Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922

By Paine, S. C. M. | Naval War College Review, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922


Paine, S. C. M., Naval War College Review


Schencking, J. Charles. Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford Univ. Press, 2005. 283pp. $57.95

Charles Schencking, in charting Japan's creation of the world's third-largest navy by 1922, illuminates the workings of the Japanese political system and the evolution of both interservice rivalries and civil-military relations in the decades preceding World War II. He bases his history on an impressive reading of Japanese and English-language primary and secondary sources to produce a story with political implications far beyond the history of one service.

When the Meiji reformers took power in 1868, their minimal naval forces were part of their land forces. In 1871, over the objections of the army, the Military Ministry was subdivided into two ministries, army and navy. In order to secure funding to create a modern fleet, the navy soon allied with the Satsuma clans, while clans from Chosho were already allied with the army. Together these clans brought the Meiji reformers to power. The opening of the Diet in 1890 brought fears among the clans that democracy would erode their power. Therefore, they solidified their ties with the army and navy. Thus highly politicized interservice rivalries were inherent in the Japanese political system.

Initial Diets were hostile to military funding. War with China in 1894-95, however, transformed the public perception of the navy from a financial burden into a service vital to Japan's national security and domestic prosperity. This, combined with the large war indemnity from China, produced massive naval budgetary increases. The naval mission expanded from defense of the home islands to command of the sea and defense of the empire. The navy continued to press for a combat mission independent of the army, which retained responsibility for national defense and command over naval forces in wartime. …

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