Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922 (review)
- East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
- Duke University Press
- Volume 2, Number 1, 2008
- pp. 147-150
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BOOK REVIEW J. Charles Schencking, Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868–1922 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005) Takashi Nishiyama Received: 9 August 2007 /Accepted: 9 August 2007 / Published online: 9 May 2008 # National Science Council, Taiwan 2008 This well-researched, very readable book makes a significant contribution to our understanding about the rise of the Imperial Japanese Navy (hereafter referred to as IJN) from 1868 to 1922. Through eight chapters, the author details how Japan, “not a naval nation” before the 1890s (p. 2), emerged as the world’s third-largest naval power by 1922. The IJN’s success story unfolds in the political arena. The central player in the Navy’s transformation, argues Schencking, was its leaders who “accepted, endorsed, and mastered the art of politics” (p. 228). In contrast to what previous scholarship has portrayed, they were neither “apolitical” nor “silent” (p. 6); on the contrary, those leaders continued to be politically astute, active, and opportunistic. By no means rebellious, the leadership exercised a great deal of pragmatism and worked successfully within the Meiji-Taisho constitutional government. Coercion and, above all, alliance formation with useful politicians and their parties were the chief means of fulfilling the Navy’s agendas. Politics was “the lifeblood” of the IJN, which was no different from the navies of Germany, the USA, and Britain (p. 6). The author’s cultural study helps illuminate the Navy’s efforts to shape domestic politics. He amply demonstrates that the IJN leadership used public-relations campaigns and pro-Navy propaganda, such as elegantly orchestrated pageants. These efforts, in the author’s view, were successful in helping to win public support, foster nationalism, and promote visions of Japan’s empire into the South Seas (Nan’yō) in which the IJN was to play the role of the nation’s primary guardian. The author also pays attention to symbols of how the political landscape was perceived in society. Pictorial illustrations from Tokyo Puck, a major popular magazine known for its satirical cartoons (pp. 126 and 144), serve as amusing yet powerful examples. The East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal (2008) 2:147–150 DOI 10.1007/s12280-008-9032-y T. Nishiyama (*) Department of History, State University of New York, 350 New Campus Drive, Brockport, NY 14420, USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Navy’s political efforts underlay its growing influence within the Japanese parliament, mirroring the concurrent rise of a modern Japan. As chapters 1 and 2 amply show, the Navy’s ascendancy to a massive scale was hardly imagined during the period from 1868 to 1889. The beginning of the IJN was “remarkably humble” (p. 24). The service lacked material and human and financial capital after the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which was “truly a revolutionary event” (pp. 10–11). The Navy remained rather regional/local and its role was to support ground forces because domestic rebellions posed a “far more significant threat” (p.18) to the newly formed, fledging Meiji State than did any military threat from abroad. In this context, the well-known rhetoric of “Rich Nation, Strong Military” ( fukoku kyōhei), a means of countering foreign threats, escapes the narrative. By the end of the 1870s, the Navy began to build its institutions for further growth (as seen in the formation of the Navy Ministry in 1872). The IJN remained a collective effort, a collage of forces from the most powerful domains. Especially during 1878–1889, in the author’s view, domain-based rivalry helped form the Satsuma-based Navy in contrast to the Chōshū-based Army. Personal connections and favoritism based on clan backgrounds were the chief means by which the Satsuma slowly but steadily dominated the military service. Meanwhile, the newly constructed rhetoric of the southern frontier in the South Seas helped the Satsuma-based Navy create a strategic identity separate from that of the Army. In chapters 3 and 4, the author argues that the 1890s marked a crucial phase for the Navy’s growth. He maintains carefully that the political pragmatism of IJN leaders did not develop into a full-scale partnership with a political party in the new...