THE MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT.IN the imperial proclamation dated December 28th, 1872, the plan and details of the new national military system, elaborated with great care after a study of foreign war establishments, were published. The preamble states that "it becomes imperative to construct our army and navy upon the best possible system in accordance with the spirit of the age. We have therefore enacted a law for enrolling soldiers from the whole population, founded on the system which anciently existed in this country, modified by comparison with the practice of foreign countries." The document further explains that anciently the whole population were soldiers, all the able-bodied men serving as occasion required, the mikado leading them. After the war they returned to their ordinary pursuits. Later, the military and agricultural classes were severed, the authority of the court dwindled away, and the feudal system became fixed, and innumerable abuses followed the division of the people into soldiers and peasants.
In 1871, the Government was restored to the original form, and the soldiery and peasantry were again amalgamated, and now all Japanese subjects become conscripts at the age of twenty, and will be placed either in the army or navy. The army is divided into the "standing army," "reserve," aud "militia," and the troops into five classes, according, to their bodily powers. The standing army is formed by enrolling those conscripts of each year on whom the lot falls, who shall serve three years. The first reserve is composed of men who have completed three years of military service, and live at home, pursuing their regular callings. They are called together once a year to live in camp and drill. The second reserve is composed of men who have completed two years of service in the first reserve. They are called out only when the levy en masse is made. the militia is composed of all males between the ages of seventeen and forty, not already included in the regular army of reserve. They are formed into bodies of troops when the levy en masse is made, for the protection of the district to which they belong.
The minimum standard of height for the regular army is 5.1 feet. (A long list of exemptions is given in the original document.) The empire is divided into six military divisions, having head-quarters at Tōkiō, Sendai, Nagoya, Ōzaka, Hirōshima, and Kumamoto. Camps are established in thirty-seven places. In comparison with the armies of other countries, the proportion of engineers in the Japanese army is large, and that of the cavalry is small. This arises from the geographical features of the country, which is deficient in plains, and abounds in mountains, broken surfaces, and strategic points.
The details of the military law have been well carried out, and the scheme more than realized. The army has been ably instructed by French officers. The troops are drilled, clothed, and equipped after the new improved French system, and armed with the most approved weapons of war from the United States and Europe. They are fed on rations of pork, beef, and bread, in addition to native diet. On an emergency Japan could now (1876) put seventy-five thousand disciplined troops (regulars and reserves) in the field.
These regulations, which greatly offended some of the samurai and some officers who wished the caste system kept in vogue, have been rigidly carried out, and are now popular. They were promulgated afresh in the autumn of 1874-'75, as a radical exponent of the will of the mikado and cabinet against the old conservative opposers of the modern spirit of progress, and worshipers of Yamato damashi, that feudalism and all its abuses were forever dead and buried in Japan.