India’s Contact with Japan
by A. K. Mukherji
Editor: Eastern Economist
From Anath Bandhu Mitra (ed.), New Asia: An Organ of Oriental Culture and Thought (52-53 Bowbazar Street, Calcutta), Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1940, pp. 61-72.
Indo-Japanese Cultural Link
Nearly fourteen hundred years have elapsed since Buddhist Scriptures were first introduced into Japan. We find to-day that the Japanese are ever eager to acknowledge their great cultural debt to India. Such Indian ideas as Nirvana, Retribution Metempsychosis and Benevolence, which have welded with the native concepts, have had great influence on Japanese thought, customs and manners.
In addition to Buddhas and Bhodisattvas, a multitude of images may be found in the temples of the older Japanese sects, most of which are either the guardians of the Buddhist faith or disciples or spiritual beings with which the Mantrayana or Shingon sects peopled the spheres. With very few exceptions, all these deities and personages are of Indian origin, though Japanese attributes and legends have collected round some of them.
Of guardian deities, the principals are the two Kings and the Four Deva Kings. The former are represented by two gigantic figures of ferocious aspect, which are to be found at the outer gate of almost every temple in Japan. The four kings are generally placed in the inner courts of temples and are figures holding weapons in their hands and trampling demons underfoot.
As a counterpoise to these well-meaning but alarming guardians of the faith Japanese temples often contain images of human saints or Rakan (arhats) much after the style of the early Indian temples.
In fact, one of the most remarkable aspects of Japanese Buddhism is that Japan has preserved many Indian figures which are either lost or unknown in China, through which the religion was introduced into this country. This is illustrated by Kishi-Mojin and also by several Indian deities of whom we hear nothing or very little in Pali literature but who are still worshipped in Japan.
Another Indian deity who has several temples in Japan is Benten, that is Sarasvati, the goddess of eloquence and riches, who is also connected with islands as is testified by her shrines at the Pond at Ueno, Tokyo, and also at Enoshima near Yokohama.
Even the Seven Gods of Luck, though hardly to be connected with the serious Buddhism , show the Indian Daikoku is apparently Mahakala and Hotei is a strange transformation of the Bodhisattva Maitreya generally represented as an enormously fat and hilarious cleric.
Besides this great influence on the religious and philosophical life of the Japanese, Indian culture affected considerably the themes and the diction of her literary works produced between 800 and 1100 A. D. and even in later times, till nearly the end of the nineteenth century.
Indian influence has also affected Japanese social institutions, educational system and even social pastimes. The Terakoya or private school, for example, had mostly Zen priests for masters, and these schools, which existed in J pan until the modern educational system was established, appear to be the copy of a similar institution in the ancient India. The “Goningumi” or ”five-men groups”, the smallest units in the local self-government system in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, were organised on the model of the ancient Indian Panachayat. The family system, responsible for the cohesive quality of the Japanese people, had some connection with the ancient India, and Japanese still chant Buddhist scriptures at memorial services as requiems for the departed. The most popular indoor games in Japan are perhaps “Go” and “Shogi”, both of which had their origins far in the olden India. Among those Indian influences, it is a surprising fact that many Japanese words of Indian origin are still in use of the present Japan.
It is natural then the Japanese, whose code of Bushido does not permit them to forget a debt of gratitude, should feel a sincere attachment for their first cultural mother, India. With the years Japan has modernized herself, basing her technical civilization on the patterns of the West, but her cultural and philosophical attitudes have changed little, remaining true to the spiritual culture which she adopted and evolved for herself.
That India has recognized the harmonious manner in which Japan has assimilated the Western techniques without impairing her native culture and ideals can be observed in the increasing number of Indian students enrolling at Japanese Universities. These students, steeped in the age-old culture of their mother country, are finding in Japanese institutions of learning some return for the ancient lore which their forefathers introduced into Japan. Japan welcomes these sons of India and earnestly hopes that they will bind even further the cultural ties which have always existed between the two countries.
Muslim traders from India have a place of worship of their own in Kobe. The credit for originating the idea of the mosque must go to Mr. M. A. K. Bochia, to whose courageous and optimistic outlook the Muslim Mosque in Kobe must ever bear testimony. More than half the financial burden of the undertaking fell on Mr. Ferozzuddin of Calcutta. But for his generosity the Muslim community here would not have been able to have the artistic and magnificient building, which may now be said to be adorning the city of Kobe.
Maulvi Aftabuddin Ahmed, Imam of the Mosque, Woking, Surrey, England spoke in opening the Kobe Mosque: “Praise be to God, the Originator, the Maintained and the Law-Giver of the whole universe; He who never sleeps or slumbers ; He who never tries or weakens; He who is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth: He who is the First and the Last, the Apparent and Hidden; Whose benevolence is all embracing and who has prescribed Mercy for Himself; Who has sent us His Holy Prophet Muhammad (May the Peace and blessing of Allah be upon his Soul) to teach us to the Path of Allah to whom belongs all that is in the Heavens and the Earth . . .
“In opening this mosque we are opening a House in which God’s Light will shine for ever in the hearts of man whom neither trade nor gain keeps back from participating in the Light of God . . .
“The Japanese themselves arc great merchants and manufacturers. Who knows but that God may intend them to spread His own Light. Whatever His will may be it is our duty to kindle the torch of Islam in this land, and to keep it alive for ever. The Light of God is shining now in this House of God. Let us thank God and ask for His blessings on His holy Prophet Muhammad and us all. Amen!”
The mosque in Tokyo celebrated its completion in the anniversary of the Founder’s birth in May, 1938. Its construction was made possible chiefly through the generosity of Japanese sympathizers for the cause of Islam.
Commercial Link Between India and Japan
Mr. J. N. Tata and his son, Mr. R. D. Tata, of India, went to Japan in 1889-1890 in connection with the spinning industry, which had been started in Japan quite a long time before. Japan imported a considerable quantity of yarn from India, for she could not manufacture all the yarn she needed. It was no time for Japan to depend upon the hand-spinning of the old folk or children. Hand-spinning was quite out of date. So machine spinning was started in Japan. The first spinning mill was built in Sangenya of Osaka and soon several other companies were organised at different places in the country, all on a larger scale than the first. The spinning industry of Japan may be said to have originated at Sangenya and at Miye of Ise Province. The operation of these spinning companies naturally made it necessary to import raw cotton. Japan had some cotton produced in the country, such as was called Moka Cotton. But it was in such an insignificantly small quantity that Chinese cotton was purchased. It was of so inferior quality, however, that Japan’s eyes then turned to India, the land of raw cotton and spinning in the Orient. An investigation of India and her spinning was now felt necessary, when Mr. J. N. Tata and his son went over to Japan and they were approached for raw cotton.
Another difficulty presented itself now. Cotton had to be brought over by steamer. The Oriental lines were then operated by three shipping companies; namely, the P. & O., and an Italian and an Austrian line, the first mentioned company almost monopolizing the services to Japan. Freight was quoted at Rs. 17 or more per ton of cotton to Japan. This was unbearably high, but they would not take less. Just at this juncture, Mr. J. N. Tata came over on a visit to Japan, with the object of opening a new shipping service between India and Japan. He offered to share fifty fifty in the business. The P. & O. was so overbearing that Mr. Tata could not operate a service by himself . An arrangement was made with him by Mr. Masazumi Morioka, then president of the N. Y. K., Mr. (later Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, Mr. (later Baron) Rempei Kondo, Mr. Masayoshi Kato, Mr. Masabumi Asada and some other leading businessmen and the Japanese spinners guaranteed an annual shipment of 50,000 bales. Naturally, the P. & O. offered keen competition by absurdly reducing their freight from 17 to l 1/2, until a subsidy was granted by the Japanese Government in aid of the competitive service of the N. Y. K. The P. & O. saw the inadvisability of maintaining such competition; it came to an end and the freight was carried at a reasonable rate. The joint operation between N. Y. K. and Mr. Tata came to an end three years after, and the service fell into the sole hands of the former. No competition is possible in these days in this service, but such was the state of things forty years ago, and co-operation between India and Japan was in this way crowned with success.
While the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was in force, Japan was bound in her action by special political relations towards India, but upon its revocation on the initiative of Great Britain after the World War was over, these special relations naturally died of themselves, and Japan entered into a new significant relation, economic and financial, with continental India, as much as with China, her big market in the East, which has been internally disturbed with political agitation, to the great impediment of our friendship and co-operation with that republic. So long as one country retains a trade or economic relation with another, mutual progress, as well as friendly relations, is a matter of first consequence, and in such a country as Japan, which has a limited market at home for her commodities, it is vitally important to extend her market abroad, as much as possible, in order that loss caused by dullness or crisis in one part of the market may be made up for by gain in another. Needless to say, such extension of the market depends upon its extent, prospect and other circumstances. India, for instance, presents several economic questions of an international nature, such as that of the cotton industry. The Indian market has been for many years under the control of British commodities, so that Japanese goods will find it hard to cultivate a new field in India. With a population of over 350 millions, however, she fell as a market for Japanese commodities only behind the U. S. A., and China till a few years ago, but she has recently made such a remarkable progress that she is now surpassed only by the U. S. A. so far her foreign trade is concerned. What then is the condition of Japan’s trade with India to which is mainly attributed the first development of her marine transportation ? What is Japan’s situation in Indian trade in comparison with her trade with America and China?
In 1877 Japan’s trade with India was no more than l% of her total foreign trade, but it showed such a prodigious stride that in 1917 it recorded no less than 12%. America showed an increase from 13% in 1877 to 31% in 1917, which gives her the first position in Japan’s foreign trade. China comes next with a fall in percentage from 21% in 1877 to 17% in 1917, showing comparatively slow progress. India held the third position, next to the U. S. A. and China, but her position in Japan’s foreign trade lies not so much in her position as the third largest importer of Japanese commodities as in the rapid progress she made to put herself equal in percentage with China, till in 1932 India was ahead of China, becoming the second largest customer of Japan, which position India held down to 1937.
Japan’s trade with India, which made a phenomenal progress recording an increase in quantity of no less than 1457 times as much as in value in 1937 as in 1877 shows an increase in percentage from 1% in 1877 to 11% in 1936 of Japan’s total export trade, and she falls only behind the U. S. A., while Japan’s imports increased from 191 thousands in 1877 to 449,486 thousands in 1937, or by 3353 times. While Japan has excess imports in her trade with the U. S. A. and China, the case is reversed in her trade with India, for Japan imported from India more than she exported to India for a long time and her import excess from 1900 to 1937 was no less prodigious than 4 billion yen, though in 1932 and 1933 Japan exported a little more to India than she imported from India for the first time in her Indian trade, only to see an excess import of Y30,008,826 in 1935, Y112,901,553 in 1936 and Y150,119,733 in 1937.
A short history of Indo-Japanese relationship to-day
In September, 1902, over a score of the Japanese who had been to India, or who took special interest in India, with a few Indian residents in Japan, met together in Tokyo and as a result of this meeting a club called the Japan-India Club was organised, with the chief object of promoting friendship between India and Japan. This club was the beginning of the Indo-Japanese Association.
With a view to coping with the national development of the country and also to meeting the increasing demand for business extension, the Japan-India Club was reorganised under the title of the Indo-Japanese Association. The late Viscount Gomi Nagaoka was the first President, with Sir Claude MacDonald, British Ambassador to Japan, as adviser. The inauguration of the Association took place at the Peer ‘s Club, Tokyo, December, 1903.
But the rupture of diplomatic relations between Japan and Russia in 1904 forced the Association reluctantly to suspend operations. A foreign newspaper ascribed a political significance to the existence of the Indo-Japanese Association and it seemed advisable to limit its activities to the mutual benefit of its members.
In 1906, the Association resumed its active work upon the restoration of peace between Japan and Russia. In June, the same year, President Viscount Nagaoka died and was succeeded by Count (Later) Marquis Shigenobu Okuma, Sir Claude MacDonald remaining as Adviser. The Association gradually increased its activities.
The economic relations of the world showing remarkable development, the Association extended its outlook in 1914 to include within the scope of its work the Dutch Indies, Siam, French Indo-China, the Philippine Islands and the South Seas.
On February 10th, 1916, and the amalgamation of the Dutch Japanese and Indo-Japanese Association was effected. The former had been organised in 1912 for the betterment and promotion of friendly relations between Japan and Netherlands and her possessions, and for the development of Japan’s trade with South Seas. The union of the two Associations augmented the membership of the Indo-Japanese Association, which now found itself on a firmer basis than ever.
President Marquis Okuma died in January, 1922, and Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, Vice-president, and Marquis Nobutsune Okuma, a Councillor of the Association and heir to the much-lamented Marquis Shigenobu Okuma, were elected President and Vice-President, respectively. With the new staff, the Association was now ready for the new action when in September 1923, the great earthquake visited Tokyo and its vicinity, reducing to ashes the library, samples, reference books, and reports of investigations, which were the results of the most elaborate efforts of many years on the part of the Association.
Through the courtesy of one of our members, the Association established a temporary office at the Community Center of Tokyo and the work of reconstruction was at once started. A new Executive Committee was organised in October 1924, by some of the prominent leaders in business and learning, who accepted directorships at the request of Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, President and offered their assistance and co-operation. At the general meeting held in November, the same year, a plan was decided upon for the extension of our work.
We were taking effort for our own resuscitation, we extended every help to the Indian refugees of the great earthquake. The disaster killed several residents but some of those who escaped went to Kobe and others returned to India. The Association provided means for the relief of those who remained in Japan. The Association helped many an Indian student in the pursuit of his study in Japan, and several Indians received technical training in industry by being admitted into factories through the Association, though to our great regret we find it impossible nowadays to render assistance in this line on account of keen competition. Indian tourists are no less welcome. When, for instance, Dr. Rabindranath Tagore came to Japan on a visit, the Association made arrangement for his visits, receptions and lectures.
In 1926 we established the Indo-Japanese Commercial Museum at Calcutta as intermediary in our trade with India. The museum had over four hundred varieties of Japanese samples exhibited and did pretty good work helping business transaction and settling claims between Japanese and Indian traders, as the Association acted as an instrument of introducing commodities between India and Japan. But the Museum was abolished in 1937 after being operated over 11 years.
Upon the strength of the unanimous approval given at the general meeting held in 1924, preparations went steadily on for the restoration and development of the Association. Some new members were added to the Executive Committee and another committee was appointed for the extension of work. A plan was made for the raising of a fund and the subscriptions began in August 1925, with a comparatively satisfactory result in spite of the depressed condition of business. We were pretty well prepared for new activities when great loss befell the Association in the sad demise of Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, President, which took place on Nov. 11, 1931. It was such a great blow to the Association that some of our plans for new activities had to be put off. Marquis Nobutsune Okuma was elected President in the place of the lamented Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, Mr. Kenji Kodama being elected Vice-President.
Japan supplies India with her products cheap, much cheaper than any other foreigner supplies. She always keeps fair play in her trade and never sells any of her commodities by dumping, of which she is falsely accused, for her national efficiency and systematic and disciplined labour account for extraordinary inroad into foreign markets. But India raised the tariff walls higher and higher against the importation of Japanese goods under the pretext of protecting her domestic industry. When the tariff question came up in 1927, the Association sent long cablegrams, in the name of Viscount Eiichi Shibusawa, President and Marquis Nobutsune Okuma, Vice-President of the Association, to the Indian Government, the leading newspaper offices, influential leaders of India , including the Speaker and President of the Legislative Assembly and party leaders, strongly protesting against the discrimination attempted at Japanese exports. The Association kept close watch over the development of the problem, and every time when any sign of discrimination against Japanese goods was noticed, the Association made a strong protest. In 1933, the Indo-Japanese Commercial Treaty was abrogated by the Indian Government and subsequently a discriminatory tariff was declared. The result was that the India-Japanese Commercial Conference was held at Simla and later at Delhi, India and the Association sent Mr. Iwao Nishi, President of the Indo-Japanese Commercial Museum , so that he might co-operate with the Japanese delegation. Thanks to the conciliatory attitude on the part of the delegates of both countries, the Conference arrived at a peaceful conclusion and the two countries found themselves in amicable relations of commerce.
The second India-Japanese Conference was held at New Delhi in July, 1937, to revise the Agreements arrived at between India and Japan at the first Conference. It lasted till Mar. 12 when a new agreement was arrived at between the delegates of both countries. Mr. Nishi, President of the Commercial Museum, Calcutta, attended the Conference as adviser. Simultaneously with the second Indo-Japanese Commercial Conference, another Conference was going on between the delegates of Japan and Burma, which was separated from India in April, 1937, and the agreement was provisionally signed between the two delegations at New Delhi on Mar. 1, 1937.
In 1930, when a great earth-quake visited Burma, the Association raised a relief fund for the benefit of the earthquake refugees. In January 1934, another great earthquake took place in the north-eastern part of India. It was much severer than that of 1930, killing several thousands of people and the Association again collected some money in aid of the sufferers. Marquis Okuma, our President, appealed to the public by broadcasting a lecture on the miseries of the earthquake, the collection amounting in both cases to tens of thousands of Yen.
As is stipulated in the Constitution, the Association aims at the promotion of friendly relations between Japan and British India and other southern countries of Asia, and for the realization of this object we have a new plan of activities as outlined below:
Collection of materials for investigation: The Association will send investigators to India and other southern countries of Asia with the special object of thoroughly studying and investigating conditions in these countries. The results of their investigations will be published from time to time, in the journal for distribution among our members.
Exchange of results and materials of investigations: The Association will keep a close connection with the Governments, banks, commercial firms and other public institutions in Japan, India and other southern countries of Asia for the purpose of exchanging with them the results of its investigations for the reports and other issues of their researches for mutual information and reference.
Library: Our library, which contained quite a large number of books, was totally destroyed by the earthquake, 1923, and we are preparing for a new library, which will be provided with principal books and leading newspapers and magazines published in India and other southern countries of Asia. They will be classified with catalogues and indices for the convenience of investigators.
Social Room: We shall have a social-room to be used free of charge of our members who may desire to exchange information on matters relating to India and other southern countries of Asia.
Lodging accommodation: We hope to provide lodging accommodations for the benefit of those residents who have come from India and other southern countries of Asia to make their stay in Tokyo as agreeable and as pleasant as possible and to afford them every facility in business and study.
The journal to be issued monthly: The Journal hitherto issued two or three times a year irregularly, will be published monthly in order to give greater facilities to the members.
Public Reports: (a) Public reports will be issued from time to time on various subject (b) Information will be supplied free of charge when requested and (c) Public lectures will be held regularly in Tokyo and at times in the local Provinces.
Financial Standing to be investigated: On request we shall investigate into the financial standing of those who are engaged in trade between Japan, India and other southern countries of Asia.
Advisers in Industry: For Japanese engaged in various branches of industry in India and other southern countries of Asia, we will offer materials for investigations and be equipped to answer inquiries and so aid them in business and investigation.
Assistance to tourists and sight-seeing parties: We will undertake the conduct of tourists and sight-seeing parties in Japan and India and other southern countries of Asia.
Commercial Museum: Now that the lndo-Japanese Commercial Museum operated at Calcutta, 1926-37, has been abolished, we are planning to have a commercial museum in the chief cities and towns in Japan, India and other southern countries of Asia for the purpose of exhibiting samples of principal products and staple commodities of these countries. A circulating museum, if found necessary and desirable, is a part of our plan.
Education and Training: A special department will be started in Association for training Japanese who may desire to be qualified for activities in India and other southern countries of Asia. Preliminary education or training will be given, when needed, to those who may come in search of education of technical learning in Japanese schools.
The Object of the lndo-Japanese Association
India is one of the oldest countries in the World and has a population of about four hundred millions. The two parts, Further India and Nearer India, including in these British India and the French and Dutch territories, make up one extensive region with homogeneous natural characteristics. History tells that Japan owes much to India in regard to religion, science, and arts. When now we consider the matter in the light of present economic conditions, it appears that there are many things commercial, industrial, etc., in regard to which India and Japan need each other’s help. Such historic relations and such mutual economic interests should lead Oriental countries into more friendly contact.
The Indo-Japanese Association takes upon itself, so far as it lies, to promote friendship between the two countries, and promises to provide every possible facility and opportunity to help both peoples to work in concert whenever investigations have to be made with regard to commerce, industry, religion, science or art. If, therefore, our Association shall fortunately succeed even to degree in carrying out of its aims, the relations between Japan and India will be strengthened, and the result on the one hand, will be the advancement of the prosperity and happiness of both peoples, and on the other hand, a contribution will have been made towards the peace of the world and the progress of mankind. Especially if we consider the Japanese Empire, it may be said that she in her peaceful national policy, is bound to open a great market of ample wealth and prosperity necessary for her economic development in future.
Those who sympathise with the aims and objects of the Association are respectfully requested to join and help us to accomplish the aspiration of this organization.
Indo-Japanese Trade Prospects
Neither Japan nor British India has been satisfied with the existing Indian-Japanese trade treaty.
The import of raw cotton by Japan greatly decreased due to the inactivity of Japanese importers of raw cotton, discouraged by the Sino-Japanese conflict. The inactivity has been particularly remarkable this year.
However, this was the situation just before the outbreak of the European war. Now the problem is quite different. The world political situation has greatly changed compared with that just before the war. The Indian-Japanese Trade Conference will surely be affected by the recent world political condition. At least, the British Government will not be positive in interfering with the improvement of trade between Japan and India.
If the war is prolonged the demand for Indian cotton will certainly greatly decrease, and, at the same time, India will not be able to import British cotton cloth smoothly. Consequently, the Indian demand for cotton cloth cannot be filled only by the domestic cotton cloth industry in India. Naturally, India will depend on the import of Japanese cotton cloth.
What is considered unexpectedly effective in conducting the third meeting of the Indian-Japanese Trade Conference, is that Japan
has completely broken away from European countries. In other words, Japan has established a concrete policy of complete neutrality
in the European war.
At the same time the supremacy of Japan in the Far East will be proportional to intensification of the European war.