Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact


SDHF Newsletter No. 381 The Road to the Greater East Asian War Part 12, Chapter 3 The Russo-Japanese War -5

Nakamura Akira, Dokkyo University Professor Emeritus
(English Translation: Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact)
Part 12, Chapter 3: The Russo-Japanese War-5
May 3, 2023

In June 1903, when it became obvious that Russians had not honored their promise to complete the second phase of troop withdrawal from Manchuria, Tokyo University Professor Tomii Masaaki and seven other scholars reacted to this turn of events by presenting a memorandum urging that Japan initiate hostilities against Russia immediately, and submitting it to Prime Minister Katsura. In December, when negotiations with Russia stagnated, the Anti-Russia Society, chaired by Konoe Atsumaro, presented a written opinion to Emperor Meiji advocating the commencement of hostilities.
Even Yorozu Chōhō (Morning News), which had previously fiercely opposed war with Russia, did an about-face and declared itself in support of war. Three of its reporters, Uchimura Kanzō, Kōtoku Shūsui, and Sakai Toshihiko, resigned and founded the Heimin Shimbun (Commoner’s News), an antiwar newspaper. However, their viewpoint, i.e., that “the international wars of today, while benefitting a select few, disturb the peace of the general public, impair our well-being, and obstruct progress,” was far removed from that of the “commoners.” If a public-opinion survey had been conducted at that time, the position of those three men would not have succeeded in obtaining the support of even 10% of the general public.
Female poet Yosano Akiko’s poem entitled “My brother, you must not die,” can be found in accounts of the Russo-Japanese War in virtually every high school history textbook in Japan today. Is such thoughtless, irresponsible, and self-indulgent whining, which disregards the gravity of the situation at the time and its threat to Japan’s survival, truly praiseworthy? Yosano did later write patriotic poems relating to war, however.
Ironically, Tōgō Heihachirō had long been neglected by history-textbook authors, even though the Daily Mail carried an editorial that described the victory of the Battle of Tsushima as “surpassing Trafalgar” (implying that Admiral Tōgō’s accomplishments were greater than those of British hero Horatio Nelson). Still, Japanese children would not have seen Tōgō’s name in Japanese textbooks until 1988.However, its appearance had very strange repercussions: strenuous objection from the Asahi Shimbun.
In our Newsletter, we have been serializing Japan Awakened Asia: A Miracle of the 20th Century, written by Bangladesh-born Probir Sarker. An excerpt follows.
“It was at the time of the Russo Japanese War that the movement to revive Asia arose among countries from the oppressive foreign powers, the Turkish Youth Party was established, Persian youths united to achieve independence of their home country. Indian youths got encouraged to fight for their country’s independence.”
It is highly regrettable that one of Japan’s leading newspapers is ignorant of this widely known historical fact.
MOTEKI Hiromichi, Chairman
Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact