“IN feudal times ... all craftsmen and all labourers formed guilds and companies; and the discipline maintained by those guilds or companies prohibited competition as undertaken for purely personal advantage. Similar, or nearly similar forms of organization are maintained by artizans and labourers to-day; and the relation of any outside employer to skilled labour is regulated by the guild or company in the old communistic manner. Let us suppose, for instance, that you wish to have a good house built. For that under- taking, you will have to deal with a very intelligent class of skilled labour, for the Japanese house- carpenter may be ranked with the artist almost as much as with the artizan. You may apply to a building company, but, as a general rule, you will do better by applying to a master-carpenter, who combines in himself the functions of architect, contractor, and builder. In any event, you cannot select and hire workmen; guild regulations forbid. You can only make your contract; and the master-carpenter, when his plans have been approved, will undertake all the rest— purchase and transport of material, hire of carpenters, plasterers, tilers, mat-makers, screen-fitters, brass-workers, stone-cutters, locksmiths and glaziers. For each master-carpenter represents much more than his own craft-guild: he has his clients in every trade related to house-building and house-furnishing, and you must not dream of trying to interfere with his claims and privileges. He builds your house according to contract; but that is only the beginning of the relation. You have really made with him an agreement which you must not break, without good and sufficient reason, for the rest of your life. Whatever afterwards may happen to any part of your house walls, floor, ceiling, roof, foundation you must arrange for repairs with him, never with anybody else. Should the roof leak, for instance, you must not send for the nearest tiler or tinsmith; if the plaster cracks, you must not send for a plasterer. The man who built your house holds himself responsible for its condition, and he is jealous of that responsibility: none but he has the right to send for the plasterer, the roofer, the tinsmith. If you interfere with that right, you may have some unpleasant surprises. If you make appeal to the law against that right, you will find that you can get no plasterer, carpenter, tiler or plasterer to work for you on any terms. Compromise is always possible, but the guilds will resent a needless appeal to the law. And after all, these craft-guilds are usually faithful performers, and well worth conciliating ... Apprentices bound to a master- workman, were boarded, lodged, clothed, and even educated by their patron, with whom they might hope to pass the rest of their lives. But they were not paid wages until they had learnt the business or trade of their employer, and were fully capable of managing a business or workshop of their own. ... These paternal and filial relations between employer and employed have helped to make life pleasant and labour cheerful; and the quality of all industrial production must suffer much when they disappear.”1

  • 1. LAFCADIO HEARN, “Japan, an Interpretation” pp. 440-445.