Madame Yukio Ozaki

In the attempt to describe a character it is wise to begin, if possible, with its distinguishing attribute, the one which will leave its mark on the time, after the popularity of definite achievements may have passed away. So I will say, before going any further into the subject of this sketch, that if I were asked to single out the person who, to-day, most truly apprehends the points of contact and divergence in the thought of East and West, I would name the gentle dark-eyed lady who is the light of an ancient house in the loveliest part of Tokyo, a spot where, as she sits under the great pines of her garden, she can hear the long Pacific rollers breaking on the white beaches of Japan and listen to the wind as it murmurs its haunting songs of other homes in distant lands where she is known and loved. For though Yei Theodora Ozaki is a daughter of the East in heart and soul and parentage, one to whom all the fine ways and thoughts of it come by nature, she is also a child of the West in training, in culture, in the intellectual justice which enables her to discern the greatnesses and smile indulgently at the littlenesses of both.

Her father, Baron Saburo Ozaki, the descendant of a Kyoto samurai family, a member of the House of Peers, and a Privy Councillor, was one of the first Japanese who went to England to study its language and institutions. While there, he made the acquaintance of Miss Bathia Catherine Morrison, and shortly afterwards she became his wife. This lady was the daughter of William Morrison, Esq., a profound scholar and linguist, who would have been more famous had not his attainments, great as they were, been overshadowed by those of his brother, the Rev. Alexander Morrison, whose translations of the works of German philosophers and historians placed much valuable material at the disposal of English readers.

William Morrison’s name, however, was known and loved in Japan many years before his little granddaughter Yei (the Illustrious Flower Petal) was born, for he was the instructor of most of the Japanese great men who went to England to learn the ways and speech of modern enlightenment. Prince Mori, Marquis Inouye, Baron Suyematsu, and many others who afterwards rose to eminence, were among his pupils, and when Baron Ozaki became his son-in-law it would have been natural to conclude that Miss Morrison was fairly familiar already with many sides of the complex Japanese character. But the union was not a happy one; and when, several years later, I made her acquaintance, I thought I could divine the reason. She was a charming and intelligent woman, but she was English to the backbone, and it was impossible for her to appreciate or sympathize with anything that was not British. And Saburo Ozaki was as fundamentally Japanese. Five years after their marriage they separated, by mutual consent; three little girls, of whom Yei Theodora was the second, remained in England with their mother and received a very thorough English education. Mr. Morrison took great interest in O Yei and brought her many books, which she devoured greedily, having inherited all his love of literature and learning. I have often heard her say that whatever ability she possesses in that direction is due to her English grandfather.

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She was just sixteen when Baron Ozaki insisted upon her coming out to live with him in Japan, and she gladly complied with his wishes. On meeting her after their long separation, he was delighted with her charm and grace, and pleasantly surprised to find that in appearance she was quite a Japanese maiden, small and slender, with dark eyes, pale complexion, and a mass of glossy black hair. Accustomed to rule as an autocrat over his household, he decreed that henceforth she was to be only Japanese. She was quite willing to please him in this, so far as she could; the pretty picturesque ways of her new home appealed to her artistic instinct, and the traditions and ideals of Japanese life at once claimed her for their own; her mental inheritance responded to them joyfully. But this was not quite enough for her father. His duty, from his point of view, was to arrange a suitable marriage for her as soon as possible; but here he met with an unexpected difficulty. The example of her parents’ estrangement had inspired the girl with something like terror of the married state, and she had grown up with the resolve not to run the risk of contracting a like ill-assorted union. In consequence, she found herself in opposition to her father, an impossible situation in a Japanese family, and especially undesirable where there were younger children growing up, as in this case, for Baron Ozaki had married again after his return to his own country. Various other circumstances also combined to make her decide at this time to become independent. Her knowledge of English qualified her to give instruction in that language, and her superior education and well-known social position brought her many pupils in a land where teaching is looked upon as the highest of all professions.

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In this way many interesting friendships were formed with Japanese girls, one of whom opened for her the doors of that treasure house of story, the ancient lore and romance of Japan. Here the ardent sensitive mind was in its element. She says: “During those early years I loved the heroes and heroines of my country with passionate and romantic devotion. They were the companions of my solitude, royal and remote, yet near and potential as the white fire of girlhood’s idealisms; they peopled my visions with beautiful images, tender and brave and loyal. In those days I was often reproached with being a dreamer, but my dreams were all of fair and noble things. The old stories had taken possession of me: they were a wonder, a joy, an exaltation, though I little imagined that I would ever write them down.”

It was during this period of her life that there came a temporary parting of the ways and Europe again claimed O Yei for a time. My husband was the British Minister in Tokyo, and we proposed to Baron Ozaki’s daughter that she should come and live with us, acting as my secretary and companion. She accepted, and became not only a dearly loved friend, but an invaluable assistant to me, contributing very materially to the success of my various books on Japan by her profound knowledge of the country and the people. When I returned to Europe she followed me, and remained with us in Italy for about two years. A part of this time she spent in the house of my brother, Marion Crawford, acting as his amanuensis, and cataloguing his great library with such precision and intelligence that he remarked to me, “Miss Ozaki is a very exceptional person. I had not imagined that the work could be so well done.”

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My brother discerned her literary talent and first suggested to her that she should write and publish the stories of old Japan which she used to tell in the family circle to the delight of old and young. “You have the gifts of imagination and of language,” he said to her. “You really ought to lecture on those stories. You would have a great success.”

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Italy was a revelation to O Yei; her love of colour and romance was satisfied there, and the never-silent music of the South, the gay yet haunting songs of the people, found a ready echo in her sweet voice, her delicate guitar-playing. But her heart had always turned faithfully to her English mother, and when I went to live in London she passed some time there, contributing her first stories and articles to the English magazines. Then she returned to Japan, where the famous educator, Mr. Fukuzawa, had offered her a post in his school.

Of all her varied experiences this was the strangest. The slight shy girl had a class of two hundred young men and boys to instruct and keep in order, but from the crowded classroom she returned to the eeriest and loneliest of dwellings. She says: “I lived in the upper storey of an old Buddhist temple, really enjoying the queerness and out-of-the-worldness of it. Under my windows was a graveyard, where on summer nights I used to look for ghosts; but I had a terrible time with the cold and the draughts and the rats, in winter. Sometimes I was awakened at dawn by the sound of gongs and bells, and would look out of my window to see a funeral procession marshalled in the courtyard.” In her spare time she continued to write, and various articles and fairy stories of hers appeared in the “Wide World,” the “Girls’ Realm,” and the “Lady’s Realm.” At last her health broke down and she gave up her post at the school and devoted herself more closely to literary work, which resulted, in 1903, in the publication of “The Japanese Fairy Book,” a work which has now become a classic. At the same time she belonged to several of the societies, patriotic, educational, and charitable, by which the Japanese ladies so quietly yet so efficiently aid the cause of true progress in their country. Indeed it was in the interests of Japanese womanhood that she first took up her pen, resolved to dispel the hopeless misconceptions which existed in regard to it in western minds. To use her own words: “When I was last in England and Europe and found by the questions asked me that very mistaken notions about Japan, and especially about its women, existed generally, I determined if possible to write so as to dispel these wrong conceptions. Hence my stories of Japanese heroines, Aoyagi and Kesa Gozen [in the ‘Nineteenth Century’] and Tomaye Gozen, last year [‘Lady’s Pictorial’]. It has been my hope too that the ancient tales and legends, retold in English, may show to the West some of the good old ideals and sentiments for which the Japanese lived and died.”

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But other than purely studious interests entered into O Yei’s life; she had many friends in the Court and Diplomatic circles, and they drew her more and more into society, where she was always a welcome addition to any gathering. She saw every side of the national existence, Imperial, official, scholastic, and was equally intimate with the small but brilliant foreign society. Her single state was a mystery to all except her closest friends; they knew that she had resolved never to marry until she met a man who should fulfil all her ideals.

She met him at last. In 1904 she made the acquaintance of Yukio Ozaki, the Mayor of Tokyo. Each had long known of the other, and various amusing complications had occurred through mistakes of the postman, who, owing to identity of name (there was no connection of family), sometimes got hopelessly confused, and delivered the Mayor’s letters to the young lady and the young lady’s correspondence to the Mayor. From the moment when the two first met, at a big dinner party, and laughed together over the postman’s mistakes, the result was a foregone conclusion. Mr. Ozaki had already learned all that his friends could tell him about the intellectual, attractive girl whose independent, resolute spirit had in no way marred her gentle womanliness; she knew him equally well by reputation—and to hear of Yukio Ozaki, in Japan, is to admire and respect him. Many were the parents, both wealthy and noble, who after his first wife’s death would gladly have had him for a son-in-law. His irreproachable morals and elevated character earned for him during this period the title “Nihon no Dai Ichi no O musoko San,” the “First (best) bridegroom in all Japan.” But he too nursed an ideal, and was not to be drawn into new ties until he had found it. Given two such beings, it needed but one kindly touch of Fate’s wand to bring them together. The result was a marriage happy in its perfect romance and blest with the deep sympathy of tastes and interests which forms the surest foundation for married felicity.

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I returned to Japan a few weeks before the wedding took place, and counted myself fortunate in gaining the friendship of Yukio Ozaki. My first impressions of him could be summed up in a very few words—strength, calmness, largeness of heart. The fearless glance of his eyes, the noble carriage of his fine dark head, the quiet voice and direct yet eloquent speech—all this was the fitting index to a character which through many long years of public stress and strain has never let even a passing shadow flit over its crystal sincerity and loyalty. Political corruption, temptations of personal ambition, lures of advancement, popular feeling, the outcries of opponents and the applause of adherents, all these have assailed him in vain, have fallen like broken arrows from the shield of his spotless integrity. A Japanese writer says of him: “Mr. Yukio Ozaki has had a wonderful political career. He is a born orator, the most powerful debater, and the ablest writer, in Japan; a staunch fighter for the cause of liberty and the interests of the people; one of the political magnates, and a potent factor in the introduction of the Meiji civilization; a man who is above every form of political corruption; once the Minister for Education, and now the highly renowned mayor of Tokyo who has never missed a single election for the twenty-five Sessions of the Diet of Japan.”

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Mr. Ozaki is a strenuous and untiring worker. In his character of Mayor no detail is too small for him to go into patiently. Drainage, street cleaning, water supply, market regulations, everything that can conduce to the health and morals of the city passes under his watchful eyes, and Tokyo is governed marvellously well. His scrupulous conscientiousness leads him to take upon himself a thousand minutiae which another man would hand over to his subordinates. I shall never forget the searching orders that were promulgated to prepare the capital for the return of the troops from Manchuria. Hundreds of thousands of men, war-worn and ragged, with all their invalids, were to be arriving for months together, and no one could tell what germs of disease might come with them. So before the first detachment reached Shimbashi, a house-to-house visitation was made, the most thorough cleaning and clearing away of rubbish was insisted upon, and the entire foundations of the dwellings as well as out-houses and gateways were copiously sprinkled with chloride of lime. Tokyo sneezed, Tokyo wept, but Tokyo had no epidemics.

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Besides all his responsibilities as Mayor, a post which he has filled for seven years, Mr. Ozaki has great political duties to occupy his time. He has steadily refused to attach himself to any party in particular, and, though he has many supporters in the Diet, is an absolutely independent statesman, judging all measures from his only standpoints—right and wrong, and the best interests of the country. This uncompromising attitude has made many enemies for him, but even they admire and respect him, knowing that he is a man who has said to evil, “Stand thou on that side, for on this am I.”[1]

There is another side to his character, the love of all that is beautiful and inspiring. No one who saw the “Triumphal Return” of Admiral Togo can forget the splendid scene of that imposing ceremony, attended by half a million people and so deftly organized that all could see the hero and the man who welcomed him in the country’s name. The welcome came from the nation’s heart and found adequate expression in Yukio Ozaki’s magnificent address, delivered in the voice whose clear tones had ever sounded in the cause of true patriotism. The thrill of deepest feeling was in them that day, and I, who stood near the speaker, saw that his hand trembled and his eyes were suffused with emotion as he welcomed the beloved old sailor back, in glory, to the country he had saved.

One more superb pageant—one where Yukio Ozaki and his bride were host and hostess—returns to my memory, the fête given to Prince Arthur of Connaught in 1906. This was the largest social reunion that has ever taken place in the East, and most regally was the illustrious visitor entertained. In the beautifully wooded park a banqueting pavilion had been erected in the purest style of ancient Japanese architecture, severely harmonious in outline and detail. The interior contained, among other decorations, a great collection of rare Japanese flowers, shrubs, and dwarf trees—pines and maples hundreds of years old, and, from hoary trunk to new-born feathery branch tip, perfect miniatures of their spreading, towering brethren of the forest. The crowning feature of the day was the Daimyo’s procession, a mile long, which defiled before our eyes across the great lawns in the open air. For this the last survivors of the feudal epoch had been sought out and brought in from every part of Japan, old samurai who had accompanied their imperious masters in many a famous progress and had cut down all and any who had the temerity to cross their path. In joyful arrogance they came to show a degenerate world the martial splendours of their younger days, and the sight was enough to make one overlook the wrongs and dangers of the dead time and only regret that so much colour and fire had to be swept away to make room for the nation’s new life.

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For things like these all art lovers are grateful to Yukio Ozaki, but his two or three intimate friends have more exquisite moments to thank him for. “Let me take you to my favourite garden,” he said one day when I was with him and his wife, “the Garden of the Seven Flowers of Autumn.”

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The sun was setting as we drove for miles beside the river-bank; leaving the city far behind, we came, through leafy lanes, to a half-hidden gate through which we passed into a dreamland of misty beauty, all shadowy and subdued in the late October twilight. Great pale moonflowers swung, like scarce-lit lamps, from tree and trellis; feathery autumn grasses waved their plumes below. The dark velvety paths led to dim monuments on whose grey stones we could feel rather than read the deep-cut characters of classic poems. All was imbued with the tender melancholy which brings repose, not pain; and even now, in hours of stress and weariness, my memory turns to the starlit peace that reigns o’ nights in the spirit-haunted Garden of the Seven Flowers of Autumn.

Things like these mean more to Yukio Ozaki and his wife than all the social and public side of their existence. Both have the proud delicate reserves of the aristocrat of mind and soul, and escape whenever they can from the publicity which has been forced upon them. It required much persuasion to obtain their permission for this sketch to be published. Madame Ozaki’s last words on the subject were: “It is true that my life is varied and exceedingly interesting. One night I may dine at a State banquet with Cabinet Ministers and foreign Ambassadors, or with distinguished visitors like Mr. and Mrs. Taft, who recently visited this country; the next will find me with a purely Japanese party at the Maple Club. I assist at the Court functions, the Imperial wedding receptions; I act as sponsor or go-between at Japanese marriage ceremonies; I see all the ins and outs of Japanese life. I seem to live in the heart of two distinct civilizations, those of the East and the West, but the East is my spirit’s fatherland. My mind still turns for companionship to the great ones of the Past, the heroines of my country’s history. I find greater pleasure in the old classical drama of the ‘No,’ with its Buddhist teachings and ideals, its human tragedies of chivalry and of sorrow, than in all the sensational and spectacular modern drama. But my greatest happiness is in my home life, in the companionship of my baby daughter, in the few short hours that my husband can snatch from his work to devote to me. If you must write about us, tell people about Yukio—he is so good and great. I have no wish to be mentioned apart from him.”

Mary Crawford Fraser.

Note: Mr. Ozaki’s collected works have just been published in Japan; they include many essays on public and literary topics, original poems, and a translation into Japanese of the Life of Lord Beaconsfield.

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Madame Ozaki’s writings include “The Shinto Fire-Walking,” “The Hot Water Ordeal,” “Nikko Festival,” “Singing Insects of Japan,” and many articles on travel and folk-lore, “The Japanese Fairy Book,” “Japanese in Time of War,” “Japanese Peeresses in Tableaux,” “Stories of Japanese Heroines,” “Buddha’s Crystal” (in 1908), and “Japanese Girls’ Home Accomplishments” (in 1909).

[1] F.W. Myers.

Madame Yukio Ozaki – Warriors of Old Japan and Other Stories

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