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Illustration of the Great Training Maneuvers by Various Army Corps


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Illustration of the Great Training Maneuvers

by Various Army Corps

by Yōshū Chikanobu, 1883

Nakamura Shikan IV, Sukedakaya Takasuki IV, Ichikawa Danjūrō IX and Bandō Kakitsu (in the play Sukeroku, Flower of Edo at the Shintomiza)

IHL Cat. #864

About This Print

This print depicts one of the recurring military training exercises to prepare the recently enlarged army.  In 1882, the year previous to the release of this print, the Emperor had issued the Imperial Rescript for Military Men, a code of conduct, and his Chief of the General Staff, Yamagata Aritomo informed Army Minister Oyama that the military was not meeting its conscription quotas and that the 40,000 soldiers were insufficient.

Imperial Rescript for Military Men, January 4, 1882

Source: Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912, Donald Keene, Columbia University Press, 2002, p. 366-367.

On January 4, 1882 the emperor presented the Imperial Rescript for Military Men, which clarified the role of the military as servants of the Emperor.

For some 700 years, the military ruled the country in disregard of the wishes of the imperial family, but by the 1830s and 1840s the shogunate was much weakened.  It was just at this time that foreigners first posed a threat to Japanese security, causing Emperor Meiji’s grandfather and father deep distress.  He had been more fortunate.  When he came to the throne, still young and inexperienced, he was assisted by loyal men who made it possible to return to the ancient system of government, rule by the emperor.

During the last fifteen years, great changes had taken place.  The army and the navy were now personally commanded by the emperor.  He declared to the military, “We are your commander in chief.  We depend on you as Our trusted retainers; you look up to Us as your chief; our relations must be particularly intimate.  Whether We can or cannot protect the nation, render thanks for the blessing of Heaven, and repay the debt we owe to Our ancestors depends on whether or not you carry out to the full your duties as military men.”

These statements are followed by a series of five commands indicating what the emperor expected of the military.  The first was that as members of the military, they devote their entire loyalty to their country.  He asked rhetorically, “Is there anyone born in our country who does not feel the desire to recompense his country?”  It was not sufficient for a soldier to be skilled or learned.  Unless he possessed the spirit of “recompensing his country,” he would be no more than a puppet.  A military man should consider his duty to maintain loyalty as weighty as the mountains but think of death as being as light as a feather.

The second injunction commanded lower ranks to show the same respect toward their seniors that they would toward the emperor himself.  In return, the upper ranks were commanded not to behave with arrogance or contempt toward lower ranks but to treat them with kindness.  Above and below should join in service to the emperor.

The third injunction was devoted mainly to the importance of courage.  Soldiers were warned that real courage did not consist in recklessness; they were enjoined always to be governed by the sense of duty, by steady spiritual strength, and by their intelligence.  The members of the military were commanded, moreover, to consider gentleness of the greatest importance in their dealings with civilians; they must try always to earn their affection and respect.

The fourth and fifth injunctions commanded the military to be true to its words and to practice simplicity.

The rescript was subsequently distributed widely among the military and, by General Ōyama’s command, printed at the head of the pocket notebooks distributed annually for the next sixty and more years to soldiers and sailors, to be read, memorized, and obeyed.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description  Illustration of the Great Training Maneuvers by Various Army Corps
 Shotai dai chōren no zu 諸隊大調錬ノ図
 Artist  Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912)
 Signature  Yōshū Chikanobu hitsu 楊洲周延筆
 Seal  none
 Publication Date
 1883  (明16)
Hatano Tsunesada 波多野 常定 [Marks: publisher ref. 104; seal not shown]
 Left half:  出版人 波多野常定 [publisher Hatano Tsunesada]
 right column shows publisher's address  
 Right half: 画工 橋本直義 [artist Hashimoto Naoyoshi (Chikanobu's   family name)]
 right column shows artist's address.

 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  good – three sheets joined together with heavy backing paper; trimmed to image
 Genre  ukiyo-e; kaika-e
 Format  vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 13 3/4 x 27 3/8 in. (34.9 x 69.5 cm) entire triptych
 Collections This Print
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 2000.35a-c