The Anglo-Japanese Alliance, 1902-22

By Phillips Payson O'Brien | Go to book overview

6

Japan debates the Anglo-Japanese Alliance

The second revision of 1911 1

Frederick R. Dickinson

We (Japanese) are conservative simultaneously with being progressive; we are aristocratic and at the same time democratic; we are individualistic while being also socialistic. In these respects we may be said to somewhat resemble the Anglo-Saxon race.

Okuma Shigenobu, 1910 2

There is brotherhood between an English gentleman and a Japanese samurai - a spiritual bond between them.

Nitobe Inazo, 1910 3

For Japan's loyal Anglophiles, the start of an alliance with Great Britain in 1902 marked more than just a strategic turn. At a time when the founders of modern Japan still struggled to fashion a sense of nation and common purpose, men like Okuma and Nitobe saw in association with Britain confirmation of a particular national character. Okuma's petition for constitutional government along British lines had been dismissed in 1881 in favor of a Prussian model. Now, the 64-year old veteran of Japanese politics and nation building could claim that Japan had followed 'Anglo-Saxon' footsteps all along. 'Japan and its ally have always shared the same attitude', he proclaimed in February 1902:

By following the same policy regarding the preservation of Chinese territory and equal commercial and industrial opportunity for the powers, we have, in actuality, manifested an alliance in spirit … With the conclusion of a written treaty, Japan and Britain now have a perfect union [kanzen no gatchi]. 4

For historians, too, the record of Japan's foreign associations symbolizes more than geopolitics. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance belongs squarely within the heady nation-building days of the late Meiji period, when Japan delighted the Western world by adopting the trappings of modern civilization. More particularly, it is identified with an era of peaceful expansion and prosperity, before the dramatic turn that would plunge the archipelago into the most destructive war in world history.

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