<Koakai Hokoku>, Issue 23 (1881, December 30)
Hirobe Kuwasi (1854-1909): “To Two Gentlemen, Mari Jun and Ma Jintao, who prepare to travel to China” (pp. 12-13)
‘Ah! Two gentlemen, do you know the situation of the today’s Asian Continent? India, Annam, and Burma are long controlled by the Westerners. They look like slaves, and refused even the right to talk [freely]. From several decades ago, our two countries, Japan and China, also gradually began to be humiliated [by the Europeans]. Your people used to travel and live in our country, just as our people – in yours. But all of us respect the laws of the state of sojourn, and follow its customs. The ancients used to say: “When you come to a country, first ask about the prohibitions; when you cross a boundary, ask about the customs!” This is a norm in relationship between the countries under the Heaven.
And only Westerners do not follow it! They themselves make the laws, themselves punish and reward, themselves issue orders, themselves prohibit and license. When asked about the grounds, they reply: “That is a law of our country”, or “This is a custom of our country”, or “We are unhappy to follow your governance and obey your laws, and that is why we do that”. Oh, what an extreme rudeness! How could they come to such extremes? It looks as if the people staying in other’s place would pretend to play hosts themselves. Is any such law under the Heaven?
Of course, the strong are different from the weak, and it is hard for the outnumbered to fight against the multitudes. [The weak] hold their breath and drop their voices, but gnash their teeth in indignation. That is how the affairs could reach the present point: the present situation is rather inescapable [on account of the Asian weakness].
In the <Classic of Songs>, it is said: “When there is going to be a fall of snow, that is first the descent of sleet”[i]. Ah! Sleet already has descended, and we just do not know when the snow and rain will come! Ah! Two gentlemen, don’t you know well the situation of today’s Asia? Two gentlemen, you both are well versed in Chinese language and able to take the responsibilities of our time. When the spring will come, you will (…) travel via Hangzhou and Suzhou, through Hunan and Hubei, enjoy the sight of mountains and rivers, observe their customs, and make friends with the chivalrous heroes of China. I believe that they definitely will be deeply moved and start planning the ways of self-strengthening. So, let you spur your horses on the way to Ji and Lu, where the northern wind will still breathe with frost, and where mountainous peaks look like swords! (…)
[i] See: “Middle Odes”, Book VII, Ode IV: J.Legge, <The Chinese Classics>, Vol. IV, p. 391.