could get their red tape unwound and begin to take notice. Some one said that about three hundred had been done to death, but a Christian physician who had been sent to Odera to deal with an epidemic of cholera that naturally broke out in the camps, estimated the number at one hundred, more or less."
What are the results, on the whole, of this taste of the allurement and delights of the city? Sixty per cent. of those recruited from the country districts never return home. Broken in health and morals, they drift from one factory to another; and many of the women go sooner or later into prostitution. Of those who do return home, one out of every six has contracted tuberculosis. This dreadful disease is beging introduced by returning factory workers into rural districts where it has heretofore been almost unknown. The death-rate among factory women is almost three times as high as the ordinary death-rate among women. In the great manufacturing city of Osaka the number of deaths equals the number of births. It is said that more Japanese die of tuberculosis in one year than. were killed in the war between Russia and Japan.
Japan's Industry Has a Sorry Harvest
Drunkenness and crime are common among the factory population, as they are among underpaid, underfed, physically weakened people the world over. The houses of prostitution are filled with one-time factory girls. Young men are taught to gamble, and the wages of a month disappear in a single night. It was revealed that half of the girls arrested by the police of Osaka in 1912 had formerly worked in factories.
Such is the harvest in disease, crime, and death in Japan's haphazard industry. Japan has adopted Western methods of manufacture but has stopped short at that. She has not yet gone very far toward accepting modern view-points as to the protection and care of workers. She has not yet fully realized that her workers are her greatest asset and that they must be kept sound and strong if Japan is to continue her industrial advance.
We have reviewed the factory problem in general, but it may be of interest to notice certain peculiar manifestations of this problem in various separate industries. Delighted with the mechanical processes which are yielding them such large returns, it will take time for the factory owners of Japan to learn the peculiar perils attendant upon each industry and the necessity of guarding themselves and their employees against them. For every industry has its own peculiar bugaboo.
In the manufacture of toys from celluloid the bugaboo consists of the small particles of celluloid dust which fill the air and get into the lungs, thus causing tuberculosis. Celluloid combs are also dangerous to the makers of them, since the rubbing and polishing of the teeth create large quantities of fine dust. In the best European and American factories this dust is removed by exhaust ventilation.
In the manufacture of glass the process of glass-blowing entails exposure to intense heat and light, and cases of heat prostration, and diseases of the eye are not uncommon. In blowing large articles of glassware the blowpipe is passed from one worker to an-other. Many diseases are thus transmitted, particularly syphilis. The inhalation of glass dust gives rise to respiratory diseases. Mortality figures of the industry in Japan are lacking, but they may be judged from the fact that in Germany, where conditions are much better, the average life of glass polishers has been found by Anacker to be 32.6 years.
Accidents in Japanese coal-mines are unnecessarily frequent. Counting the number of men killed for each million of tons mined, the following record shows the mortality rate during 1901 to 1910:
Great Britain 4.40
Japan is helping America to flood the Orient with cigarets. This industry strikes in two directions; it injures not only those who smoke the tobacco but those who prepare it. Many tobacco workers, after six months or so, frequently experience palpitation of the heart, weakened heart action, intermittent pulse, heartburn, loss of sleep and appetite, general fatigue, and loss of strength. The tobacco dust induces tuberculosis.
Each Industry Has Its Peculiar Danger
In the Tokyo Telephone Exchange I saw hundreds of girls fifteen years old, or thereabouts, sitting at the switchboard with telephone receivers clamped over their ears. The place was piping with their canary like " Moshi, Moshi " (Hello). The rooms were clean and light and the general treatment was good. However, I noticed at the end of the day, when the girls came out into the corridors to put on their wooden shoes and take up their parasols, that they were sadly wilted and quiet. The hours had been long, and there are few tasks more fatiguing than that of the telephone operator. When you wish to telephone and take down your receiver a light flashes before the eyes of the operator and a click sounds in her ears. If she is busy and you impatiently jiggle your hook, the light flashes on and off and the clicking sound is repeated every time the hook goes up and down. That is enough to test the poise of any girl. Yet if she also becomes impatient she is fined or discharged. The strain of the constant clicking and flashing, making of the necessary connections. answering inquiries, and being both swift and yet sweet-tempered, is nervously exhausting if carried on for many hours at a time. Neurasthenia and related disorders are distressingly prevalent among telephone operators.
The trolley-car is supplanting the riksha in Japan. The life of the trolley conductor is very different, but in many ways it is better than that of the riksha runner. Instead of being big and strong he must be as small as possible. Smaller men are preferred, since the conductor is expected to squeeze through a car packed beyond breathing room, and the smaller he is the better he can perform his duties. Inspectors keep a constant eye on the conductors and motormen and deal out rewards and penalties with a high hand. The motorman gets twenty-five cents for every person he escapes killing. The conductor receives twenty-five cents for every ill person on the car to whom he gives proper care. In spite of these advantages the life is not ideal. Constant standing for eleven hours a day frequently causes fallen arches, varicose veins, and resulting disorders. The total wage does not come to more than ten or fifteen dollars a month, which falls short by at least half, of the amount necessary to keep a family decently housed, clothed, and fed.
And so with the other industries of the new Japan. The lurking danger of the iron and steel industry is a tremendous accident rate; of the pottery industry, lead poisoning from the glaze which is placed on the dishes to make them impervious to moisture and give them a polished surface : of brass founding, brass chills, zinc ague, metal shakes, and like ailments, all due to in-adequate elimination of the zinc fumes from the zinc which is used with copper to make brass. In practically all industries low wages, long hours, and faulty welfare conditions prevail.
Cheap Labor Is the Most Expensive
Underpayment, overtime, and exposure to disease and death are not only inhumane; they are commercially unprofitable as well. Immature and poorly cared for labor is in the end the most expensive. It is tie skilled laborer, whose hours are short enough and whose pay is large enough so that he may keep a clear brain, a strong body, and quick fingers, who piles up the greatest profit for his employer. This is not empty theory. Positive proof may be had in the experience of Europe and America.
I have seen pile-driving going on in Japan and in America. In Japan a crew of women, each holding a rope, kept lifting and dropping a weight which, each time it fell, drove the pile a little deeper into the mud. These women were paid only a few cents a day. In America very expensive machinery is employed and skilled operators. When William C. Red-field, the United States Secretary of Commerce, visited Japan, he compared figures on the two methods and established the fact that it costs four times as much to drive a pile in Tokyo as in New York City.
An American connected with the locomotive industry visited the shop of the Japanese Imperial Railway and was shown about by the Japanese master mechanic.
We can make locomotives much cheaper than you can in America," he said.
" Can you? " inquired the American. " If so, let us get the facts. If you will tell me from your cost sheets what your locomotives cost, I will tell you what ours cost. What makes you think your locomotives cost less than ours? "
" Why," said the Japanese, " because we pay only one fifth of the wages to our men that you pay to yours.
The cost books were produced and it was found that the labor cost on a locomotive in Japan is three and a half times as great as that for a locomotive of the same type made in America.
Any number of such examples might be obtained. Taking advantage of the present world situation, Japanese factory owners are making large profits. But their advantage is only a fraction of what it might be if they were to pay as much attention to their human assets as they pay to their material as-sets. Low-priced, physically weakened, mentally dull, morally unreliable labor does not pay the highest re-turns. This would seem axiomatic; yet there are many employers, even in Western countries, who have not learned this basic law of modern industry.
Strangely enough, the laboring class of Japan, now subjected to such hard conditions by the short-sighted privileged class, is not illiterate. A large majority of the workers are possessed, in whole or in part, of a Sho Gakko education. The overdriven workers read the newspapers and magazines and are able to discuss the important questions of the day. They will not be satisfied long to submit to the impositions of their employers.
It would be supposed that an intelligent government like that of Japan would see the economic necessity for factory legislation; but the government of Japan, like that of most countries, is powerfully influenced by the wishes of the property-owning class, and the nabobs who own the factories want no legislation that will interfere with their divine right to deal with their employees as they please.
A Mediaeval Factory Law in Modern Japan
Indignant public opinion, however, finally compelled the enactment in 1911 of Japan's first and only national factory law. This law went into force in 1916. It is difficult to read the provisions of this law and believe that men of the twentieth century enacted it. In the light of the eight- and nine-hour working day of the West, it is strange to read the solemn provision of this law that little children shall not be required to work later than ten o'clock at night, and shall not be compelled to start work before four o'clock in the morning; that children and women shall not be required to work more than twelve hours a day except in periods like the present when war orders make it " necessary "; that operators who do night work shall not be required to work more than ten nights in succession;; that little children shall not be employed where poisonous gases are generated. And then to find that before the law was enacted jokers were slipped into it which made such exceptions and time extensions that even these backward provisions were largely nullified ! The whole law was apparently framed for the purpose of throwing a sop to public sentiment while leaving the powers of the factory owners practically unchanged.
The attitude of the Japanese government toward the worker is that of a rule-of-the-rod father toward an incorrigible child. Of repression and punishment there is much; of encouragement, very little. The right to vote is forbidden to factory workers, the franchise being restricted to the property-owning class. Workingmen are not permitted to agitate for better conditions. Strikes of a nature recognized elsewhere as entirely legal are harshly suppressed in Japan and branded as insubordination and disloyalty. Labor unions are prohibited. Workmen who applied for permission to establish such a union were refused on the ground that " as reported, the promoters were men devoid of means, education, and credit, and hence disqualified to form such an organization."
The only organization which bears even the slightest resemblance to a Western labor union is the Laborers' Friendly Society. This society maintains for workingmen, welfare departments for legal advice, savings, insurance, employment, medicine and hygiene, lectures, education, domestic economy, publications, and others. The organization, however, dares make but small attempt to secure better factory conditions for its members.
The leader of the Laborers' Friendly Society is Mr. Suzuki-Bunji, a Christian. He is a graduate in law of the Imperial University of Tokyo. The motto chosen for the society is " By the People for the People." In 1915 and again in 1916 Mr. Suzuki Bunji visited the Pacific Coast of the United States, and sat in conventions of the American Federation of Labor as a fraternal delegate.
Another proof that the laboring class is beginning to move is shown by a report stating that in Japan in the year 1915 there were nine thousand workingmen out on strike, in 1916 ten thousand, and in the first eight months of 1917 thirty thousand were involved in strikes.
What Missions Are Doing
Christian agencies in Japan are alert to the needs of the factory population but find themselves inadequate to the situation.
Homes for factory girls, close to the factories in which they work, are conducted by the American Board in Matsuyama, the German Evangelical Association and the Canadian Methodists in Tokyo, the Church Missionary Society in Osaka, and the Episcopal Board Mission in Kumazaya. In these homes, living conditions are ideal.
The Institutional Church is still in its infancy, but the Baptists have one in Tokyo and the voluntary co-operation of its members in the practical work is a splendid feature.
The Young Men's Christian Association maintains night schools and employment agencies. Recently the provision of good moving pictures and a lecturer to explain the pictures, has been a useful extension of energy. The lecturer has been permitted to make addresses and to show the pictures in a few factories, mines, and schools.
The Salvation Army is doing a large work among the unemployed men, housing, feeding, and financing them until they are able to find steady employment. Another piece of their " Good Samaritan " work is the " William Booth Sanitarium " on the outskirts of Tokyo, built for the treatment of tuberculosis patients among the poor.
Several other missions have tuberculosis sanitariums, and in 1912 the Anti-tuberculosis Association of Foreigners in Japan was founded as a result of missionary effort. It now has several hundred members, and issues a quarterly publication containing ad-vice for those enlisted in the struggle to check the plague which causes over one hundred and thirty thousand deaths a year.
A Japanese Christian pastor, Rev. Yoshimichi Su-giura, has been the means of placing several hundred " down-and-outs " on their feet and making them self-supporting and self-respecting citizens in independent businesses.
Another Christian of Japan, Tamekichi Ito, tried to establish night schools for workingmen. He found, however, that their hours were so long that they could not readily come to his school. Therefore, he put his school into the form of a newspaper. It is very unlike the ordinary newspaper. It contains little about politics and the war, but has a great deal concerning living conditions, hygiene, sanitation, mathematics, physics, chemistry, economics, cooking, first aid to the injured, moral and spiritual laws, and similar matters. This periodical is a college of liberal arts that comes to the working people instead of requiring the working people to come to it.
The Work of Christian Employers
Most encouraging of all is the splendid work that is being carried on by Christian employers themselves. Little is being done by non-Christian employers, al-though there are a few firms, such as the Kanegafuchi Spinning Company, doing welfare work. But the Christian firms are leading the way.
Work is begun daily with a prayer service and ended with a prayer service in the Homma Shimpei's marble quarry. On Sunday a preaching service is held, Mr. Homma himself acting as preacher. Nor does he merely preach. He is constantly guarding the health and welfare of his employees. Further than this, he anticipated Mr. Ford's profit-sharing scheme, by dividing the profits of his business among his workmen every year on his birthday.
Other great industrial enterprises, whose products are known throughout Japan, such as the Lion Dentifrice Company, the Fukuin Printing Company, the Yamato Silk Store, the Fuji Tea Company, and many others, owe at least part of their greatness to the fact that their proprietors have been Christians who have found that it pays to apply religion to business.
Of special interest is the story of Mr. Hatano. When he was a young man, he stole his wife's fortune and went away to the city, where he squandered all in wild living. Then, sick and penniless, he returned home only to be repudiated by his relatives and acquaintances. At last his mother had pity on her prodigal son and took him in, but yet the community would have none of him. His degradation and disgrace were complete. Then he heard the message of hope from a Christian preacher and soon after was converted. A remarkable change took place in Mr. Hatano's character. He became buoyant and ambitious and returned with kindness the snubs and insults which were accorded him. He began a silk business on a petty scale; and that business has now grown to be one of the great enterprises of modern Japan. The foundation-stone of his business has been the development of sound character in his employees. He has taken Matthew 7. 17, 18 as the watchword of his company and of the Silk Workers' Training School which is connected with it. Just as a good tree is necessary to produce good fruit, so this business man believes good character is necessary to produce good silk thread. His thread is now granted to be the best in Japan. Many firms have tried to duplicate Mr. Hatano's success by installing identically the same machinery and equipment. They have thought that such would be sufficient, and have considered it non-sense to bother to duplicate the religious, educational, social, and recreational facilities which he provides for his workers. They have failed because they have ignored the main feature of his plan, which is the development of character.
The Japanese government is worried over the fact that complaints are so frequently heard concerning the inferior quality of Japan's exports. It is feared that the trade built up during the war may be eventually lost. The government is therefore planning to place inspectors in the ports, and to prevent goods of poor quality from leaving the country.
It is a question whether it might not be wiser for the Japanese government to step back into the factories where these shoddy goods are produced, and learn whether the quality might not be improved by renewing the bodies, quickening the minds, and re-storing the souls of those dreary toilers upon whose work depends the reputation of Japan.