Monday, March 09, 2009

"1906 Article - Where is Japan Headed from Here?"

In the September 1906 issue of the National Geographic, there is an an article entitled:

"Japan, America, and the Orient"
By Hon. Eki Hioki
Charge D'Affaires of Japan, 1905-1906

This was written after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and right after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), when the world was wondering what direction Japan would be heading in from that point forward. The following are a few quotes from the article - for the full article, see the September 1906 issue of National Geographic:

Now that the Japanese-Russian war is ended, the world seems to be vigilantly watching the next act which will be produced on the stage of Oriental politics. Speculations of various kinds are advanced by all sorts of people. Some anticipate that the next play that Japan will put on the stage will be a peaceful comedy. Some predict that it will be the repetition of another tragedy, while others apprehend both. No doubt the power that Japan developed during the last war with Russia must have surprised the world, but that surprise of the world has surprised Japan more.

Some preach the doctrine of the yellow peril, some question the ambition of Japan, others apprehend Japan's designs upon the Philippines. Such questions as these: Will Japan adopt the Monroe Doctrine for Asia? Will she control China? Will she not beat the Americans in industrial and commercial competition? Will she not monopolize the markets of China and crowd out American goods? Will not Buddhism come into rivalry with Christianity? Will not the 700,000 Japanese soldiers, now in Manchuria, when disbanded, flood the western coast of the United States with Japanese immigration? are constantly asked on all sides.


(5) Industrial and Commercial Development of Japan

The last war with Russia has increased the national debt of Japan to the amount of 960 million dollars - the interest of which alone requires nearly 50 million dollars annually. It is indeed a heavy, an enormous burden. And every dollar of it, interest and principal, must be paid. Japan will and must devote her full energy to her commercial and industrial development, and with the capability she has shown in the past no inconsiderable achievement can justly be expected of her new efforts. During the ten years that followed our war with China, the wealth of the nation increased more than ten times and we are now perfectly confident that we will fully recuperate from the effect of the present financial drain in due course of time. It is absurd, however, to say, as some ventured to do, that in the course of a few years American goods will be crowded out of the Chinese market by Japanese competition.


Japan has no hired soldiers. Every Japanese, without distinction of class or rank, profession or trade, rich or poor, is equally under the obligation to serve three years with the colors and several years in the reserves and national guard. Therefore the Japanese army is not like that of some other countries, composed of men who were taken from among those who had no employment. On the contrary, all and every one of the men who compose that formidable Manchurian army had been taken from actual work at home, so that the effect of the sudden withdrawal of hands from the field of industry is actually being felt in the productive power of the nation.


Other points of the article are that Japan and America have a valuable relationship that Japan wouldn't want to damage and that Japan certainly doesn't have any designs on the Philippines. A few decades after this was written, World War-II seemed to indicate otherwise, but maybe this is why the post-war period went by relatively smoothly - since enough of Japan was already on good terms with the US, the new wave of western influence went by mostly okay.

I was going to comment more extensively, but I need to get some sleep!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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