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Old 07-22-2009, 02:36 PM
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Default Japanese uniforms

Looking at modern Tokyo, it seems quite unbelievable that little more than a century ago, when Commodore Perry "opened the door" to the United States and the West, Japan was a secluded mediaeval society. When Townsend Harris, America's first consul, followed in Perry's footsteps a couple of years later, he had no trouble in recruiting a bodyguard; Japan was full of unemployed samurai. Twenty years later, the last feudal samurai made a final stand against the new Emperor under the warrior Saigo Takamori, but they proved no match for the new Imperial army of conscripted peasants, officered by their ex-colleagues, now clad in very un-feudal uniforms of French style. As late as the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, prominent Japanese commanders could date their earliest military experience to the civil wars of the 1860s, in which they had worn armour. By the last decades of the century, while Gilbert and Sullivan were setting their Mikado in a quaint Japanese fantasy land, the real Japanese, terrified at the prospect of winding up, like India, as a moribund empire under the thumb of the West, were hauling themselves desperately into the modern world, and Tokyo had become a city of cloth caps and trilbies. In 1894, in a squabble over Korea, the Japanese army and navy walked over their Chinese rivals, and ten years later won convincingly a war to check Russian influence in the East. At the battle of Mukden the Japanese staff controlled a front of a quarter of a million men, and directed a successful frontal assault on apparently impregnable fortifications - no mean feat for an army that had never known the flintlock, but had leapt from the age of the matchlock into that of the repeating rifle. Many of the samurai skills and much of the samurai code were swept away in the transition, but some things remained - unquestioning self­sacrifice and religious bravery, contempt for the vanquished and formalised brutality. Harnessed to a fierce nationalism, such qualities made formidable the rising Japanese militarism of the 1930s.
Japan may have won her early wars, but the European powers, and Germany in particular, found ways to prevent her from enjoying some of her gains. In revenge, Japan lost no time in 1914 in declaring war against Germany in alliance with Britain, but without going so far as to send troops to the Western front. Instead, Japan took the opportunity to rid the East of German influence, and began by besieging the "German Gibraltar" of Tsingtao, on the Chinese coast. The drawings show the service dress of the infantry of this period, and some of the many variations, mostly made necessary by the forbidding Chinese climate. Japanese uniforms had remained virtually unaltered since their inception, but the experience of war in 1904 led to the adoption of a more neutral colour, in advance of some European armies, and by 1914 the khaki service dress shown in the first plate was in general use. The tunic had a standing collar, five buttons (dull for other ranks, gilt for officers), slashed breast pockets with pointed and buttoned flaps, and vents each side on the side seams. Trousers were matching.
The khaki peaked cap was similar to British and American types; the peak and strap were brown leather, the seam round the crown was piped scarlet, and the band was scarlet with a brass five-pointed star (gilt for officers) usually worn with one point up, but sometimes seen inverted. The round cuffs of the tunic were also edged scarlet. Other ranks and subaltern officers wore khaki puttees and brown ankle boots. while field officers wore riding boots (Figs 1, 2). On the collar was worn an unusual ,swallow-tailed' patch, now exactly sym­metrical in shape, in the arm of service colour, red for infantry (Fig 8). Collar patches for cavalry were green, and for artillery yellow, the same basic uniform being otherwise worn. Brass unit numbers were worn on this (gilt for sergeants and officers). Rank was indicated on scarlet shoulder bars by a system of stars, brass or gilt as appropriate, and gold braid (Fig 7): plain bars with one to three stripes for Second and First Class Privates and Cor­porals respectively; one gold stripe with one to three stars for Sergeants, Staff Sergeants and Sergeant-Majors; one gold stripe with gold edges with no stars for Warrant officers and with one to three stars for subaltern officers; two gold stripes with gold edges with one to three stars for field officers.
Officers' uniforms (Fig 1 ) were, predictably, of superior material. The cap was perhaps a little stiffer and straighter in the crown and the tunic a little longer in the skirts, than those of the men. Though skirts were generally plain, some photos appa­rentlv show them with patch pockets with straight flaps. Waist belts were brown leather with a frame buckle, supporting a single strap to the white metal sword scabbard, which had only a single ring. Swords were of native pattern, but with a European style guard. A pistol might also be carried in a holster, and often a canteen and binoculars in a case, both worn on straps over the shoulders.
Infantry equipment (Figs 2, 3) had altered little for some years, and much of it would still be in use in the Second World War. On the waist belt were two brown leather pouches. The lids were attached with switching or rivets on the outside, and were secured by a strap passing from end to end through a loop over the top, and slotting over a stud on each end. On one pattern, less frequently seen, the slotted ends of this strap were simply attached, rather more sensibly, directly to the lid. The brown leather supporting straps that hooked on at the waist belt, somewhat towards the inside end of each pouch, were not designed to take the weight of the pouches, but rather that of the knapsack, also held at the base by straps passing under the armpits; if the knapsack was not worn, the waist belt alone took the weight of the pouches. At the rear was carried a third, reserve pouch, a little larger, and hinged on the inside, with a wide strap passing over the top, down the outside and under a loop to slot on to a stud. The knapsack was usually of khaki canvas, with straps holding the rolls at top and sides, and one long strap down the centre securing the flap. Also strapped on were a ration tin, kidney­shaped with a lid and wire handle, appa­rently painted brown or khaki, and an entrenching tool with a wooden handle, carried in a khaki cloth cover that fitted over the head.
On the right hip, strapped over the left shoulder, were worn the haversack and canteen. The haversack was of a shade of khaki cloth, rounded at the bottom, with a large flap that fastened with two straps underneath near the corners. The strap was adjusted with a fairly narrow frame buckle. The metal canteen, flat at the base, was hung on a strap of brown leather or khaki fabric, with a frame buckle. The standard shoulder arm was the Arisaka rifle, M1905 6.5mm, or sometimes M1899 7.7mm. Buckled into a leather frog on the left hip was the sword bayonet, with a wooden hilt and steel guard with one curved arm, in a steel scabbard.
Still a little in evidence in 1914, judging by photos and contemporary illustrations, was the old dark blue uniform (Fig 4). The general appearance was similar, though the tunic was cut a little shorter in the skirts. It is generally shown without pockets, but some photos show slash or patch pockets on the breast. Collar, shoulder straps and trouser stripes were red, though the infan­try facing colour had been yellow, as worn on the cap band, cap piping and cuff rank stripes. The dark blue kepi had a much narrower crown; indeed, some earlier examples were virtually cylindrical, though others were a little closer to the khaki cap. The peak and strap were black leather, and the peak was set a little steeper, and was more rounded and narrower, the ends set well in from the strap buttons. Equipment was worn in black leather with this uniform, and the trousers were worn with white gaiters, knee length with buttons and buckles at the top and under the instep. Fig 5 shows the outside of the gaiter and Fig 6 shows the alternative arrangement of the shoulder straps.
The second plate shows the appearance of the Japanese infantryman on campaign. Winter clothing was a necessity, and Fig 9 shows the greatcoat as worn by officers, of khaki cloth, double-breasted with a full collar and slanted slash pockets with straight flaps with rounded corners. The two rows of yellow buttons converged towards the waist. The collar shown here is fur-lined, apparently with white sheepskin. The tab hanging at the left either closes this at the throat, or perhaps belongs to an attachable hood under the collar. Sub­alterns wore one stripe of brown braid round the cuff, and field officers two, with stars as on the rank shoulder bars side by side below; the figure shown here is presumably a warrant officer. Sleeves were cut long to protect the hands, with the cuffs not usually turned up. The men wore a single-breasted version, with hood and tab, shown here worn under the raincoat in Fig 14.
The first khaki uniform to have been adopted was a linen fatigue dress, first worn in 1904, and still used later (Figs 10,11). In a paler shade, this was cut a little shorter than the cloth khaki tunic, had breast patch pockets, with or without flaps, and closed with hooks or ties rather than buttons. Matching trousers were worn, originally with the white gaiters, but by 1914 with khaki puttees. In cold weather this dress could be worn over a cloth uniform.
Figs 10 to 13 show the Japanese version of the "havelock", or protective sunshade, more familiar as part of the Second World War field cap, but worn from an early date, and here attached to a cap cover worn with the linen uniform. This shade was made in four strips, and the cover left bare the cap band, presumably in order to identify the facing colour. When not wanted, the strips could be thrown over the top or tucked under (Figs 12, 13).
Subaltern officers in marching order wore knapsack and blanket roll, but the officer shown in Fig 10 has substituted the more convenient canvas holdall, which strapped shut, and was slung on a broad strap over the shoulder, tied at the front as shown in Fig 14. This was often seen in the field, with the roll over the other shoulder. He also carries, perhaps unusually for this period, a traditional sword, giving, together with the sunflaps and full trousers, rather a native style to the figure.
A number of other garments were issued for bad weather. Figs 14 to 16 show the raincoat, made in waterproof canvas of a pale khaki or mustard yellow shade, and usually with a fall collar, fly front and patch pockets, cut very full with no vent. The hood and tab in Fig 14 belong to the greatcoat worn underneath, but Fig 15 shows a stretcher bearer in a version with a hood and tab, and also with buttons. When skirts impeded movement they could be tucked into the waistbelt as here, or fastened together behind, perhaps with a button and hole on the front bottom corners - the writer is not sure on this. The general effect is, again, rather traditional (Fig 16).
Also seen was a sheepskin jerkin (Fig 17), cut sleeveless, with seams along the shoul­ders and down the sides, and with the fur worn inside but showing at the edges. The version shown here has a sort of turned down collar. The fur-lined coat shown in Fig 18 was made of pale khaki sailcloth, double-breasted, with four ties (later versions had buttons). There were a number of other items in use, such as balaclava helmets, fur mittens and fur-lined felt gaiters, but the writer does not have enough knowledge of these to attempt to show them.
Much of this equipment and clothing was worn almost unaltered until 1945; in fact only a new pattern tunic, the steel helmet and the famous field cap were needed to transform the infantryman of 1914 into that of 1940.
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