|This month we feature a colourful collection of 57 Japanese prints dating from the period of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Telling the story of the war from the Japanese point of view, the prints depict many of the significant battles of the war and those who were involved in it. Issued by a variety of publishers, the prints were donated to the University of Glasgow together in a bound volume by Professor Percy Archibald Hillhouse in 1935. This donation demonstrates the great connection that existed between Glasgow and Japan through ship building and naval architecture over 100 years ago.|
||The Russo-Japanese war was a conflict between Russia and
Japan over land ownership in Manchuria and Korea. Russia was particularly
keen to gain control of the ice-free port of Port Arthur in Korea,
over which the Japanese wanted to maintain their exclusive control.
On 6th February 1904, with negotiations over Manchuria and Korea having failed, Russia and Japan went to war. Ten Japanese destroyers attacked the Russian Pacific Fleet in Port Arthur.
Numerous sea battles took place during the war, many occurring in the Liaodong Peninsula (at the north of the Yellow Sea where Port Arthur is), and in the seas around Korea, Japan and north eastern China.
The war ended on 5th September 1905, when the Portsmouth Treaty was signed by both Russia and Japan.
One of the prints satirically summarizes the state of world power (and dominance of Russia) as found at the very beginning of the war. Entitled 'A Humorous Diplomatic Atlas of Europe and Asia', this print was the work of a Japanese student, Kisaburo Ohara (from Keio University). Published in March 1904, it was modelled on a famous illustration by the British cartoonist Frederick W. Rose, the 'Black Octopus' that had been produced earlier in the Nineteenth Century.
Commenting on the print, Ohara is reported to have said that 'the black octopus stretches out his eight arms in all directions, and seizes up every thing that comes within his reach', and 'the continuing existence of the black octopus will depend entirely upon how he comes out of this war'. He predicted that the 'Japanese army is about to win a signal victory over Russia in Korea and Manchuria, so wait & see!'
Battles often inspire acts of heroism and
the Russo-Japanese war was not an exception. Japan's commander Takeo Hirose and
Russia's admiral Stepan Makaroff (or Makarov) both fought at the battle of Port Arthur: Hirose
on a "blockship" (a kind of battleship that is deliberately sunk to
block the harbour), the Fukuimaru, and Makaroff, who was a serious
threat to Japan, on the battleship Petropavlovsk.
On the 27th March 1904, Hirose was searching for one of his subordinates who had been left on the ship as it was prepared for its submergence. While going backwards and forwards to the ship, he was killed by a stray bullet. Only four days after Hirose's death, Admiral Makaroff was killed on the Petropavlovsk when it was hit by a mine and sunk. Both were lauded as heroes and monuments in their honour were erected in both their home countries.
||The Trans Siberian Railway gave Russia a huge advantage in the war,
allowing Russia to send reinforcements to the war zone in a very short time.
In retaliation, Japan engaged Bazoku
(Manchuria guerrillas on horseback) to destroy the railway.
Plate 17 (above) is a beautiful woodblock print of two Bazoku destroying the railway. A view of a derailment at the Lake Bikal - probably one of the results of such operations - appears on plate 18 to the left.
|Some of the prints offer us an insight into the relationship that
existed between Britain and Japan during this period. Despite the Eurasian continent
and oceans separating them, the two island countries grew closer together
from 1858 onwards. This was the end of the Edo period and the beginning of the
Imperial Meiji Restoration, when Japan decided to end hundreds of years of
isolation and open itself to the world. In 1868, the Charter Oath of Five
Articles was signed by the Emperor and Japan began its westernization,
cultural modernisation and intensification of its armaments. For the Meiji
government, it was important for the country to be recognised as an
international community. It was the Emperor himself who started the process to promote civilization to his citizens. He cut his topknot
hairstyle, wore western clothing, ate meat, and drank wine. Traditionally in
Japan, the Emperor had never appeared in public, but images of him - such as the one seen here
- were now widely publicised.
This print is a copy of one of the authorised photographs of the Emperor, signifying the governments' new regime to lead the nation to the absolute obligation of loyalty to him.
|The Japanese government sent students to Glasgow and also
invited professors and specialists to Japan to transfer their advanced
shipbuilding knowledge, construction technology and design skills. Many
examples of Japanese apprentices placed in the Clyde shipyards can be found
in the records of the ship building companies. Many of them were also
sitting in on lectures at the University of Glasgow, while the archives of the Naval Architecture Department show that some Japanese
matriculated as full time students. The Imperial Japanese
Navy used the skills learned by these apprentices and students to become self sufficient
in their own dockyards.
The Japanese connection with the University of Glasgow is demonstrated in this book of prints. Although the prints themselves document conflict, the story of how the volume came to be in Special Collections today is perhaps one of behind the scenes friendship.
||The book was donated to the University by
Professor Percy Archibald Hillhouse (1869-1942) in 1935. From 1921 until
1942 he was the John Elder Professor of Naval Architecture and Ocean
Engineering at the University of Glasgow; he was also well known as a
shipbuilder and engineer in Scottish shipyards. His relationship with Japan
began in 1893 when he taught at the Tokyo Imperial University (now Tokyo
University) as a professor of Naval Architecture. His five year stay in
Japan provided the students and the professors of the Imperial College of
Engineering (now the Department of Environmental and Ocean Engineering,
School of Engineering) with the latest education on shipbuilding and naval
architecture, and he is still regarded as one of the pioneers in the field.
It is not known how Professor Hillhouse acquired these prints. By 1903-1905, the period when these prints were being published, Hillhouse had finished his term in Tokyo and had returned to Glasgow to take up a new post. Given the large number of battleships and sea fight illustrations in the book, it seems possible that some (or one) of the Japanese students or visitors to the Naval Architecture Department may have brought them as gifts to their professor who obviously had an extensive knowledge of their country and the ship building industry. Whether or not Hillhouse received the prints gathered together (as they are now) or whether he acquired them piecemeal, is also not known.
The volume consists of 57 prints, variously dated between 2nd July 1903 and 25th May 1904. Many of them are numbered and were obviously issued separately as items in different series. At some unknown point, the prints were collected together and pasted in to an album: this is how they are kept today. Many of the prints are annotated with translations and notes in English: this is possibly the work of Hillhouse.
There are various styles and techniques represented in the collection.
The earliest colour print production in Japan dates from the
Sixteenth Century. These early methods were enhanced by adapting Dutch
lithography techniques during the Edo period (1603-1867). The early
saw the golden age of print-making in Japan, fulfilled by the technique of talented
artists. Prints produced during this period are known as Nishiki-e (brocade pictures), a term for the
polychrome prints made from cut wood blocks to which bright colours are applied
to satisfy the exotic taste for decoration widely loved by the Japanese
|The success of Japanese wood-block print production lies in
its team work. An artist, an engraver, a printer and a publisher collaborate
to make around 200 or 250 impressions until the final print is produced.
Prints can be identified by their signature and seal (or sensor seal) as
well as by the title. The artist's signature is often written in brush work, whereas the seals
are clearly found in
vermilion. In addition to the artist's signature, the engraver and the
publisher's name and address are stamped on or outside the illustration. Most of
the publishers of these prints were once located in Tokyo.
In this book we have examples of the work of publishers/printers such as Hatsujiro Fukuda, Sonokichi
Hasegawa, Kinnosuke Mak and Bunsuke Tsujiokai. Date seals indicate the year,
month and day of printing and publication; in these prints, these seals show
that most of these prints were published in Meiji 37 (1904), during the Russo-Japanese war period.
Plate 6 has been identified as a work by Ryukei (1874-1944). He was a print artist from the famous Utagawa family, one of the biggest branch of ukiyo-e artists in Japan; his father was Utagawa Kunisada III (or 'Baido Hosai'). Ryukei (also known by the name 'Kokunimasa'), was well known for producing prints relating to the Sino-Japanese war and Russo-Japanese war. Ryukei designed many works for the publisher Hatsujiro Fukuda during the Russo Japanese War; in this collection, for example, his signature appears on plates 17 and plate 18 as published by Fukuda.
|Unlike the very famous Japanese prints from the Edo period (those that the greatest of artists such as the Impressionists loved),
these prints of the Russo-Japanese War are from a time when western techniques
were merged with traditional methods. The decline of traditional print
making was mainly caused by the advent of photography and also by the
turning of people's interests to western technologies. From the 1870s,
print production via non-woodblock media such as etching expanded throughout
Japan, and by the 1880s lithography was the dominant production method.
In spite of all efforts, during the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japanese wood-block print
making seemed to have reached its end: the long-lived traditions
could not survive in the face of the dissemination of modernized
communication media as Japan became westernised.
There are examples of
both traditional wood-block and the newer lithographic method of production
in our collection of prints; the different techniques can be clearly
distinguished when the individual plates are examined.
||Hyakusen Hyakusho ("One hundred selected laughs":
a series of
caricature prints) is a good example of
how one ukiyo-e artist tried to compete
with the growing power of photography by using caricature. The print shown here is a single-sheet
from a series. As noted by Hillhouse beside the illustration, it is similar
in style to cartoons found in Punch magazine. Aiming to
satirise Russia, a small Japanese torpedo boat is depicted approaching a huge Russian
battleship, saying "Oi, Russian boy, I can see how big you are, but now I
am sending this sumo thrust against your recent insolence. It's not just a
thrust but with Yamato Damashi (Japanese spirit)!"
Many prints were produced during this period, and they played an important role in the Japanese media for a long time. Their subject matter appealed to popular feeling, and - perhaps even more importantly - they were affordable to the masses. However, owing to this mass production, the Japanese themselves did not consider them as fine art until after the prints had become highly valued by Europeans. This is why such remarkable Japanese print collections today are, to a large extent, found in Europe or America
This collection of original prints is significant for being one of only a few historical Japanese artifacts held in the University's Special Collections today. It is also a pleasant reminder of former friendship and co-operation between Japan and Glasgow.
Note on captions and plate numbering
Other items of interest
The following have been useful in compiling this article:
Checkland, Olive, 1989 Britain's Encounter with Meiji Japan, 1868-1912 The MacMillan Press Ltd., Basingstoke (GUL L8 History VX 230.G7 CHE)
Clark, John., 1994 Japanese nineteenth-century copperplate prints British Museum, London (GUL L12 Sp Coll Whistler f36)
Illing, Richard., 1980 The art of Japanese prints Octopus, London (GUL L11 Fine Arts E1183 ILL)
Meech-Pekarik, Julia, 1986 The world of the Meiji print : impressions of a new civilization Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo (GUL L11 Fine Arts E1183 MEE)
Moss, Michael., Russell, Iain., 1988 Range and Vision, the first
hundred years of Barr & Studio, Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh (GUL L6
Economics L2950. 06.MOS)
Watts, Anthony.J., Gordon Brian.G. 1971 The Imperial Japanese navy Macdonald & Co. Ltd. (GUL L8 History VX250 WAT)
Whitford, Cecilia 1978 Japanese prints Gallery Books, New York (GUL L11 Fine Arts E1183 WHI)
Kinoshita, Yasuhiko et al 2000 詳説世界史研究 Yamakawa Shuppansha, Tokyo
Archive services, University of Glasgow: exhibition on The University of Glasgow and Japan http://www.gla.ac.uk/services/archives/exhibitions/theuniversityofglasgowandjapan/
The Department of Environmental and Ocean Engineering, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo http://www.naoe.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/department/department-e.html
Who's Who 'Professor Percy Archibald Hillhouse' http://www.xreferplus.com/entry.jsp?xrefid=6160807&secid=.-&hh=1
Wikipedia article Foreign relations of Meiji Japan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_relations_of_Meiji_Japan [accessed February 2008]
Wikipedia article Meiji Period http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meiji_period [accessed February 2008]
Wikipedia article Russo Japanese War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Japanese_War [accessed February 2008]
Wikipedia article Emperor Meiji http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Meiji [accessed February 2008]
Wikipedia article Ukiyo-e http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo-e [accessed February 2008]