Imperial Japanese Navy training cruise, Southeast Asia & Australia, 1913.

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“By the time Meiji Japan joined the race for overseas markets and territories, the world seemed entirely dominated by the Western powers, leaving few uncharted lands to the new entrant. This did not deter the Japanese from giviing free rein to their imagination, however.

“Seeing the ocean as a global arena of Japan’s ascendancy, Meiji political leaders, military officers, and opinion makers brought a wide range of lands under their scrutiny as potential markets and sites of settlement — not only East Asia but also the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Central and South America. From their writings emerged a new understanding of Japan as a transoceanic empire: one that would rule the Pacific through a network of shipping, trade, business, migration, and settlement.

“… [An early and largely overlooked proponent of a Japanese empire] Sugiura Shigetake’s writings on expansion represented this early and crude outlook on the world, centered on the ocean. In an August 1887 editiorial for Yomiuri, he lamented ‘how miserably small Japan looks on the map of the world’ but simultaneously observed that modest-sized nations such as England, Spain, and Holland nonetheless managed to develop maritime empires, owing to their ability to navigate and trade across the seas.

“… Sugiura conceived of expansion not necessarily or primarily as military or territorial conquest, but in broader and more ‘peaceful’ terms of global trade, shipping, and migration, which many Meiji contemporaries identified as the central pillars of Western strength. Undoubtedly inspired by Victorian Britain at the height of its imperial glory, he wished to see Japan become ‘a great island empire’ (to teikoku), ‘an empire of free trade’ in which the merchant marine would carry Japanese goods and traders to [the] far corners of the world.”

“From Island Nation to Oceanic Empire: A Vision of Japanese Expansion from the Periphery”, by Jun Ichida, The Journal of Japanese Studies, Winter 2016

Imperial Japanese Navy training cruise, Southeast Asia & Australia, 1913. Rear-Admiral Tochiuchi Sojiro had overall command of the long-distance oceanic navigation and officer training exercise through the Nan’yo from December 5, 1912 to April 21, 1913. Two pre-Dreadnought vessels, the armored cruiser Azuma and the protected cruiser Soya (a Russo-Japanese War prize), were assigned to the exercise. Inset photos: (left) Azuma commander, Captain Horiuchi Saburo; (right) Soya commander, Captain Iwamura Danjiro.

See also:
Imperial Japanese Navy Armored Cruiser “Azuma”, c. 1910.
Imperial Japanese Navy Cruiser “Soya”, c. 1910.
Imperial Japanese Navy training cruise, 1924-1925.

“In the early 1870s, few Japanese knew much about the Pacific islands that dotted the ocean to the southeast of Japan or the territories of insular and peninsular Southeast Asia that also fell under the rubric of the Nan’yo … In the early years of the Meiji state, therefore, the navy was required to undertake operations that would expand Japan’s awareness of the South Seas.

“To accomplish such exposure, beginning in 1875 and continuing throughout the 1880s and 1890s, the navy launched numerous training cruises for its cadets in the Nan’yo [South Seas]. These training voyages provided Japan’s cadets with their first exposure to naval operations in the open expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

“Owing to the creative imagination and foresight of a few high-level officials, however, the cruises became more than purely technical and educational exercises, for such expeditions were well-publicized events that aroused great interest in the Pacific area.

“Indeed, the most important form of nanshin publicity in the early 1880s emanated from expansionist-minded journalists, writers, and intellectuals whom navy officials had invited to accompany such training cruises.”

“The Imperial Japanese Navy and the Constructed Consciousness of a South Seas Destiny, 1872-1921”, by J. Charles Schencking, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 33, No. 4, Oct. 1999

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