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Also noteworthy are scenes from the homefront, including a marvelous depiction of lanterns carried in a victory parade July 1, , and a cover highlighting the surging popularity of postcards as a new means of communication March 10, The cover invoking the figure of the Sun Goddess Dec 10, and that depicting US-Japan friendship Aug 10, are also of interest. While Yano and Kunikida were certainly pioneers of this genre in Japan, they were not in fact the first to produce illustrated newspapers or magazines in Japan along the lines of European or American predecessors.

Workers Movements in Late Meiji Tokyo - Persée

This fascinating publication featured illustrations on culture and customs of elites and ordinary folk alike. It was particularly concerned to contrast the daily life of the Japanese past with new modes of dress or deportment of Western origin. The Customs Graphic also celebrated this war with a fancifully rendered battle scene on one of its covers, but it otherwise showed little concern for matters political; the True Record was published only once a month, with relatively stale photographs of ships and landscapes, or portraits of generals and admirals.

Compared to these earlier efforts, the graphic publications from the time of the Russo-Japanese War were unprecedented in the visual force of their illustrations as well as their popularity and circulation.

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In addition to such publications modeled on Western periodicals, one found in 19th-century Japan a vibrant and evolving indigenous tradition of woodblock-print broadsheets. Combining image and text, and focused on newsworthy incidents, the earliest of these coincidentally began to appear around the same time as the earliest publications of illustrated news in the West.

Called kawaraban and circulated in spite of prohibitions issued by the Tokugawa authorities, they flourished in the earlyth century. After the Meiji Restoration, a now legal—if closely monitored—genre of broadsheet prints soared in popularity, especially during the Satsuma rebellion. Known as nishiki-e, these were single-page sheets featuring a traditionally produced woodblock print in vibrant color and a short explanatory text, usually taken from a recent newspaper article. At the time of the Sino-Japanese War, as Dower describes, they played a key role in conveying images and understandings of the war to people in Japan.

But as Dower notes in Throwing Off Asia lll, the situation was quite different a decade later. Although woodblock prints during the Russo-Japanese War did offer some powerful images, many of the prints merely imitated those of the Sino-Japanese War. Its repertoire of images owed a debt both to the illustrated genre of the modernizing West and to this evolving indigenous practice of woodblock prints of current events. Some of the new graphic publications of the Russo-Japanese War were short-lived commercial failures, but others, prominently including The Japanese Graphic, were both popular and profitable.

Whereas 2, to 5, copies might have been made of a traditional woodblock print of this era, each issue of The Japanese Graphic and its competitors boasted print runs of 40, to 50, copies, offering from 20 to 50 photographs and illustrations of varied sizes and types per issue.

Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan

In numbers and in visual impact, these illustrated publications were the most important sources to imprint the war and its aftermath in Japanese popular imagination. Particularly significant was the hand-drawn art, both watercolor paintings and woodblock sketches, better able than the photographs of that era to convey motion and mood.

While the history of politics in imperial Japan, including the story of social protest, has been much studied by historians writing in English as well as in Japanese, the visual record produced by illustrated journalism offers insights not easily gained from textual sources into a number of themes. These images make it clear that imperialism was not simply a top-down imposition of the government, but a co-production with active participation by the commercial media and its customers.

They also show that even as masses of people embraced the cause of empire, they added to it their own desire for democracy.


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The Russo-Japanese War ended with a stalemate on the battlefield. Both sides were exhausted and depleted. Japanese forces suffered roughly 80, fatalities over 20, of them from disease , compared to some 17, almost 12, from disease in the Sino-Japanese War a decade earlier. The total cost of the war in yen came to 1. To pay these bills, the government had borrowed aggressively on the London bond market and had imposed all manner of new or increased taxes at home: sales taxes on cooking oil, sugar, salt, soy sauce, sake, tobacco, and wool; and a transportation tax that raised the cost of riding on the new streetcars of the capital by 33 percent.

Faced with the prospect of even greater costs if the war continued, Japanese negotiators were willing to settle for less than they desired or had implicitly promised to the home-front populace. In the peace treaty negotiated at Portsmouth, New Hampshire through the mediation of American president Theodore Roosevelt, Japan did win a free hand to dominate Korea as a protectorate, and it gained the upper hand in Southern Manchuria in the form of a leasehold that formed the basis for the Southern Manchuria Railway, protected by troops that developed into the Kwantung Army.

It also took possession of the territory of southern Sakhalin. The leasehold was a form of imperialist encroachment, to be sure, but not an outright colony, and Sakhalin was a barren place of little strategic or economic value. In contrast, the Sino-Japanese War of a decade before had brought both a massive indemnity and full control of the island of Formosa Taiwan , which became a Japanese colony.

It is not surprising in this context that a coalition of journalists, university professors, and politicians in the Japanese diet parliament who had vociferously supported the war now came together to protest the peace. They turned to the urban populace for support, calling a rally in Hibiya Park on September 5. The Tokyo police—an arm of the national government administered through the powerful Home Ministry—forbad the gathering. But a crowd estimated to number around 30, overran the barriers and rushed into the park.

A brief rally ensued, about 30 minutes in all. Later that day, a second large crowd gathered in front of the Shintomiza theater to hear speeches denouncing the treaty.

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Others in the crowd fought with police, and the violence began to spread. Groups of dozens or hundreds attacked police and government buildings, offices of a pro-government newspaper Kokumin shinbun , and streetcars and the offices of the streetcar company. These actions continued for three days, during which time Tokyo lacked any effective forces of order. By the time the riot ended, 17 people had been killed and arrested in clashes with police or the military troops eventually sent to subdue the rioters.

Smaller riots broke out in Yokohama and Kobe. Anti-treaty rallies took place nationwide. This outburst of riot and protest was the first of nine such incidents in Tokyo that took place through and were sparked by related discontents see table, below. The illustrated record of the anti-treaty riot, discussed in the chapters to follow, teaches us much about the themes marking not only that event, but those that followed as well.

Several dozen streetcars smashed; attacks on streetcar company offices; many arrested; increase revoked. Dietmen attacked; Diet, newspapers stormed; streetcars, police boxes smashed; arrested; violence in Osaka. By the time of the Hibiya Riot, these once parochial or apolitical people, or their children, showed themselves to be active members of the nation and supporters of empire. They were anxious to voice their opinions on matters of foreign and domestic policy and insistent they be respected. Much of the apparatus of the modern nation had initially been imposed on them from on high, including mass compulsory education and a military draft in the s.

The Meiji constitution was written in secret and promulgated in as a gift of the emperor to his loyal subjects. The state promulgated a new civil code nationwide in the s. In all these steps, the balance between the obligations and the rights of the people tilted clearly toward the duties of subjects to be loyal to the state. Hibiya Park itself was designed and built by the government on a Western model at the turn of the century, with the understanding that modern cities required grand public spaces.

It opened in , just two years before the riot. It was first given extensive use during the Russo-Japanese War to celebrate war victories. The project of nation building was in these ways undertaken by the state with the intention of bringing into being a loyal body of kokumin, or people of the new nation. As Japan established itself as an imperial power in the decade spanning the turn of the 20th century, this project seemed to be working more or less as its elite architects had intended.

The irony made clear in the course of the riot was that the Meiji state if anything had succeeded too well. In matters political the people had views of their own, which they were more than willing to express in word and deed. They took various steps to appropriate public and imperial spaces, captured in some cases uniquely in the pages of The Tokyo Riot Graphic. In their anger at being excluded, the crowd asserted that Hibiya Park belonged to the people, not the state.

Among the most unusual depictions of such acts of appropriation are two photographs of remarkably calm moments at key places during the three days of the riot. We can be thankful and impressed that the photographer found these scenes worthy of recording and that editor Kunikida found them worthy of publishing.

These anglers were on one level innocently pursuing their hobby in a convenient and suddenly available location. They were staking an implicit claim to share in the use of normally forbidden imperial space. Over time, this claim took root. Although police closed the park to the anti-treaty protesters, organizers of the rally nonetheless managed to raise large banners with hot air balloons in the vicinity of their planned event.

Here we see the rally organizers putting forward a vision in which the wishes of the emperor and the people were assumed to mesh, and be obstructed by his wrong-headed advisors.

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Taisho Democracy in Japan: 1912-1926

The duty of the people was to rectify the situation by enforcing this shared will of people and ruler. A policeman tried to stop them. Like the ministers they criticized, people in the crowd supported empire and emperor. In the s, it was again advocating collaboration with the state and managerial class, which now presided over an economy that was increasingly directed to production for war. Labor Movement Posters, Other labor-related graphics from the s and s—both formal and informal in nature—also call attention to the tenacity of radical labor expression well into the s.

May Day Celebrations. Some union activists attempted to defy the government and continue this annual demonstration in support of global worker solidarity even after the ban imposed in As the May Day leaflets indicate, the more formal poster-style graphics of the labor movement were complemented by a less polished category of exhortatory agitation disseminated in the form of handbills and flyers. Many of these called for participating in or supporting localized protests or disputes. Some were clarion calls for a general strike. These throwaway leaflets reflected handiwork by both fairly sophisticated artists and crude amateurs.

The verbiage ranged from terse to wordy, and the visuals—where there were any—were usually harsh and sometimes vicious. As with the proletarian posters, dissemination of these more informal graphics extended into the mid s. This is not, in fact, entirely surprising when one keeps in mind the persistence of poverty in Depression-era Japan and the considerable variety of labor protests that accompanied this misery. This is the milieu in which, even as workers were being drafted for war, protest continued to be expressed. Labor unions may have been crumbling, or caving in to pressure, or being won over by patriotic appeals.

More than a few protests may have been relatively restrained, or even brief and largely symbolic in nature. In the eyes of the watchdogs of the state, however, these numbers were still alarming. In the dossiers of the thought police, after all, 2, disputes in a single year averaged out to almost six a day.


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