THIS name of "Tiger-hunters," taken by the well-known Society started in Tokio four months before the war was borrowed from a gang of Korean bandits with whom the Japanese society had nothing to do. There are no tigers in Japan, but there are in Korea; and the Japanese have a saying that " to fight with Koreans is to fight with tigers," because all the Koreans run away, and only tigers remain to be dealt with.
These Japanese " Tiger-hunters " (Tora-gari) were a half-secret body, whose aims seem to have been at first social rather than political: for, as we know, Japan seethes with the thoughts of our Western Socialists, and is big with change. However, as the war went on, the " Tiger-hunters," remaining social, became political also, like the " Boxers " of China. With that upstartness of all young Japanese things, the " Tiger-hunters " took upon themselves to have their say even in the strategy of the war; no interest of the nation remained beyond their meddling; and like that " Jacobin Club " which started as a debating-society during the Revolution, but soon became the voice of France, so with the " Tiger-hunters."
Among them were men of all classes, from Daimio's son to seller of straw-sandals; they spread into branches as a gourd grows; formed vigilance committees, correspondence-committees; admission to membership was made with a rite; their headquarters came to be an old temple-grove among the hills round Nagasaki; and the meetings there were often at night.
Seven "Tiger-hunters" met in the Japanese restaurant in London on the night of the nth of January, when the war was a year old, among them being Baron M— , lately of the General Staff, and now President of the Nagasaki branch of the "Tiger-hunters."
Hardly a reader will know this restaurant; just where it is one may not tell: but it is in a residential block in Bloomsbury. One passes down a corridor, through a courtyard, up a stair, and knocks at a door on which are painted some Japanese words. It is kept by a French girl and a hobbling old Jap. There are two bare rooms in which one sits and in which one eats; and the electric light over the eating-table looks down upon the oddest way of dining— as it were the grimace of a dinner, dinner and light together making a symbol of New Japan, East and West met at last, and jigging together to the tune of the funniest ominous yankee-doodle-doo.
Six men—four Japanese, one English, one American—sat round the table. Snacks of raw fish were before them, with a sauce which somehow " cooked " the fish; then came six pans of raw meat and onions on six spirit-lamps, and they cooked the meat, mixing sugar with it, deftly snatching out hot tit-bits meanwhile into their mouths with their chopsticks, like long-beaked birds : for I take it that whereas forks are instead of the claws of beasts, chopsticks are instead of the beaks of birds: but forks are better than chopsticks, for beasts are better than birds. Before the meat was cooked there was a knock, and in came Baron M— , who made the seventh man. The six bowed themselves, o'jigi, before him; and the baron ate with them.
At that date there was much talk of peace everywhere—in fact, a sort of armistice had been on foot for two weeks.
It was not that the two peoples were "knocked out," but that it was now seen everywhere that whichever of the two won the duel, the " balance of power " would be upset: if Russia, that might mean a Slav Asia; if Japan, that would be the Yellow Danger come : either way might be followed by more war, till the fire became a globe of fire.
The hope was, that the issue might be an "as you were" for the two Powers; and toward this most people were now working.
Peace, however, was hardly the thought in the mind of the yellow races at that moment; nor the aim of the "Tiger-hunters" in especial; nor of Baron M— above all men.
The baron stirred his mass of meat, sugar, and onions over the spirit-lamp, and snatched out hot tit-bits into his mouth like a hungry bird. He sat on the edge of his chair, one leg under it, the other cocked forward, with something very nimble in his air, as though he was on the very point of springing at someone. He was a man of " a fierce countenance." His paltry body, clad in rough European clothes, his great head, with its scowl and its scanty hair, gave him somewhat the look of a yellow, or rather dark-brown, Napoleon.
Now cups of tea were brought in by the French girl, tea clear as water, with a greenish tint in it. The Englishman, Mr. Paul England, and the American, Mr. Allan Petersen, talked together in low voices. The others were silent....