For many centuries-say from A.D. 1200 to 1867- "soldier" and "gentleman" (samurai) were convertible terms. The Mikado and his Court, in their sacred retreat at Kyōto, were, it is true, removed by custom from all participation in martial deeds. At the other end of the scale, the peasantry were likewise excluded. But for the intermediate class-the gentry -to fight was not only a duty but a pleasure, in a state of society where the security of feudal possessions depended on the strong arm of the baron himself and of his trusty lieges. This was the order of things down to A.D. 1600. Thenceforward, though peace reigned for two and a half centuries under the vigorous administration of the Tokugawa Shōguns, all the military forms of an elder day were kept up. They were suddenly shivered into atoms at the beginning of the present Emperor's reign (A.D. 1868), when military advisers were called in from France, the continental system of universal conscription was introduced, and uniforms of modern cut replaced the picturesque but cumbersome trappings of the old Japanese knight. The Japanese soldier's baptism of fire was in the suppression of the Satsuma rebellion in 1877. He won his spurs brilliantly in the China war of 1894-5, compelling the astonished admiration of all foreign experts. Specially thorough and satisfactory was the organisation of the commissariat department, which, in so rigorous a climate and so poor a country, bore the brunt of the undertaking. As the ill-led, unfed, and constitutionally unwarlike Chinamen mostly ran away, Japanese pluck scarcely met with full opportunity for showing itself. Nevertheless, the battle of Pingyang on the 15th September, 1894, the subsequent march through Manchuria, and the taking of Port Arthur in November of the same year, were notable exploits. More recently, in 1900, the Japanese contingent, by common consent, bore away the palm from the allied forces which relieved Peking:-they marched fastest, they fought best, they were most amenable to discipline, they behaved most humanely towards the conquered. While these pages pass through the press in the summer of 1904, the civilised warriors of Japan are again busy inscribing glorious deeds on the page of history, fighting for the first time against a European foe. It-were probably no exaggeration to assert that Japan now disposes of the best army in the world, for its size. This fact-assuming it to be a fact-is the more remarkable, because the Japanese army is (if we may use the phrase) anonymous. No world-famed specialist-no Frederick, no Napoleon-constructed the splendid machine. It has been built up by men little heard of beyond a narrow circle,-a few French employés, afterwards supplemented by a few Germans and one or two Italians, and by natives possessed, so far as we know, of neither genius nor wide experience. Nevertheless, some good fairy has presided over all their acts. Of course it must be allowed that the material they have had to work upon is good,-a fair physique and a morale beyond all praise, the men, though small and nowise handsome, being sturdy and intelligently devoted, while the officers obey Milton's precept
"To scorn delights and live laborious days,"not dancing attendance on "society," or dissipating time and energy on useless games. The intercourse between officers and men is frank and intimate,-a result of that seeming contradiction which we have discussed elsewhere, the democratic spirit which has always permeated this paternally governed empire.
The published statistics of the forces are believed to be of little value at any time, because the authorities wisely keep precise details of the fighting strength and more particularly of the possibilities of mobilisation secret. Writing, as we do, during the progress of a war which strains all the nation's resources, it were even more idle than usual to attempt to gain any trustworthy information on such matters of high policy. When hostilities with Russia broke out, the army had for several years past been undergoing a process of expansion, to be completed-such was the generally accepted statement-in 1911; and persons supposed to be well-informed held that on the completion of all the contemplated changes, the following figures would be approximately correct, in any case not above the mark:-
|Men with the colours (1st to 3rd year)||150,000|
|First Reserve (4th to 7th year)||150,000|
|Second Reserve (8th to 12th year)||150,000|
of whom between 8,000 and 9,000 officers, admitted partly by competition, partly after graduation at any of the middle schools. Exclusive of the Imperial Guard, there would be twelve divisions with headquarters at Tōkyō, Sendai, Nagoya, Ōsaka, Hiroshima, Kumamoto, Sapporo, Hirosaki, Kanazawa, Fukuchiyama, Marugame, and Kokura. Three brigades-say 7,500 men-are detached for service in Formosa. The cavalry has always been the weakest branch of the Japanese army, owing to the absence of good horses; neither does the build of the average Japanese tend to make him a graceful rider. As at present fixed, there is one regiment (three squadrons) of cavalry per division,-eventual total, 39 squadrons,-besides two independent brigades (probably 12 additional squadrons) in process of formation, with headquarters at Tōkyō. The artillery (field) consists of six batteries per division and two independent artillery brigades (probably 12 additional batteries) in process of formation, with headquarters at Tōkyō. Both artillery and infantry are armed with new weapons,-the former with the "Arisaka" gun, of which large numbers have been made in France and Germany and some in Japan, the latter with what is called the "30th year" rifle. This weapon is a modification of the "Murata" rifle. Its chief distinctive feature is that five cartridges are loaded simultaneously in a clip.
The programme here briefly summarised includes the expenditure of vast sums on the construction of forts, barracks, and arsenals. Quantities of fire-arms, ordnance, and ammunition are manufactured at Tōkyō and Ōsaka. Japanese uniforms follow European models in all essentials, except for the use of straw sandals on active service instead of boots, which the men dislike.
In accordance with European precedents, the Emperor has assumed the supreme command. During the first China war, two of the Princes, his kinsmen, actually commanded in the field; others are now serving both with the army and with the navy. This steeping of the reigning family in militarism appeared quite revolutionary at the period when it was first decided on. As late as 1887, when Herr von Mohl, a high Prussian official, came over to help in the reorganisation of the Court on German lines, even a step apparently so natural as the appointment of aides-de-camp to His Imperial Majesty met with stout opposition. For the old Court life of Japan, its personnel, its ceremonial, and all its habits, were based on those of China, where, as is well-known, the soldiery have ever been regarded as a sort of pariah class,-desperadoes, ne'er-do-weels, ranking nowhere because leading a life deemed barbarous and degrading, fellows in fact whom it would be desecration to place near the person of the heaven-descended monarch. True, the Daimyōs and Samurai, with the Shōgun at their head, were, or had been, fighting men: - that was an element of contradiction in the structure of Japanese society, which did not exist in China. But though the Daimyōs and Samurai stood high in their own estimation and practically lorded it over the land, they never rose to social equality with the meanest hangeron of the Mikado's Court; and if any of them obtained office there, it was in a civil capacity. How times have changed, and how swiftly!
To return from this digression, the men of the Japanese army, as already incidentally remarked, are raised by conscription. When the system was first introduced, numerous exceptions were allowed; but now the application of the law is stringent, no excuse other than physical unfitness being entertained. The limit of height is 5 Japanese ft., that is, about 4 ft. 11 1/2 in. English; the age for entering is twenty. Every male between the ages of seventeen and forty belongs ipso facto to the "national army" (Landsturm), and is liable to be called out in case of emergency. This "national army" therefore includes, in addition to the untrained mass, that large body of men who have passed out of the Second Reserve fully trained.
The new-comer may smile to behold two or three Japanese soldiers strolling along hand in hand, as if they were Dresden shepherdesses. What would he say during a campaign to see private soldiers on the march, or even during a pause in actual battle, take fans out of their gaiters and fan themselves? But after all, why not? There is no effeminacy here, only common sense,-and coolness in both meanings of the term.
It is extraordinary into what minutiæ the Government has gone in its determination to foster the military spirit and raise the army to the highest point of perfection. Even books of war-songs have been officially composed and included in the course of instruction. The result, it must be confessed, has not been the production of poems of any very high order of merit. What cannot fail to elicit our admiration is the manner in which the company drill imposed on all government schools and adopted in most private schools as well, has been responded to by the scholars. Even little mites of boys bear the flag stoutly, march miles in the blazing sun, and altogether carry themselves so as to show that an enemy attempting to land on these shores must count, not only with every able-bodied man, but with every child throughout the empire.