Etiquette Has Become Second Nature In the Land of the Mikado
Given a highly imitative people like the Japanese, and let one undeviating standard be set before them. Then, generation after generation, will no change be witnessed. The standard will act like that of the French academy on the language of France. Now, at home, in America, we have 50 standards of manners—the reserved and reticent New England manners, the slap you on the back far western manners, the demagogue’s manners, the drummer’s manners, the cut and dried business man’s manners—these and dozens of others might be specified. And it must be admitted by even the most patriotic, that the man who should try to model his deportment on all these schools at once would come to a somewhat mixed result. Nothing of this bewildering complexity has ever existed in Japan.
From Mikado at the top to cooly at the bottom of the social scale, one undeviating standard has always prevailed. Originally an importation from China, it has been elaborated through centuries of study of the most elaborate ceremonial etiquette ‘til at last, through constant practice, it has become second nature. No one ever saw anything else, ever dreamed of anything else. There was one way of saluting a superior, one of saluting an equal, one of saluting an inferior, and one’s head would have been cut off had he departed from it. No Japanese child ever saw a drummer—saw only prostrate artisans saluting samurai, samurai saluting daimios, daimios saluting shoguns. The whole ceremonial became organized into them as much as their instinctive habits into our setters and pointers, perhaps the best mannered of our population.
Little girls of 10 will one see here, whose finish of breeding would have awakened the envy of a Duchess at the Court of Louis XIV at Versailles. Female servants one will encounter at a dinner in the house of a Japanese gentleman whose grace, charm and dignity are the quintessence of lady-like refinement. “Trifles make perfection, but perfection is no trifle. ” The simple fact is that the young woman of 20 has been doing the thing for a thousand years. — Christian Register, 1894
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia©️ Etiquette Encyclopedia