建筑风格上，东京也是大器庄严的。皇居在明治维新前是江户城，现在位居东京市中心。与北京的紫禁城类似，周围环绕着护城河。但与紫禁城的红砖墙不同的是，皇居城墙是用巨大的石块垒起来的，城墙上，可以看到里面参天的古树。城墙外表和城门没有太多的装饰，石则石颜，木则木色，一任其本来面目，却透露出一种对自然的敬畏和独特的审美观。不仅仅在东京，像京都这样的古城，寺庙与世俗建筑都显示出这样的特色。1853年随从美国海军准将佩里（Mathew C. Perry）叩关江户，打开日本国门的传教士卫三畏（S.Wells Williams），此前已经在广州居住20年，登陆日本时，曾比较日本与中国的服饰差异，他说日本的官员服饰“花花绿绿，相当怪诞，显示出他们的品位不高，比起中国的长袍差远了”。但是，日本人在建筑及其配套环境的品位上，比起中国反自然的朱梁画栋、金闪银耀来，或许要更加自然和高明。
当然，尽管日本人对包括西方列强的侵略遗迹都妥善保存，但这个国家的国际化程度究竟如何，似乎也有很不同的看法。2003年7月，在黑船来航150周年之际，英国《经济学家》杂志发表文章，标题居然是：“佩里叩关百五十年后，和魂洋才境况依旧。（150 years after Commodore Perry，Japanese spirit，western things）”美国著名“和学家”赖肖尔曾经多角度分析过日本的这种既博采众长却又顽固地坚守本位文化的特色，他甚至直率地批评日本人在自卑与傲慢之间周期性地摇摆，在经济和科学上取得令全世界赞美的同时，却仍然与世隔绝，不愿意在国际事务中扮演积极角色。因为赖肖尔教授生于日本，又娶了一个日本夫人，他无论作为哈佛教授，还是美国驻日大使，都表现出对日本的热爱。他的批评或许是日本人乐于接受的。
In February last year (2012), thanks to an invitation from the Japan Foundation, I had an opportunity to visit Japan for 40 days. The main host organisation and place of residence was Waseda University, and I also visited Tohoku University in Sendai, Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, as well as Hokkaido University. I have visited the city of Tokyo many times, but each time I passed through it quickly, and it was difficult to study the city in-depth. This time, my stay was for a longer duration, and I had accumulated more impressions, and also had the chance to interact with more people. The place I lived was very close to Jinbōchō Koshogai (‘Koshogai’ means ‘Old Books Street’), and I wandered through the bookshops many times. Inside, I spotted quite a few books about this city, but the language obstacle was a problem. In the past, Mr. Qian Zhongshu came to Kyoto University to give a lecture, and he started it praising Japan’s achievements in the field of sinology. However, he said: “I am illiterate in Japanese, and facing your honoured country’s rich treasury on sinology, I am like a poor ruffian who neither knows how to open a number lock nor possesses any lock-picking tools, and all I can do as I stare at the large safe is to fall into a daze with my eyes intently fixed on it.” In reality, unlike other languages, there are many Chinese characters in Japanese, and the language is not entirely incomprehensible to the Chinese; one can look at the title, read a few pages, and roughly grasp the key themes while finding it difficult to parse through the content in fine detail. That safe box is made of a semi-transparent material. One can vaguely perceive the treasures inside, but is unable to open it. This is not just ‘falling into a daze with your eyes wide open’. To use a popular phrase on the web, it practically ‘drives you nuts’.
Transport and Architecture
Let me give my two cents worth as someone who knows very little. Tokyo is an enormous city, even more enormous than a city in China like Beijing or Shanghai. This is the case because this type of city in Japan is basically a complex of cities linked together. For example, Tokyo and Yokohoma are two cities, but if you take a monorail and watch the cityscape of skyscrapers pass you by on both sides, while you haven’t felt like you have left Tokyo, you have already reached Yokohoma. This type of arrangement of groups of cities gives one the sense that the city is so large that one can never exit it.
The size of Tokyo is also manifest in the city’s high density in its transport networks above and underground. In the recent past, someone pasted the maps of Tokyo’s and Beijing’s underground systems next to each other on Weibo, and the difference in density between the two was staggering. While riding the underground, you will notice that this is not only a difference in the density of the network of routes; more importantly, transfer routes, entrances, and exits are all designed to maximise the convenience of the passengers. Each stop almost has six or seven exits, some directly linked to shopping malls, museums, railway stations and other places which have a high density of crowds and movement. Moreover, there are many shops inside stations, such that one can say that they form another underground Tokyo. During peak hours, in certain hubs of transport, the flow and movement of people jostling each other cheek by jowl inevitably leads one to exclaim at the extraordinary energy of the Tokyo below ground.
Architecturally speaking, Tokyo is grand and solemn. The royal residence before the Meiji Restoration was in Edo, now in the centre of Tokyo. Similar to Beijing’s Forbidden City, it is surrounded by a moat on all sides. In contrast to the Forbidden City’s red brick walls, the walls of the Royal Palace use huge stone blocks that are stacked together, and from its walls one can see the old trees that reach towards the sky. The exterior of the walls and the palace gates do not have too much ornamentation. The stone is stone-coloured, the wood, wood-coloured; all materials retain their original appearances, but they reveal a respect of nature and a unique aesthetic. Tokyo is not just an isolated case. The old city of Kyoto is also like this, and its religious and secular architecture displays the same characteristics. From 1853, with Commodore of the U.S. Navy Matthew C. Perry’s attack on Edo, Samuel Wells Williams, the missionary that opened Japan’s doors who had earlier lived for 20 years in Guangzhou, compared the differences between Japanese and Chinese dress when he landed in Japan. Williams remarked that the Japanese officials’ clothing was “garish and rather absurd, showing that they did not have refined tastes, and far behind China’s long robes”. However, the taste displayed in Japanese architecture and its accompanying environment, compared to China’s unnaturally brightly coloured and flashy buildings, might perhaps be wiser and more authentic.
Of course, Tokyo’s modern architecture is already very diverse. Looking down from the heights on Ginza, Shinjuku and other business areas, one beholds a myriad of skyscrapers of all shapes and colours. Some buildings built after the Meiji Restoration pursue Western classical styles, which is especially prevalent in university architecture, such as Tokyo University’s Yasuda Auditorium, Hitotsubashi University’s main building, Waseda University’s Ōkuma Auditorium, and so on. In addition, the Japanese Supreme Court, designed by renowned architect Shinichi Okada, is also a uniquely modernist building in a class of its own.
In comparison to those massive bulky modern buildings, I am more interested in the dwellings of the common people. On some quiet streets, blocks of two-storey and three-storey buildings cluster together densely. I don’t know the exact ratio of the population who live in low-rise housing like this, but it is indeed a common type of residence for many. A Japanese friend tells me, the earliest form of this low-rise housing emerged from private individuals buying parcels of land and inviting professional designers to build a house according to the aesthetic tastes and preferences of the owner. Since all the rights of the land were strictly and permanently guaranteed by the law, the owners not only emphasised unique features in the design but also requested strong and durable materials that would make the houses lasting sanctuaries for future generations.
What really had the most impact and made me sense the greatness of Tokyo was perhaps not its architecture, but its bookshops. Perhaps this may seem slightly strange to readers: bookshops? Which city doesn’t have some bookshops? But, when you reach Kanda, or on that long stretch of the road known as Yasukuni Street, row upon row of buildings are filled with bookshops. Around 180, to be exact, of which the old bookstores, known as “koshoten”, number around 160. The last time I passed here, time was tight, so I only hurriedly bought a few books from two bookstores on the margins of the street. Now I had plenty of time, and in a month, I went there seven to eight times, but even then it was partial. Browsing bookstores is a tiring activity: standing above bookshelves, looking around, and flipping through pages, and a long while has passed without you being aware of it. At noon, I found a small shop and had a bowl of ramen, took a break, and continued exploring in the afternoon. After a day, I had acquired a few books and my heart was filled with contentment.
Not only are the bookshops numerous, they abound in different categories, are neat and professional, and contain books of various languages. In addition to books, they also contain manuscripts, calligraphy, ukiyo-e and many other items from various writers and famous people. In a few shops that sold Western books, I saw quite a few antique books published in the 18th and 19th Century, and some would probably be considered rarities in their country of origin. I saw Grotius’ “On the Laws of War and Peace” (1631, in Dutch, priced at 350,000 Yen), Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of the Laws” published circa 1748 (220,000 Yen), 11 volumes of Bentham’s Letters, my Chinese translation of Stein’s Harvard lectures, the first Stockholm edition of Hedin’s famous work on explorations in Central Asia …
While browsing these bookstores, I sighed in admiration and also felt a certain sense of puzzlement. Why did Tokyo have such a prosperous industry in ancient books? In all the cities I’ve been to, be it other countries in Europe, North America or Asia, Jinbōchō Koshogai was truly second to none. Was it the Japanese are particularly passionate about reading? Those in the underground who held books in their hands were indeed numerous; I even spotted an old lady reading a copy of Michael J. Sandel’s “Justice” with much attention. If there are many who love to read, then naturally this would spur the development of bookshops. However, for there to be so many old bookshops, there had to be other explanations.
Throughout history, Japan had imported many laws and institutions from China. However, the contrast between the two countries’ historical continuity is great. Japan’s monarchs never ascended the throne through conquest. Although the Emperor in the era of the Shogun was for a long time reduced to a symbol, nevertheless, there was never a dynastic change. The saying that the Emperor of Japan “reigned for time immemorial” (bansei ikkei) is true to its word. In China, dynastic change was a periodic occurrence. The change of dynasty was not merely a change of imperial flags in the cities, it was also accompanied by a vigorous rejection of the preceding dynasty in many regards. In addition to the slaughter of the previous dynasty’s officials and warriors as well as the self-imposed exile on the previous dynasty’s adherents, of course, those prohibited books that questioned the legitimacy of the current dynasty had to be eliminated as well. From Qin Shi Huang’s ‘burning of books and burying of scholars’ to the Literary Inquisition during the early Qing Dynasty, the number of writers ruthlessly put to the chopping block by autocrats is uncountable. This continued all the way until the “Cultural Revolution”; didn’t the Red Guards also burn and destroy voluminous collections of “Feudalist”, “Capitalist” and “Revisionist” books? In comparison, Japan hardly had this intergenerational rancour, so it was relatively spared from the catastrophic destruction of books; with the continuous accumulation of old books, the antique book industry also flourished. Could this be an important factor?
Respecting History and Embracing the World
In today’s world, Tokyo is undoubtedly one of the most important international cities. The political system here shares the same cultural foundations as the west. Trade connects it to everywhere else in the world; so long as you pay, any television can connect to CNN and BBC. The National Western Art Gallery contains Reubens, Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and more in its collections. The competition between Europe’s and South America’s football club champions is held yearly in Yokohama, which is near Tokyo. The people pursue Western classical music almost obsessively. Japan’s Seiji Ozawa is a renowned maestro of conducting on the world stage …
What left a deep impression on me was that the Japanese actually do not display a mentality of revenge and hatred towards the past when the West threatened to open the doors of Japan by force, but instead expressed thanks. Beside Tokyo’s Shiba Park, I chanced upon a statue erected for Commodore Perry, who as mentioned before, was the key figure who led the American naval fleet and troops to the bay of Edo and forced Japan to open three port cities in the Perry Expedition (Kurofune raikō). Not only in Tokyo, Perry’s statue was also erected in Shimoda, where he landed that year, and Hakodate, Hokkaido. In addition to the statues, there are also monumental plaques and memorials.
Because of my interest in the history of Chinese foreign relations, I always take note of memorials that bear witness to exchanges between nations. However, wherever they were, most of them have been destroyed. The American Frederick T. Ward helped the Qing Dynasty exterminate the Taiping Rebellion and perished on the battlefield. In that year, the Qing Court solemnly recognised his work, and built a temple and tomb complex for him in Songjiang; today there are no traces left. In my hometown Yantai, missionaries in the early days set up schools, provided humanitarian aid, imported the seedlings for peanuts and various fruits while spreading the gospel, and could be said to have made outstanding contributions. However, in the beginning of the Korean War, these long-deceased people who had nothing to do were the war suffered the desecration of their corpses, ashes and graves. In Beijing, the graves of the Ming/Qing Dynasty Era Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and others suffered raids twice, once by the “Boxers” and once by the Red Guards, and were only restored after the end of the “Cultural Revolution”. However, this grave, which, for all we know might be an empty shell, is now still sealed in the school grounds of the Beijing Administrative College and is difficult for travellers to visit. The reasons for this anti-historical consciousness and behaviour are indeed worthy of consideration.
Of course, although the Japanese have comprehensively preserved the traces of the Western powers’ invasion, many have rather different views on the actual extent of internationalisation in the country. In July 2003, on the 150th Anniversary of the Perry Expedition, Britain’s the Economist published an article, which was unexpectedly titled: “150 years after Commodore Perry, Japanese spirit, Western things”. In the past, the famous American Japanologist Edwin O. Reischauer analysed Japan’s tendency to simultaneously learn from diverse sources yet stubbornly preserve the characteristics of its local culture through many perspectives. He even candidly criticised the Japanese for periodically swaying between an inferiority complex and a superiority complex, and for remaining isolated from the world and unwilling to play an active role in international affairs despite being lauded internationally in the economic and scientific domains. Because Professor Reischauer was born in Japan and married a Japanese wife, regardless of his position as a Harvard professor or the American Ambassador to Japan, he always displayed a passionate fondness for Japan. Perhaps his criticism is one that the Japanese may be willing to accept.
Of course, the Japanese always accept anything only after a thorough and considered process of filtration. Perhaps this is the true reason why Japan is the way it is.