The Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy

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This topic will present the emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy up to the Inter-war period. We shall illustrate naval development in several parts including the creation of a navy and its initial dependence on foreign warship builders, life in the Imperial Japanese Navy, its participation alongside the Allies in the First World War, the Imperial Japanese Navy at home and abroad and its success in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905.

Part One: Reliance on foreign shipbuilders

Although an island nation, Japan had long been a feudal state with only a small coastal defence fleet and it was only after the civil war that an Imperial Navy was formed. The poor state of the first vessels and the lack of training of the officers and men led to the invitation of a British mission to organise a new navy. This was the beginning of a long-lasting collaboration between the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Royal Navy. Japanese shipyards were neither sufficiently developed in the late 1800s nor were there the raw materials necessary to build the warships programmed in the following naval construction programmes and the government turned to foreign yards especially in Britain but also France, Germany, Italy and the United States of America.

Capital ships laid down up to 1902

Catalogue number 92110

The central battery ironclad Fuso

Fuso was built in the British shipyard of Samuda Brothers (laid down in 1875). Despite the Japanese-sounding name, the Samuda family was British. The future Admiral Togo Heihachiro supervised the construction of Fuso after his initial navy training in Britain.

Credit: A. Bougault

13.2cm x 8.4cm gelatin silver print


Catalogue number

The central battery Chin Yen

The ironclad battleship Chen Yuen was built for the Chinese navy by the German shipyard AG Vulcan in Stettin, laid down in 1882. As one of the two Dingyuan class, with four 12-inch in two gun turrets they were the most powereful battleships in the Far East. Damaged in the 1894 Sino-Japanese War, she was repaired and taken into the Japanese Navy as the Chin Yen becoming the first battleship of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Credit: The Naval Annual, Brassey, 1896


Catalogue number 80197

Battleship Yashima, launched 1896

Yashima and her sister ship Fuji were of an improved design of the Royal Sovereign class battleships but mounted 12-inch guns in place of the 13.5-inch guns. Yashima was one of the first of a long line of Japanese warships built by Armstrong Whitworth of Elswick, Great Britain.

Recto: "A general view of the "Yashima" after her speed trials"

9.3cm x 6.2cm negative


Catalogue number 114090

Battleship Fuji

Fuji was built by the Thames Iron Works, Poplar and launched in 1897. She had major refits in 1901 and 1910 when the Armstrong 12-inch guns were replaced by Japanese guns. It is said that a Japanese team of over 240 engineers and naval officers supervised the construction and at the same time acquiring the technical know-how of warship construction. This photograph was probably taken just after the completion of Fuji, at the naval review for the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Victoria, June 1897. Fuji then sailed on to Japan.

12.5cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 118082

The 1896 Naval Expansion Programme, Shikishima and Hatsuse

As for Yashima and Fuji before, these two battleships were an improved type of the Royal Navy Majestic class of 1893-1895. The Majestic class was a succesful design and formed the largest class of battleships ever built. Like the British ships, the two Japanese battleships carried 12-inch guns. The order was shared between the Thames Iron Works (Shikishima, shown here) and Armstrong Whitworth (Hatsuse).

12.4cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 78106

Hatsuse leaving the shipyard

Hatsuse was laid down in 1898 and completed 1901, she is shown here passing under the High Level Bridge in Newcastle upon Tyne. To do so it was necessary to fold the tripode mast.

14.3cm x 10.2cm Printed image


Catalogue number 24025

Hatsuse at anchor

Both ships of this class carried four 12-inch guns (note the covered barbette) and fourteen 6-inch guns. For the nacent Japanese navy, it required a considerable effort to train up and crew a ship's complement (Shikishima 836, Hatsuse 741). The newly-completed Hatsuse represented the Emperor of Japan at Queen Victoria's funeral before sailing for Japan.

13.3cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 118084

Battleship Asahi

The contract for Asahi went to the John Brown shipyard on Clydebank although she was a repeat of the Shikishima class from Armstrong Whitworth and Thames Iron Works.

12.6 x 7.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 118081


The battleship Mikasa is accompanied by a twin-funnel paddle tug leaving Portsmouth after completion in 1902 at the Armstrong shipyard.

12.6cm x 7.8cm Sepia Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 108027

Mikasa leaving the dockside

The barbette-mounting of the stern 12-inch guns is clearly shown in this image. Protection of the 6-inch guns was improved with an armoured box battery giving protection from shells coming through from the opposite side of the ship. Note the captain's walkway and the three white bands on the funnels.

Recto: Franked Godalming 1908

13.3cm x 8.2cm Printed image


Cruisers laid down up to 1902

Catalogue number 118083

Armstrong cruisers, Asama

The Imperial Japanese Navy was quite adventurous in selecting different foreign shipyards to build its armoured and protected cruiser fleet. Asama and her sister ship Tokiwa were built by Armstrongs and carried a main armement of twin turret 8-inch guns fore and aft. Laid down in 1896 and 1898 respectively, both ships had long careers, Asama was scrapped in 1947 and Tokiwa lost in 1945. Note the steam pinnace alongside.

12.5cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 94058

Asama, with Takasago: Anvers 1902

Asama and Takasago traveled from Japan to the United Kingdom (24,718 nautical miles/45,778 km) to assist at the coronation ceremonies of King Edward VII and also to celebrate the signing of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. They are shown here at Anvers on the return journey. Left background is the protected cruiser Takasago.

Recto: "Asama & Tagasago (sic)" in black ink

17cm x 12cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number

Asama abroad: Toulon 1931

From 1922, Asama made training cruises abroad including in the Mediterranean Sea, here she is in Toulon. In the background is what appears to be the armoured cruiser Yakumo, she was also a training ship from the 1920s on.

Quarter plate glass negative


Catalogue number 71090

Tokiwa, sister ship to Asama

Judging by the hills in the background, this photograph may have been taken in Toulon.

Credit: Marius Bar

13.3cm x 7.9 Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 79052

Asama or Tokiwa in harbour at Honolulu


Verso: "Japanese cruiser Honolulu" in French and in light pencil

12.1cm x 7.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119011

Armoured cruiser Yakumo

Yakumo was also part of the 1896 Naval Expansion Programme but Japan turned to the Vulcan shipyard in the then German city of Stettin for its construction. However, the 8-inch guns were supplied by Armstrong.

Recto: "Stettin. Vulcan shipyard, Japanese battleship (sic) Yakumo" in French

15cm x 7.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 126104

Armoured cruiser Yakumo, broadside

A good broadside view of Yakumo taken during her time as a training ship.

15cm x 7.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114015

Cruiser Nisshin

The armoured cruiser Nisshin had a complicated beginning. Laid down in the shipyard of Ansaldo, Genoa, she was originally for the Italian Navy but was bought by Argentina after her launch to participate in the war with Chile. By the time she was completed, the war was over so Argentina had no need for the ship and sold her and the sister ship to Japan to counter the menance of the Russian Far East Fleet.

Recto: "Here, Madame the Vicomtesse is one of the two battleships acquired by Japan prior to the opening of hostilities. As you see here, the sky blue, white and sky blue flag is flying. Now under the colours of the Emperor of the Rising Sun, she is named "Kasuga" sic. Buenos Aires 15 4 1905" Text in French

Verso: Postcard sent from Buenos Aires, franked 1905 to Madame la Vicomptesse de Bire at an address in Laval

13.6cm x 8.6cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 92107

Protected cruisers: Takachiho

The fleet of protected cruises initially followed the trend of purchasing from foreign shipyards but from the late 1880s, Japanese shipyards began to build cruisers from French and then entirely Japanese designs. Although built by Armstrong, the main (10.3-inch) and secondary armement (5.9-inch) of Takachiho were provided by Krupp but in 1900, these were replaced with Elswick 6-inch quick firing guns. In this photograph the forward 10.3-inch gun can be seen on its barbette mount. The ship's flags appear to be at half mast

13.2cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number ****

Unebi: an unsuccessful French design

In the competition between French and British shipyards for Japanese contracts, Unebi was built with heavier armement than the contempory Armstrong protected cruisers. The beam-mounted guns gave rise to fears about her stability especially when the sails were set. Unebi disappeared at sea on a voyage from Singapore to Japan in 1887. This poor design shattered the confidence that Japan had concerning French-built warships



Catalogue number 92113

Protected cruiser Itsukushima

In response to tension with China, Japan turned to France in 1888 for the construction of two protected cruisers armed with a single Canet 12.6 inch gun, one of the most powerful guns of the time. However, the rate of fire was poor, with one round per five minutes. In this ship, the single gun was mounted forward.

13.2cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29032

Protected cruiser Matsushima

In contrast to Itsukushima, Matsushima had the gun aft and we can see it here under the awning. These ships were not a successful design - low displacement for such a heavy gun, design speed not achieved and poor seakeeping. This ship was built by the Societe Nouvelle des Forges et Chantiers de la Mediterranee, at La Seyne-sur-Mer where this photograph was probably taken.

9.2cm x 13.9cm Sepia gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 123044

Armoured cruiser Yoshino

Another Armstrong-built cruiser laid down in 1892. Yoshino was well-armed with with quick-firing 6-inch guns fore and aft and two others on beam sponsons. The postcard is franked 1905 but the ship was lost in 1904 when rammed by the cruiser Kasuga off Port Arthur.

Recto: "Toulon, 3rd March 1905" in French and in black ink

14cm x 9.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 126094

Armoured cruiser Yoshino

Yoshino is shown here going full ahead, when completed in 1893 she was the fastest cruiser aflot (23kts).

14cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 92114

Protected cruiser Suma

The two cruisers Suma and Akashi were the first to be built from Japanese designs and material at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal although the guns came from Great Britain. This photograph was taken before the mainmast and foremast fighting top were removed in an attempt to improve stability, the ship had proved to be very wet.

13.2cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121096

6-inch stern gun, Suma

The British-built 6-inch gun was made at the Elswick Ordnance Company and the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. It incorporated recent advances including quick-firing ammunition and a recoil buffer with run-out cylinders.

13.9cm x 8.9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 92112

Takasago, a typical Armstrong cruiser

This photograph give a good view of the 8-inch quick firing gun on the high foc'sle which, along with the aft gun in a similar position, caused instability and a heavy roll.

13.3cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 38167

Takasago at anchor

Takasago is seen here in Anvers when accompanying Asama on the return cruise to Japan in 1902.

11cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119013


Although built by American shipyards, Chitose (1897, Union Iron Works, San Francisco) and Kasagi (1897, Cramp, Philadelphia) were standard designs for this type of vessel. Chitose was in company with Tsukuba in 1907 off Royan at the mouth of the Gironde estuary, France. They were to visit Bordeaux on their way back from the United States.

Recto: Franked Royan August, 1907

Verso: "The Chitose, **** smaller cruiser. Nothing special. Built in San Francisco" in French and in black ink. Sent at the same time as a photograph of Tsukuba off Royan.

14cm x 9cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 17006


In contrast to Takasago, there was no bow torpedo tube in Chitose. This photograph was purchased along with a similar photograph of Tsukuba.

Verso: "The Chitose" in black ink

15.4cm x 7.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 24025


After commissioning in Philadelphia, Kasagi sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to receive her guns in Great Britain.

13.3cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number


Laid down at Armstrong's Elswick works in 1893, Tatsuta was an unprotected cruiser with a good turn of speed (21 kts) .

Credit: From The Naval Anuual, Brassey, 1896, plate 71


Foreign-built Torpedo boats

Catalogue number 118085

Sazanami, a Yarrow boat

The six Ikazuchi class boats were ordered under the 1885 Programme. When arriving in Japan, she was classified as a destroyer, speed 30 kts and carrying two 18-inch torpedoes, one quick firing 12 pounder gun and five quick-firing 6 pounder Hotchkiss guns.

13.4cm x 8.4cm Printed image


Catalogue number 104111

Akatsuki, a British-built torpedo boat destroyer

Built by the Yarrow shipyard, the two Akatsuki class 363 ton boats were completed in 1901/02. They were similar to the Royal Navy B class torpedo boats with the same problem of the turtleback plunging into high waves and making the bridge very wet. Note the canvas screens around the bridge.

13.4cm x 8.4cm Printed image


Catalogue number 126095

French-built torpedo boat number 19

This French design was a consequence of the Jeune Ecole thinking of - inexpensive - torpedo boat flottilla swarming over an - expensive - battleship fleet. Torpedo boat number 19 was part of the fourteen 35m ordered by Japan. Note the side-by-side funnels and the two 14-inch torpedo tubes, fore and mid-ship. This photograph was taken at Chefoo, China from aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Charleston on 25th February 1895.

Verso: "Japanese torpedo boat 19" in French and in light pencil

14.1cm x 9cm Gelatin silver print


Part Two: Officers and men

As the Japanese navy developed from its early beginnings, not only did its warships come from foreign shipyards but also the organization of the navy was modelled on European navies and in particular the Royal Navy.

Catalogue number 51026

Officers on an early sail warship

This group of officers are in dress uniform with medals and swords. Several of them have the Order of the Rising Sun medal, established in 1875 and awarded for meritorious service to the state.

8.3cm x 5.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 18046

Japanese cruiser at Sheerness, Great Britain

During their training cruises, warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy were frequent visitors to Great Britiain. The cruisers Yakumo and Idzumo of the Japanese training squadron were at Sheerness in 1921.

Verso: "Japanese cruiser at Sheerness. A guard of Honour" in black ink

16.1cm x 9.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 89

Cruiser Soya, Seattle 1909, recto

This photograph shows a group of Japanese sailors on board the cruiser Soya at Seattle in 1909. The cruisers Soya and Aso (previously the Russian ships Varyag and Bayan respectively, salvaged after the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905) were assigned to the Training Squadron making several long distance cruises around the Pacific Ocean in the early 1900s. The two warships were in Seattle for the opening of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. The visit was a great success with newspapers describing it as "unimpeachable evidence of the sincerity of the friendship between the United States and Japan". Nevertheless, there was a strong sentiment in Japan that during the peace talks after the Russo-Japanese war, President Roosevelt put pressure on Japan to accept an unfavourable deal, not recognising Japan as a new major naval power in the Pacific region. The visit of the Great White Fleet to Japan during its 1907 world tour was seen not only as a act of goodwill but also a clear show of naval strength !

Verso: Text in Japanese giving the names and rank of the sailors and a Japanese visitor as well as the date of the photograph.

21cm x 16cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 89

Cruiser Soya, Seattle 1909, verso

The Japanese text names the sailors and one civilian, going from right to left after the lady far right. The translation of the Japanese text is (1)"Navy second class engine sailor, Nagano Prefecture". He is probably the sailor brother of the next civilian. (2) "My elder brother, Yasukichi Iwasaki. He lives in Seattle". From Internet, we learn that Mr Iwasaki was born in Japan in 1876 and emigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1899 then moved on to the United States of America. After various jobs he started a farm at Hillsboro, Oregon. The University of California has a collection of documents and the diaries of Mr Iwasaki from 1899 to 1900 and 1917 to 1945. The family still farm the land whilst Yasukichi died in 1968 aged 92. (3) "Komakichi Kojima, Navy first class sailor, Koka-gun, Shiga Prefecture. (4) Chohei Ichikawa, Navy third class sailor, Nagano prefecture. (5) Gorobei Mori, Navy third class sailor, Sakata-gun, Shiga Prefecture. (6) Kimitaka Iwasaki, First class center kitchen, Shiga Prefecture. The text far left is "May 26, 1909, Meiji Period in Japan, Aso and Soya with General Officer (sic) Ijichi. Rear-Admiral Hikojiro Ijichi (born 1860) was Commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy training squadron. There is a story that Rear-Admiral Ijichi wanted to give a treasured family samurai sword to Will Parry, an official of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, but he refused the gift before accepting another valuable sword that was not a family heirloom.

Recto: Text in Japanese. I am immensely grateful to my friend Etsuyo Tsunoda for translating the text.

21cm x 16cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 131035

Japanese Navy at Portola, 1909

The festival in the Portola district of San Francisco was the first major event in the city after the 1906 earthquake and fire. American and foreign warships (including the United Kingdom, Italy, Holland, Germany and Japan) came to San Francisco to participate in the celebrations of the rebirth of the city. Here we see Japanese sailors parading through the city.

Verso: "Partola Festival 1909" in pencil

8.8cm x 13.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 90 F8

Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy Officers, circa 1908

This photograph may have been taken in around 1908 (see below). The Imperial Japanese Navy has come out victorious from the Russo-Japanese war and suddenly became a naval power to be taken into account at least for Great Britain and the United States of America.

27.4cm x 21.3cm Silver print


Catalogue number 90 F8, detail

Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy Officers, circa 1908

We can attempt to date this photograph by looking at the career of the participants. Most of the Royal Navy officers had some link to Japan and its navy. The Japanese officers had been at some time or other involved in Japanese naval policy. From left to right: (2) Commander C. Raikes; 1905 Commander then Captain in 1913 (3) Vice-Admiral Baron H. Kataoka; 1907 Chief of the Navy Ministry, Department of Ships (4) Mr F.O. Lindley; 1906-1908, Foreign Office, London previously H.M. Agency, Tokyo. Became British Ambassador to Japan 1931-1934 (5) Vice-Admiral Baron M. Saito; 1906 - 1914, Minister of the Navy (6) Captain G. Marescaux; 1903 Captain then rear-Admiral 1913 (7) Admiral Viscount R. Inouye; 1907 Viscount, previously 1905 Naval Councilor, 1911 Marshal Admiral (9) General Count H. Oku; 1907 Count then Field Marshal 1911 (10) Vice-Admiral Honourable Sir Hedworth-Lambton; 1907 Vice-Admiral, 1908 Commander-in-Chief of the China Station up to 1910 (11) Admiral Count Togo; 1905-1909 Chief of the Naval Staff (12) Captain C. Dundas of Dundas; 1908-1910 Naval Intelligence, Royal Naval Attaché to Japan and China (13) Admiral of the Fleet Count Y. Ito; 1907 Count, previously Head, Naval General Staff, note (top) the Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum and (bottom) the Order of the Golden Kite (1st class) both awarded in 1907 (15) Admiral Count G. Yamamoto; 1907 Count, previously Minister of the Navy, 1913 Prime Minister (16) Commander C. Fuller; 1903 Commander then Captain in 1910, author of report on Kure, Japan 1896 (17) Vice-Admiral Baron H. Kamimura; 1903 Vice-Admiral, 1907 Baron, 1909 in command of I.J.N. 1st Fleet, 1910 Admiral (18) Flag Commander D. Norris; 1908 Flag Commander to Commander-in-Chief, China Station

27.4cm x 21.3cm Silver print


Catalogue number 90F8

Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy Officers, circa 1908

Names and ranks of Royal Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy Officers, circa 1908.

28cm x 21.8cm Printed document


Catalogue number 113061

Decorated Japanese sailor

This Japanese sailor is photographed with medals awarded after the Russo-Japanese War. On his left chest and going from left to right, a tentative identification is the Red Cross membership medal, Russo-Japanese War Medal (1904-1905) and Order of the Sacred Treasure. On the right chest is an unidentified Japanese Navy medal, it has a bar clasp above a blue ribbon and a shield-like medal with an anchor center. The Japanese Red Cross Society began in 1887 and at the start of the Russo-Japanese War, it was the largest in the world with over one million members. Active support by the Imperial family contributed to the attraction of the Society. The order of the Sacred Treasure was awarded to those who had served the state.

8.2cm x 7.2cm Blue cyanotype print


Catalogue number 126018

Japanese Navy Petty Officer

A more recent photograph of a Japanese Petty Officer shows him wearing, from his left to right, the China Incident medal of 1937-45 and the Imperial Japan Order of the Rising Sun, 8th class. The China Incident medal was awarded for service in China from 1937 to 1945. The Rising Sun medal was awarded for exemplary military service. It may be a good service stripe on his upper right sleeve.

11.1cm x 14.7cm Silver print


Catalogue number 121007

Prince Fushimi visits Great Britain, 28th October 1918

The Great War is over and the Japanese ally meets with British Army and Navy officers. Prince Fushimi is met at the dockside and shakes hands with a Royal Navy officer. Prince Arthur of Connaught (standing to the right of Fushimi) is present. Prince Fushimi is wearing the Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon. Far right is Admiral Sir Hugh Evan-Thomas.

Verso: "British Official Naval Photograph. Prince Fushimi's arrival. Prince Arthur of Connaught introduces principal officers to Prince Fushimi. Passed for transmission abroad"

Credit: British Official" Crown Copyright Reserved

19.5cm x 14.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119040

Admiral Beatty and Prince Fushimi on H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, 1918

Prince Fushimi visited the Grand Fleet in 1918 and was received on board H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth by Admiral Beatty along with Royal Navy and Army officers. From left to right, we have Admiral Beatty, Prince Fushimi, Prince Arthur of Connaught, Admiral Sir Hugh Evan-Thomas, Admiral Rodman U.S.N., Admiral Sir Charles Madden, Admiral de Robeck, an unidentified Army officer and Admiral Sturdee. During the visit, Beatty was invested with the Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon and Fushimi received the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. This explains why Fushimi was not wearing his Rising Sun decoration. Other officers received decorations on the same occasion. Note the body language of Beatty, Fushimi and Evan-Thomas. It is said that clasped hands are a sign of anxiety and stress.

Verso: "Naval Official Photographs. Japanese Prince visits the Fleet. Commander-in-Chief and Prince Fushimi on quarter deck of H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth"

19.1cm x 13.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 107049

Encounter between the Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army

This Royal Navy Commander and the Japanese officer shake hands in the rain. From the cars in the background, the photograph appears to have been taken in the 1930s. The officers are all smiles but not for long, the old friends were on their way to become new enemies.

8.1cm x 5.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 107050

Encounter between the Royal Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army

As the officers meet, the Japanese soldiers have their greatcoats on whilst the valiant British sailors get thoroughly soaked by the monsoon rain! The sailors parade with rifles and bayonets whereas the Japanese soldiers do not have rifles. This suggests that the parade is taking place on a British outpost in Asia, foreign troops would not parade with arms on British territory.

8.1cm x 5.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 66046

The French sloop Altair in Aomori, Japan, 1929

The Altair was a Flower class sloop built in Glasgow, 1916 for the French Navy. From 1920, she was based in the Far East, often at Saigon. In this series of photographs we see the officers meeting with the local dignitaries of Aomori, a port on the northern tip of Honshu island. Note the inquisitive children in the left background.

Verso: "The officers of Altair at a presentation in Aomori Japan 1929" in French and in black ink

7.9cm x 5.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 66047

The French sloop Altair in Aomori, Japan, 1929

The officers and men were given a demonstration of martial arts including judo and kendo.

Verso: "Souvenir of wrestlers in Aomori Japan 1929" in French and in black ink

9.3cm x 6.2cm negative


Catalogue number 66048

The French sloop Altair in Aomori, Japan, 1929

It looks as if the judo wrestler is inviting a sailor to come forward for a match. Note the boy far right looking at the photographer.

Verso: "Souvenir of an invitation at Aomori Japan 1929" in French and in black ink

9.3cm x 6.2cm negative


Catalogue number 110088

Japanese officer and sailors

Fearing contageous diseases, these Japanese officers and sailors are wearing face masks as they march through Shanghai, probably during the 1932 crisis. The Japanese Navy had been allocated the protection of Japanese nationals in that area. Note the two Chinese civilians on the pavement far right. This photograph was part of a series of photographs taken of American navy officers and men in Shanghai.

13.3cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 122094

Japanese officer with the Royal Naval Air Service

From the beginning, the Japanese navy maintained an interest in aircraft working with ships and turned to Britain (as well as France and the United States of America) for help in the acquisition of suitable aircraft as well as training in the techniques of naval aviation. Some time between 1916 and 1920, a Japanese naval officer, Lieutenant Commander/Lieutenant Captain Tadashi Kaneko (sources vary), was on board H.M.S. Furious to observe flying operations. Lieutenant Commander Tosu Tamali also spent time from 1916 to 1917 as an observer of the British fleet. Here we can see an experienced (see medal ribbons) Japanese officer (front row, sitting, third from the right) along with officers and men of the Royal Navy and an officer of the Royal Marines (front row, sitting, first left). The three midshipmen sitting on deck have their "wings" badge on both sleeves, the one in the center seems to be very young. The group are photographed on the deck of what appears to be an aircraft carrier (Furious?) with an arrestor wire in the foreground.

12.8cm x 7.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 115060

Life on board, sumo wrestling

Sumo wrestling was a major pastime for the men at sea.

13.2cm x 8.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 115061

Life on board, ship's hairdressers

These sailors are getting a very "short back and sides"! The event has drawn a group of spectators.

13.2cm x 8.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 115063

Life on board, liberty men going ashore

A chance to get a run ashore for these liberty men.

13.2cm x 8.1cm Printed image


Catalogue number 71069

Life on board, washing down the deck

No holystone here but sweeping and washing down the deck on this Japanese warship.

15.1cm x 11.1cm Silver print


Catalogue number 71070

Life on board, washing down the deck

Here the sailors have holystone to hone down and whiten the wooden deck.

15cm x 10.7cm Gelatin silver print


Part Three: The transition to Japanese-built warships

Capital ships laid down after 1902

Catalogue number 71091

The last foreign-built battleships, Kashima and Katori

The two Kashima class battleships were laid down in 1904 at Armstrong's (Kashima) and Vickers (Katori). From then on and apart from the battlecruiser Kongo (see below), Japan built her own battleships although initially, they used much imported materials and equipment. They were to an improved design (heavier secondary armament of 10-inch guns, more 6-inch guns) of the King Edward VII class carrying a main armament of two twin 12-inch guns fore and after.

Credit: Marius Bar

13.3cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 38035

Launching of Katori, 1905

Chains fly as wood floats away and the cradles race down the slipway into the sea at Barrow-in-Furness.

Verso: "Launching of the battleship "Katori" of the Japanese Navy 17000 HP 20 Niclausse boilers" in French and in heavy pencil

27.1cm x 20.6cm Silver print of a printed image


Catalogue number 102084

Launching of Katori

Katori was launched by Princess Arisugawa in the presence of her husband, cousin to the Japanese Emperor. He had made his career as an officer in the Imperial Japanese Navy. S.S. Keemun was a Blue Line passenger and cargo ship operating, at some time, between the Pacific coast and Asia. Dodwell Ltd. was a London-based shipping agent but had its origins in China and Japan in the mid-19th century. The company, agent for the S.S. Keemun, had a branch in Tacoma to where this postcard was addressed. So we can see a link between the launching of this warship in Britain, Japan and the postcard to Mr Scott on a Dodwell-agent ship. Note the ram bow and the traditional garland hanging from the bow.

Recto: "Japanese Warship "Katori" Launched at Barrow. July 4 1905" in black ink

Verso: Postcard adressed to "Mr John Scott, 2nd. Engineer S.S. "Keemun" c/o Dodwell Ltd. Tacoma U.S.A." in black ink

9.5cm x 7.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 95040

Katori at the Vickers fitting-out bassin, 1906

The hammerhead crane at Vickers fitting-out bassin dominates the Japanese battleship at Vickers shipyard. Katori has yet to receive her main armament.

Recto: "10-2-06 The two ships at present under construction here. To the left the Japanese battleship "Katori" under the crane. To the right the English (sic) cruiser "Natal" with its guns. Best regards" in French and in black ink. "HIJMS Katori HMS Natal" in white letters

Verso: Postcard franked Barrow-in-Furness 10th February 1906 and sent to an address in Paris

8.8 cm 14cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 123024

Katori under tow at Birkenhead, 1906

This photograph shows the completed Katori under tow at Birkenhead for hull cleaning in anticipation of sea trials on the Clyde. On leaving Barrow the ship arrived off Woodside Landing Stage in Birkenhead on 12th April under tow from the steam tug Blazer.

Verso: Postcard franked "Rock Ferry Birkenhead 14th April 1906" and sent to "Madame Isaac Roberts, Chateau Rosa Bonheur" with the text "With kind wishes and Easter greetings from Phalib (?). Madame Roberts, born Dorothea Klumpe, was one of five sisters who inherited from the artist Rosa Bonheur. She was a renown astronomer and married Isaac Roberts in 1901.

13.8cm x 9.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 17033

Katori underway in British waters

In this view, we can see the two starboard single 10-inch gun turrets of the secondary armament. The 6-inch guns do not seem to be mounted yet.

Verso: "Post card British Made"

13.3cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104052

Battlecruiser Kongo

Kongo was designed and constructed in the Vickers shipyard (laid down 1911 and completed 1913) and was truely the last Japanese capital ship built by a foreign shipyard although much material for three Japanese-built Kongo class came from Vickers (e.g. 31% for Haruna). She was one of four Kongo class battlecruisers armed with 14-inch guns. All four ships were extensively rebuilt in the 1930s. Kongo is not showing any flag so maybe this photograph was taken during speed trials.

12.9cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80193

Battleships from the main Navy yards, Aki

Laid down in Japan but 50% of the material came from abroad, for example Aki was fitted with Curtis turbines from the Fore River Yard in the U.S.A.

Credit: Possibly from Jane's Fighting Ships

10.8cm x 6.2cm Photo negative of printed image


Catalogue number 80194

Settsu and Kawachi, an improved Aki design

Settsu, laid down 1909 and completed 1912, was one of two heavily-gunned battleships from the Kure and Yokosuka naval yards. They carried four 12-inch, 50 calibre guns in twin turrets fore and aft as well as eight 12-inch, 45 calibre guns in twin turrets port and starboard. Note the clipper bow.

Credit: Possibly from Jane's Fighting Ships

11.3 x 7.6cm Photo negative of printed image


Catalogue number 80196

The heavily-armed Kawachi, twelve 12-inch guns

Built in naval shipyards, these two ships had Brown-Curtis turbines of American design constructed under licence by Kawasaki and only about 20% of material came from abroad. The idea behind the reduced calibre broadside 12-inch guns was to reduce blast and enable them to be positioned closer together. In practice, these guns had a reduced range and blast was still a problem.

Credit: Possibly from Jane's Fighting Ships

9.3 x 5.8cm Photo negative of printed image


Catalogue number 30048

Nagato as completed in 1920

After the Settsu class battleships, the Japanese battleship design adopted superimposed main armament (Fuso and Ise classes). The two Nagato class ships were laid down in 1917 (Nagato) and 1918 (Mutsu). They continued this design and introduced the heavy, six-legged foremast with a central column, said to give better stability for the various directors, lookout platforms and searchlights as well as resisting battle damage.

Verso: "Not to be scrapped. The latest Japanese battleship the "Nagato" just completed which the Japanese Navy Authorities have obtained permission from the Washington Conference to retain."

20.2cm x 15.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80195

Mutsu, pre-1923

Mutsu and Nagata were, along with U.S.S. Maryland, the first battleships to mount 16-inch guns. Note the heptapodal foremast with its central column, during reconstruction in 1936 numerous platforms were added to give the characteristic "pagoda" look.

Credit: Possibly from Jane's Fighting Ships

10.6cm x 6.4cm Photo negative of printed image


Catalogue number

Nagato or Mutsu pre-1921-1923.

This photograph is prior to the installation of a smokehood on the forefunnel (Nagato 1921 and Mutsu 1923) in an attempt to solve the problem of smoke and heat on the occupants of the foremast posts. Note the unusual opening in the hull at the stern. There was a certain irony in the Allies demand for Japan to scrap the newly-built Nagato and Mutsu at the Washington Conference when the U.S.A. was building ships of the same calibre. Such an attitude participated in the souring of Anglo-American Japanese relations during the inter-war years.

5cm x 4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 44258

Battleship Kaga completed as an aircraft carrier

Work on the battleship Kaga stopped in 1922 in accordance with the Washington Treaty but construction as a carrier took up again in 1925. This photograph shows the carrier at an intermediate stage during the 1934-1935 reconstruction. The trunked boiler uptakes running back to the stern have been replaced by a single downward curving funnel to starboard. However, the hangers and flight deck have not yet been extended forward.

Verso: "Aircraft carrier Kaga, Japan" in light pencil

12.6cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 61034

Tsukuba class battlecruisers

With a view to conducting warfare on commercial shipping, Japan built a number of fast and well-armed battlecruisers. The two Tsukuba class mounted four 12-inch guns in twin turrets fore and aft with a broadside of twelve 6-inch guns, they could reach 20.5 kts. In this photograph, the 12-inch guns seem almost too big for the hull. There is a steam pinnace alongside.

Verso: "Japanese" in French and in light pencil

Credit: Bougault

27.3cm x 9.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 17006

Washing day on Tsukuba

Hammocks and clothes are hung out to dry and yet the Japan flags are still flying. Once again, a smart steam pinnace is alongside.

Verso: "Tsukuba" in light pencil

15.2cm x 7.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 17006 detail

Steam pinnace from Tsukuba

Although built in the Kure Naval Yard, Japan, it is a very "Royal Navy" type of pinnace that is moored to the boom.

15.2cm x 7.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 92108

Tsukuba in the Mediterranean Sea

Construction of Tsukuba and her sister ship Ikoma were hampered by the lack of steel plate and rivets available in Japan and the builders had to import part of this material from the U.S.A. On completion in 1907, Tsukuba went to the U.S.A. and then visited several ports in Europe, here she is shown at anchor off the coast in the south of France. This ship was lost in a tragic magazine explosion (305 killed) in 1917. The cause of the explosion is unknown but was probably due to spontaneous ignition of cordite, the cause of the loss of several warships during the Great War including the Japanese battleship Kawachi (1918).

Credit: Bougault

13.5cm x 8.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80189


This photograph of a broadside view of the battlecruiser Okoma has been retouched to remove the washing hung out from the foremast. The 12-inch guns look impressive but this didn't stop Ikoma being broken up in 1924 in accordance with the Washington Treaty.

Verso: "31 July 1910 Dimanche Illustré" (editor's note: a weekly supplement to the newspaper Excelsior from 1923 to 1944)

10.7cm x 5cm Photo negative of printed image


Other warships laid down after 1902

Catalogue number 80409

Kuma class Light Cruiser Kitakami, Shanghai 1937

Kitakami was laid down in 1919 and had a long career, she is shown here in 1937 during the Shanghai incident. The 5.5-inch guns are ranged broadside ready for action and the Japanese crew are very interested in the French warship from which this photograph was taken. Note the improvised bullet and splinter protection as well as the profusion of voice tubes running from the bridge up the foremast and to aft.

Recto: "102. Bridge of "Kitakami" 25/4/37" in white text and in French

4.3cm x 5.4cm Cellulose negative


Catalogue number 123045

67 class torpedo boats

Here we have four of the 67 class torpedo boats. They had a bow torpdeo tube and two 3-pounder guns. This photograph may show the four boats that were built in France at the Normand Shipyard, dismantled, crated and transported to Japan to be reassembled. However, the foremost boat appears to be numered "67", a 67 class boat built in Japan based on a Yarrow design and launched 1902-03.


Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 80408 detail

Wakatake class destroyer Karukaya, Shanghai 1937

One of the eight Wakatake class destroyers laid down 1922-23. The layout was identical to Momi class destroyers of 1916 - three 4.7-inch guns, six 18-inch torpedo tubes. The high foredeck was influenced by the similar German destroyers of the time. In the background are Japanese gunboats all moored off Shanghai.

Recto: "103. Japanese torpedo boats (sic) moored off Shanghai. 25/8/37" in white text and in French

5.4cm x 4.3cm Cellulose negative


Catalogue number 126086

Japanese submarine, Chalon 1914

The French shipyard Schneider-Creusot, at Chalon-sur-Saône, built this long-range submarine for the Japanese Navy, it was launched in 1911. The design served as the basis for a pure Japanese submarine design. At the stern of the submarine is the special barge Porteur into which a vessel could be floated, water pumped out and then carried down to the sea.

Verso: Sent from Autun, a town near Chalon-sur-Saône, and is franked 1914

14cm x 8.8cm Printed image

Catalogue number 103095

Kaba Taisho

The destroyer Kaba Taisho was launched in 1915 as part of the Japanese War programme to rapidly build-up the destroyer fleet that was lacking. Five ships of this class were active in the Mediterranean Sea during the period 1917 to 1918 thus freeing up Royal Navy destroyers to go to the North Sea. Japanese shipyards built 12 Kaba class destroyers for the French Navy, called the Arabe class.

16.9cm x 5.7cm Stereo gelatin silver print