Japan's Success

Home

15. Chapter 15



Evolution of the Army and Navy

For many centuries the outstanding feature of Japanese military histery was the existence of a hereditary class of professional soldiers who came to be known as samurai, in contradistinction to heimin, the common folk or civiUans, who had not the right to bear arms. This class gradually grew up during the Fujiwara era, which lasted for about four hundred years from towards the close of the seventh century a. d., and it exercised a potent influence on the fortunes of the* country down to the middle of the nineteenth century. The Empress Jito, about a. d. 690, established a definite military organization, with commissioned officers and an army which consisted of a quarter or a third of the able-bodied male population, and to which recruits were readily attracted by the special privileges that were granted them. A century later a closer approach to universal military service was made under the Emperor Konin, all the able-bodied men being trained to fight, while the weaklings were left for agriculture and other civil pursuits, and were somewhat looked down upon in consequence.

During the Fujiwara era Chinese methods of administration were introduced, according to which the Emperor exercised his civil power, not directly but through a bureaucracy, and similarly his miUtary power through the soldier class which clustered round the great families. The Fujiwara clan got the civil power into their hands. Gradually, however, three other clans, the Taira, the Minamoto, and the Tokugawa, the last a branch of the second, by dint of military strength established their supremacy, and further, while the Fujiwara gave themselves over to luxury and effeminacy, gained possession of the material resources of the country. But in the middle of the twelfth century, as already related, the Taira and the Minamoto quarrelled, and though for a few years the former held the ascendancy, the latter ultimately prevailed. Yoritomo, estabUshing himself at Kamakura, founded a system of military feudaUsm, to which Japan owes much of her renowned ' Yamato ' (the classical name of Japan) spirit. He assumed the office of Shogun (generaUssimo), which became hereditary in his family, and put the provinces under the control of military governors appointed by himself, though a show continued to be made of respecting the authority of the court at Kyoto. There followed some four hundred years of almost perpetual strife, during which the country was continuously disturbed by the conflicts between the different chiefs and their warriors, until in the latter part of the sixteenth century an era of settled peace was inaugurated by the efforts of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa lyeyasu. By force of arms Hideyoshi reduced the various warring chiefs to submission. After his death in 1598, civil war again broke out, and Tokugawa lyeyasu, who except for a brief interval had consistently co-operated with him, found himself called upon to deal with the intrigues of Ishida Mitsunari. The battle of Sekigahara in 1600, though it was not the end of the fighting, was decisive for his cause, and ushered in a period of peace that lasted for 250 years.

The long peace of the Tokugawa era brought with it the seeds of decadence, and the samurai, who at its beginning had an exalted code of morals and behaviour (bushido) which has become famous all over the world, became to a large extent demoralized through lack of fighting. Nor could the policy of seclusion adopted by the Tokugawa prevent the outside world from moving, and, however unwillingly, the Shogunate had to take cognizance of what was being done by other countries and to realize that Japan was being left behind in the arts of warfare. Even before the appearance of American ships of war in Tokyo Bay in 1853, Takashima, Shuhan of Nagasaki, had seen the need for Japan to improve her military system if she was to be able to repel attacks from outside, but imprisonment was the only reward he received for obtaining guns from Holland and endeavouring to induce the Shogunate to pay some attention to the methods of war practised in Europe. The American ships, however, provided an argument too persuasive to be ignored, and their visit resulted in the construction of a couple of forts, the purchase of rifles and guns in Europe and the introduction of their manufacture into Japan, and the erection of a gunpowder factory. Finally, the government took the plunge in 1862, and definitely adopted the European military system by forming an army consisting of 8,306 infantry, 1,068 cavalry, 800 field artillery, and 2,045 garrison artillery, with 1,406 officers, making a total of 13,625.

Though this force was disbanded at the fall of the Tokugawa in 1867, the Imperial government did not disregard the precedent which it set, while the principal fiefs also turned to European models of training, Satsuma, for example, seeking instruction from the British, Kii from the Germans, and other clans from the Dutch. In 1868 Omura Masujiro, Under-Secretary for War in the new Imperial government, started a military college at Kyoto (removed to Osaka in the following year and subsequently to Tokyo), and despite opposition from the samurai, of which he himself was one, attempted to establish a system of recruiting from all classes of the community, but was assassinated before he could bring his ideas to fruition. Later generations, however, fully recognize the merits of his work, which was continued by Yamagata Aritomo (afterwards Field Marshal Prince Yamagata) and Saigo Tsugumichi (afterwards Field-Marshal Marquis Saigo). Returning in 1870 from a visit to Europe, undertaken for the purpose of investigating Western methods, these two administrators organized a corps of Imperial Guards, and established garrisons in Tokyo, Sendai, Osaka, Nagoya and Kumamoto. In 1872 the Departments of the Army and Navy were separated, and in the following year an Imperial Edict instituted universal conscription. The samurai thus lost their monopoly of military service, and fears were at first entertained that they might be too proud to serve in the ranks along with common civilians or to obey the orders of officers not drawn from their own class, but these difiiculties were soon overcome. The period of active service was fixed at three years, with two years in the first reserve and two in the second. The country, except Hokkaido, where a colonial militia was instituted, was divided into six districts, each with its garrison, the head-quarters being at Tokyo, Sendai, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kumamoto ; and the whole force comprised 14 infantry regiments, 3 cavalry squadrons, 18 artillery batteries, 10 sapper sections, 6 commissariat sections, and 9 coast artillery companies, the strength being 31,680 in peace and 46,350 on a wariooting. In spite of troubles connected with obtaining a sufficient supply of competent officers, this army proved its worth in the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. The reserves not being sufficient to make up the wastage of war, volunteers were called for, and were drawn largely from among samurai who had taken up other occupations. But in the field the latter showed no superiority to the conscripts, and experience in fact proved that efficiency as a soldier depended entirely on adequate military training and not on any martial spirit or instinct supposed to be inherited by the samurai but not by the heimin.

After the rebellion the military control was divided into three principal branches - the Army Department, the General Staff Office, and the Army Inspection Department. In 1879 total term of service was increased to ten years instead of seven (three with the colours, three with the first reserve, and four with the second reserve), and there was a further revision in 1883, when the total term was extended to twelve years, the periods being three, four, and five years respectively ; exemptions from service on payment of money were also abolished. From this time vigorous measures were taken for the improvement of military education and for the co-ordination of the offensive and defensive forces of the Empire, both naval and mihtary. In 1888 the garrisons, now designated ' Head-quarters of Divisions ', were organized as units complete with infantry, cavalry, artillery, engineers, and commissariat, and the Imperial Army came to consist of a field force of seven divisions, fortress artillery, railway corps, and colonial miUtia, ready if need be for service beyond the seas. The net result of all these efforts was that in 1894 Japan was able to oppose China lyith an army of more than 240,000 trained men, in addition to 6,495 irregulars and 100,000 coolies.

Japan was not slow to profit by the lessons of that campaign, and after it was over she did not slacken her endeavours to bring her fighting forces to the highest pitch of efficiency. The term of service required from her conscripts was slightly extended, and in 1 896 the colonial militia of Hokkaido was formed into a division, and five new divisions were added, making the total thirteen. A little later the cavalry and artillery, which had previously belonged to the divisions, were converted into independent brigades, with the object of increasing their freedom of action, and the efficiency of the coast defence was improved by the addition of new troops to the fortress artillery. Great attention was paid to the medical service, nor was the importance of good materiel overlooked. Better rifles were provided for the infantry, the artillery were armed with quick-firing guns, and with the introduction of the manufacture of guns of the largest calibres in 1902, Japan's domestic resources became equal to the task of supplying nearly all the armament required by her army.

These various preparations were put to the test in the conflict with Russia in 1904, and Japan emerged successfully from the ordeal. But even so she was not content to rest on her oars. The personnel was increased by six more divisions, bringing up the total to nineteen, a system of two (instead of three) years' conscription was adopted, and within the division the artillery, cavalry, and sappers were all improved and increased, while new branches of service were added to them. In the result the effective fighting power of the Army was approximately doubled. The following table, taken from the chapter on the Japanese Army contributed by Prince Yamagata to Marquis Okuma's Fifty Tears of New Japan, will give an idea of the different stages of progress :



But there can be no doubt that Japan's military strength has by no means yet reached its zenith, and though no precise figures can be put forward, it has been computed that by 1930 the first line will be 740,000 strong, the second line 780,000, and the third line 3,850,000 (3,000,000' untrained and 850,000 partly trained). Employed, as it has been in the past, with statesmanlike wisdom, this force should prove a sure guarantee for the future stability of the Far East.

The Japanese Navy is of comparatively recent growth, its beginnings dating only from the middle of last Century. The stimulus to its development came from outside. Early in the seventeenth century the Tokuga"wa government had stiiled the maritime progress that was being made by forbidding the building of large ships in the country and the undertaking of foreign voyages by Japanese bottoms, and this policy of isolation was maintained for more than two hundred years, until it was broken down by the two visits paid to Tokyo Bay in 1853 and 1854 by United States warships under Commodore Perry. These proved the forerunners of the opening of commercial relations with foreign countries. On the advice of the Dutch, who enjoyed commercial privileges denied to all other nations except the Chinese, the Shogunate thereupon resolved to develop a Navy on the European model. A training school for seamen, opened at Nagasaki in 1855 under Dutch instructors, was soon followed by a naval school at Tokyo ; and two ships obtained from the Dutch, together with one presented by Queen Victoria, formed the nucleus of a fleet. A Japanese warship crossed the Pacific for the first time in i860, and the first steam vessel of war built in Japan - a gunboat of 138 tons - was launched in 1866. Young officers were sent to Holland for naval instruction, French aid was enhsted for the planning and construction of a dockyard at Yokosuka, and the services of a British naval officer - Captain, afterwards Admiral Sir, Richard Tracey - were secured to organize the naval school at Tokyo, though owing to the fall of the Shogunate in 1867, he returned to England without taking up his position.

The expansion of the Navy began in earnest in 1871, when the Imperial government found itself able to muster seventeen ships, mostly of wood. Two years later a second naval mission came out from England under Commander, afterwards Vice-Admiral Sir, Archibald L. Douglas, and in 1875 and 1876 two vessels of 896 and 1,450 tons respectively were launched from Japanese yards. In 1875 the Fusoh, an ironclad of 3,717 tons, and the Kongo and Hiyei, cruisers of 2,248 tons, were ordered from Great Britain, and in 1878 the Seiki, a cruiser of 1897 tons, built in Japan and manned solely by Japanese, for the first time carried the Japanese flag into European waters. A large naval programme was introduced in 1882 and extended in 1886, and at the outbreak of the war with China, in 1894, the fleet included twenty-eight ships with a displacement of 57,600 tons, besides twenty-four torpedo-boats. The expenditure on naval construction from 1871 to 1893 amounted to 24,000,000.

The result of the Chino-Japanese War vindicated the efficiency of the Japanese Navy, which increased its strength by seventeen vessels captured from its opponents. But its controllers were not content to rest on their laurels, and in the following years many new ships were ordered, until in 1904, when the conflict with Russia came, the fleet comprised six battleships of 84,652 tons, eight armoured cruisers of 73,982 tons, and forty-four other cruisers of 111,470 tons, with nineteen destroyers and eighty torpedoboats. After the war a naval programme was adopted which involved the expenditure of some 35,000,000 by the end of 1916 on constructing new ships, on repairing and refitting existing ships and those captured from Russia, and on making good the tonnage removed from the list through obsolescence. The result was that the Japanese Navy in 1916 possessed twelve battleships, exclusive of two {Ise and Hiuga, 30,800 tons and 45,000 h.p.) under construction, and one, the Nagato (32,000 tons, to be armed, it was said, with twelve 15-in. guns), to be laid down ; eight battle-cruisers, of which the Kongo and her three sister ships were of 27,000 tons and 64,000 h.p. ; nine first-class and thirteen second-class cruisers ; three first-class and thirteen second-class coast-defence boats ; and three firstclass and five second-class gunboats. In addition, there were sixty destroyers, with nine others building, twenty-seven torpedo-boats and seventeen submarines. Of the battleships, six, apart from the Nagato, must be accounted Dreadnoughts, two (Settsu and Kazvachi) mounting twelve 12-in. guns, and four (Fusoh, Tamashiro, Ise, and Hiuga), twelve 14-in. guns. The battle-cruisers fall into two groups of four each. The Tsukuba, the first of the earlier group, which was launched in 1905, was designed by ViceAdmiral Kondo, and claims the honour of being the pioneer of the battle-cruiser type - that is, the first cruiser in the world to carry battleship armament. The Kongo, the first of the second group, was designed and built by Messrs. Vickers at Barrow, and served as the model for her three sisters which were built in Japan, though the machinery and guns for one of them were obtained from England.

Although Japan has from time to time had to have recourse to European shipbuilders, the rule is that every part of the structure and equipment of her Navy ships must, if possible, come from within the limits of her Empire, and in fact since 1903 only three of her large vessels - the Kashima, Katori, and Kongo, with an aggregate displacement of 59,850 tons - have not been launched from her own yards, having been obtained from England. Structural material comes mainly from Wakamatsu, guns from Kure and Muroran, and armour-plate from Kure. Not all the auxiUary machinery can be made in the country, yet the principal shipyards and engine works have acquired licences to manufacture some of the more important items, and can thus supply the requirements of the Imperial dockyards.

Of the four Navy yards, the oldest, at Yokosuka, dates back to 1864. To begin with, it was used principally for general shipbuilding, but in 1872 it became the chief shipbuilding establishment for the Navy. Down to 1885 it seems to have limited itself to wooden vessels, but in that year the composite ship Katsuragi was launched, followed by an iron vessel, the Atago, in 1887. In 1906 it was responsible for the Satsuma (19,350 tons), the first battleship built in Japan, for which it furnished the engines, water-tube boilers, and most of the auxiliary machinery. It possesses the largest dry-dock in the Empire, and also a second one capable of taking a modern ship of the largest displacement. The Kure yard, established in 1889, built the first armoured vessel of Japan, and launched the Ihuki in six months after the keel was laid. It also turned out the battleship Fusoh. the first ship to be built in Japan in a dry-dock specially constructed for the purpose, with a bottom floor length of 698 feet. It undertook the manufacture of armour-plate in 1902, and it possesses plant for making guns and mountings of the largest size. The Sasebo yard, in the island of Kiushiu, near Nagasaki, which, like the Kure yard, became of importance just before the China War of 1894, was originally intended for repair work ; it is very extensive, and contains two large graving-docks. The newest yard is that at Maidzuru in the Sea of Japan. So far it has been used only for the construction of destroyers, but it possesses a dry-dock able to accommodate ships of the largest size. There are auxiliary naval stations at Ominato, Takeshiki, and Bako, where minor repairs can be undertaken.

Private shipbuilding yards contribute in a notable degree to Japan's capacity for naval construction. The two' most important from this point of view are the Mitsubishi yard at Nagasaki and the Kawasaki yard at Kobe. Both have proved their ability to produce large ships by each building complete a battle-cruiser of the Kongo class, and they have been entrusted with the new battleships Ise and Hiuga. The Mitsubishi Company possesses at Nagasaki one of the two experimental tanks in Japan, the other being at Tokyo and owned by the Navy Department. There are other private firms, such as the Osaka Ironworks and the Uraga Shipbuilding Company, that are able to turn out destroyers. In regard to merchant shipbuilding Japan has been steadily increasing her domestic capacity, and every year sees her less dependent on vessels imported, from other countries. Apart from junks, which are built in large if somewhat diminishing numbers, and also sailing vessels of modern type, which are all of comparatively small size, the following figures for steamers over loo tons gross register wiU give an idea of the progress she has made. In 1900 she built fifty-three vessels of 15,308 tons, and purchased from abroad thirteen of 28,492 tons. In 1904, the time of the war with Russia, her home production consisted of 114 vessels of 27,500 tons, and she purchased seventy-two of 177,298 tons; and three years later she built seventy nine of 29,898 tons, and purchased thirty-four of 32,009 tons. In 191 1 the figures were 137 of 43,817 tons and forty-nine of 129,454 tons, and in 1915 they were seventy-three of 78,918 tons and eleven of 28,081 tons. At the present time home construction is exceedingly active, and about the middle of 1916 it was calculated that 132 steamers, aggregating 593,000 tons, were on the stocks or had been ordered' To judge by the figures for that period the Osaka Ironworks were the largest builders, having orders for fortyfour vessels of 201,000 tons. The next place was taken by the Kawasaki Dockyard which at Kure had twenty-four ships of 139,000 tons. The Mitsubishi Dockyard was responsible for eighteen vessels, of which twelve of 70,000 tons were at Nagasaki and six of 24,000 tons at Kobe. The Uraga Company had fifteen of 61,000 tons, the Fujinagata Shipyard, Osaka, for seven of 15,060 tons, the Ishikawajima Yard at Tokyo for six of 13,000 tons, and the Ono Yard at Osaka for five of 9,000 tons. The Yokohama Shipbuilding Company had orders for six ships of 47,000 tons, to be built at a yard which Mr. Asano, the head of the Toyo Kisen Kaisha, was establishing at Yokohama. This scheme is distinct from another on which the same shipowner has been engaged for some years, for starting a yard on an area of land to be reclaimed from the sea some three miles north of Yokohama.

One obstacle to the rapid completion of this ambitious programme of shipbuilding is to be found in the difficulty of obtaining sufficient supplies of iron and steel for structural purposes. The main source of such material is the government steel works at Wakamatsu, in Kiushiu. In 1915 these produced 250,000 tons of structural steel, mostly for ships, and their capacity is to be increased immediately to 350,000 tons, and by 1922 to 650,000 tons. But the government has first call upon their output for warship construction, and thus the merchant shipbuilder has to depend largely on foreign sources of supply, the yield of which is seriously restricted by the European War. Whether if material were abundant, sufficient supplies of labour would be forthcoming, is a question that is somewhat problematical, in spite of the advances that have been made in the direction of providing labour-saving devices.

The growth of merchant shipbuilding in Japan has been greatly assisted by the Shipbuilding Encouragement Act passed in 1896, which as last amended in 1910, remains in effect until 1920. It provided a direct subsidy as regards both the hulls and the machinery of iron or steel ships of not less than 700 tons gross register, and was designed to give such financial assistance as would about cover the difference in cost of material in Japan as compared with Europe.

Stringent regulations govern the granting of the subsidy, which may be said to amount to from about 22s. to 44$. per gross ton, according to the character of the ship, and to 10/. per indicated horse-power developed on trial. Down to the end of 1915 advantage had been ' taken of this legislation by 143 steamers, with an aggregate of nearly half a million tons gross. In addition to these subsidies on shipbuilding, navigation is also subsidized. The amounts paid depend on the mileage travelled, tonnage, speed, and age. The vessels must be on the Japanese register, must be owned by companies whose shareholders are all Japanese subjects, and must be of steel, with a tonnage not less than 3,000, a speed not less than 12 knots, and an age not exceeding fifteen years.

In 1915 the number of steamers on the Japanese register with a tonnage exceeding 100 tons was 1,056, with an aggregate of 1,557,757 tons, of which 667 of 600,182 tons were built in Japan. Six of the vessels had a gross tonnage over 10,000 tons, and 66 exceeded 5,000 tons. The twentytwo largest ships were all the product of Japanese yards.

By far the largest shipowning company in Japan is the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, the history of which indirectly goes back to the days of the Shogunate. When the Tokugawa government fell in 1867 a considerable number of oceangoing vessels were in the possession of it and its feudatories, and in a few years the Imperial government handed them all over to a company, the Nippon Koku Yubin Jokisen Kaisha (Mail Steamship Company of Japan), to which a substantial subsidy was granted. Little success attended the venture, which lasted only four years, but before it came to an end in 1875 a new and independent shipping company, the Mitsubishi Kaisha had been established under the enterprising direction of Iwasaki Yataro. It was not long before the ships of the old company were transferred to this new undertaking, and it rapidly grew until in 1880 it possessed four-fifths of the steam tonnage of the country. But still the government realized that the development of the mercantile marine was not so great as was desirable, and therefore in 1881 it estabhshed the Kyodo Unyu Kaisha (Union Transport Company) with a capital of 1,000,000 and gave it a large subsidy. For four years the two companies, both subsidized, worked in rivalry, but in 1885 they joined forces as the Nippon Yusen Kaisha, which has a fleet of over 100 ships, representing about half a million tons, and maintains services to Europe, India, Australia, and both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America.

The second place as regards tonnage is taken by the Osaka Shosen Kaisha, which has over 150,000 tons, and the third by theToyo Kisen Kaisha, with nearly 50,000 tons in ten ships. There are about half a dozen other owners possessing fleets with aggregate tonnages exceeding 20,000 tons, one of them, Kishimoto Shokwa, having more than double that figure.