Read Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852’1912 Online

Authors: Donald Keene

Tags: #History/Asia/General

Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852’1912 (114 page)

All three European powers had territorial ambitions in China and were suspicious of Japanese expansion on the continent. Russia was the leader of the coalition. On April 11 at a special meeting to determine Russian policy toward Japan, Count Sergei Witte, the finance minister, said that as the victor, Japan was entitled to a considerable indemnity and that Russia was prepared to allow the cession of Taiwan to Japan, as provided in the peace treaty. However, at all costs (with military force, if necessary), Japanese troops must be driven from the Liaotung Peninsula.
He advised taking direct action if the Japanese failed to agree. Since the end of March, reports had reached Japan of a massing of Russian naval strength in Vladivostok and of troop convoys being readied in Odessa.

The Russian government invited France and Germany to join the alliance. The decision of the French to join was, on the surface at least, puzzling, as French interest in China had hitherto been almost entirely confined to the south. When the French learned that the British had refused to join the coalition, for a time they debated whether to withdraw; but in the end they decided they could not oppose their ally, Russia. The British, normally the leaders in developments in the East, did not join the coalition because they believed that as it stood, the peace treaty was not harmful to their interests. The Germans joined, hoping that closer relations with Russia might weaken the Franco-Russian alliance. They also hoped that a pro-Chinese action might earn them a military base from the grateful Chinese.

The general reaction of the Japanese, needless to say, was utter dismay. The euphoria of the victory and the peace treaty had been chilled by threats from three of the strongest countries in Europe. On April 24 It
listed the following options for the Japanese:

1. The advice of the three powers should be firmly rejected, even if this had the unhappy result of creating new enemies.

2. A conference of the major powers should be called to settle the question of the Liaotung Peninsula.

3. The proposal of the intervening three powers should be accepted and the Liaotung Peninsula returned to China as a benevolent gesture.

Members of the cabinet who considered the three options unanimously rejected the first. The main strength of the navy and army was now in China, and the Japanese islands were almost defenseless. The troops were, moreover, exhausted by ten months of war, and supplies were low. Japan was in no position to oppose Russia, let alone three foreign countries. The third option would certainly show that the Japanese were generous of spirit, but it might be interpreted as a sign they feared the Europeans and, for this reason, had to be rejected. It was privately agreed to follow the second option, but no conference was ever arranged.
The third option was eventually followed, distasteful though it was.

Both Britain and America insisted on remaining neutral, although the Japanese judged that America was basically in sympathy with them. Italy, to Japan’s surprise, announced unqualified support, but it was not in a position to assist Japan.

There were differences among the three nations. Although insistent on their demands, the Russians and French expressed them politely, but the German minister delivered an angry tirade to the effect that Japan, ignoring Germany’s well-intentioned advice, had signed a treaty demanding excessive concessions, and it was only to be expected that his country should protest. When Hayashi Tadasu asked if Germany was threatening war if Japan did not comply, the minister backed down, saying that his heated remarks should be expunged from the record. But the threat remained.

On April 27 the emperor left Hiroshima for Ky
to, where the imperial headquarters would henceforth be located. He expressed no reactions to the Three Power Intervention, apparently resigned to the loss of the Liaotung Peninsula.
The public was still unaware of the three foreign powers’ demands, and in celebration of the victory, every house between Hiroshima to Ky
to flew the flag. People greeted the emperor’s train with heartfelt shouts of “Banzai,” and at every station great crowds acclaimed the emperor.

The empress, who had arrived in Ky
to the day before, welcomed him by the steps of Hall of Audiences. This was the emperor’s first visit to the Gosho in years, and he happily toured the buildings and gardens. He related to the chamberlains accompanying him the histories of the different sites, pointing out where he had played as a child. Climbing to a little hill in a garden originally planned by his father, Emperor K
mei, he picked up a stone, brushed off the dirt, and gave it to his military attaché, urging him to preserve it. The man wept at the display of filial piety.

Meiji obviously loved being back in Ky
to, and when it was announced that the imperial headquarters would move back to T
on May 29, he resisted leaving, saying that some major figures in the victory over China had not yet had their triumphal return. But when the last of the heroes of the war had returned in triumph, there was no longer any excuse for remaining in Ky
to, and the emperor left for T
on May 29.

The war, however, was not quite over. According to the terms of the peace treaty, Japan was to receive the island of Taiwan as part of the settlement, but as yet no Japanese troops had landed there. Naval General Staff Admiral Kabayama Sukenori (1837–1922) was designated to accept control of the island from the Chinese administrators. It was essential that Japanese ownership of the island be asserted as soon as possible. The Chinese, hoping that there would be a repetition of the Three Power Intervention, asked that Kabayama’s departure for Taiwan be delayed, but the Japanese government, guessing their reasons, refused, saying that the case of Taiwan was quite different from that of Liaotung, Kabayama left Ky
to on May 17 to take up his post.

The inhabitants of Taiwan were by no means eager for their island to become a Japanese possession. Once the provisions of the peace treaty were learned, there were numerous outbreaks of violence. The Japanese expected some resistance, but they had no idea how many men would be needed to quell it. The government decided to send the Household Guards division, which had reached China too late to see action. It would leave China on May 22 and 23 for Taiwan, where it would serve as a garrison. Just at this time the Japanese received a report that the Chinese government was recalling on May 20 its civil and military officials from Taiwan, so there would be nobody with whom to negotiate.

When the Taiwanese realized there would be no Three Power Intervention on their behalf, one group decided to establish a republic with a military man, T’ang Ching-sung, as its president. A flag (a yellow tiger on a blue background) was devised, and the independence of the new republic was declared to both the island and the countries of the West. At the time, there were about 50,000 Chinese soldiers on the island, plus nearly that number of irregulars—farmers who took up arms in emergencies.

The landing of the Household Guards under Prince Yoshihisa began on May 29 near Keelung, and the town was occupied on June 3. There was resistance from the “bandits,” as the Japanese termed the irregulars, estimated to number between 2,000 and 3,000 men. The Japanese killed at least 200 in this first engagement. When the leader of the rebels heard the news of the defeat, he and some 1,000 Chinese soldiers fled the island on June 6 to Amoy. The chief city, Taipei, fell to the Japanese on June 7. The north of the island was pacified by June 25, but in the south, resistance against the Japanese continued. Admiral Kabayama, deploring the hardships that the fighting was causing the people of the island, sent a letter to the rebel leader suggesting that he surrender, but he refused.

The Japanese seem not to have anticipated that the warfare on Taiwan would last so long. Casualties mounted steadily, and on July 9 the empress presented 3,000 bandages she had made for wounded soldiers. Not until August 3 were irregulars cleared from the area between Taipei and Hsin-chu. Another 20,000 rebels were estimated to be in southern Taiwan. On October 21 advance units of the Japanese forces entered Tainan, the last remaining rebel stronghold. The entire island had been pacified.

The cost had been heavy. Only 396 men were killed in action, but 10,236 men had died of tropical diseases.
Among those who died of malaria was Prince Yoshihisa.
His death was kept a secret until November 4. In the meantime, he was praised by the emperor for bravery on the battlefield as if he were still alive, awarded the Order of the Chrysanthemum and the Order of the Golden Kite, and promoted to general. After the official announcement of his death, the emperor ordered a state funeral for the erstwhile renegade and issued a eulogy praising a life devoted to the military.

As the result of the fighting, Japan had acquired a major possession, the island of Taiwan. The loss of the Liaotung Peninsula had enraged patriots, and the bitterness lingered, but Japan was now more of an “empire” than ever before in its history. The emperor was acclaimed in every proclamation as the source of the victory, and undoubtedly most Japanese accepted this as true. Abroad, too, he was praised as never before. An editorial in the
New York Sun
published in December 1894 opened,

At the beginning of this year little still was known about the Emperor, but now, at the end of the year, he has come to occupy the highest place among the rulers of the world. No one acquainted with the facts will doubt that he is an extraordinarily enlightened ruler. He completed the great achievement of the Restoration and ended the feudal system. Next, he promulgated a constitution, and inaugurated a parliament. He adopted European civilization while maintaining the traditional customs of his country. He put his Navy and Army in order, and made Japan the strongest country in the East. He encouraged industry.

The conclusion was that the world in all its history had never seen such a monarch.

Another American newspaper reported in April 1895,

Ever since the Chicago Exposition [of 1892–93] foreigners have gradually acquired some knowledge of Japanese culture, but it was limited to the fact that Japan produces beautiful pottery, tea and silk. Since the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War last year, however, an attitude of respect for Japan may be felt everywhere, and there is talk of nothing but Japan this and Japan that…. Most amusing is the craze for Japanese women’s clothes. Many American women wear them to parties, although they are most unbecoming, and the praise they lavish on the Japanese victories sounds exactly as if they were boasting about their own country.

Okakura Kakuz
wryly commented that as long as Japan indulged in the gentle arts of peace, it had been regarded as barbarous, but victory in war had induced the foreigners to call Japan civilized.

Chapter 47

The war with China had ostensibly been fought to preserve Korean independence. The emperor stated in his rescript of May 10, 1895, immediately after the signing of the peace treaty with China, “We have always longed for peace, and our objective, which ultimately led to conflict with China, was in fact none other than the establishment of a firm and everlasting peace in the East.” King Kojong on May 30 sent a message to Emperor Meiji thanking him for his recognition of Korean independence.

If the Japanese supposed that victory in a war fought to obtain recognition of Korea’s independence would induce the grateful Koreans to strengthen their ties with Japan, they were soon disabused of this notion. The strong pro-Russian faction at the court included the minister of the interior, Pak Yong-hyo, who had lived as an exile in Japan for ten years following the failure of the 1884 uprising. Pak had been permitted to return to Korea as the result of the intercession of Inoue Kaoru, who, on assuming his post as minister to Korea on October 20, 1894, immediately secured from Kojong a pardon for Pak.
No doubt Inoue hoped this would make Pak a firm ally, but he (like Kim Ok-kyun) had not been well treated while in Japan, and this probably militated against gratitude.

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