Triumphal Military Review of April 1906
- Date: 30 April 1906
The Triumphal Military Review of April 1906 was by no means the first formal military review conducted by the Meiji Emperor; such events were conducted numerous times beginning in 1872, and in one particularly grand event, some six months prior to that April, the Emperor had surveyed over two hundred warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy as they sat anchored in Tokyo Bay. Historian Takashi Fujitani argues, however, that the Triumphal Military Review of April 1906 is of particular significance in the development of national(istic) ceremony of the Meiji state, and in the development of a popular vision of the Emperor as associated with military strength, and as one who watches over the Empire in the sense of literally seeing, surveying, all within his domain.
The main plaza in front of the main gate and Nijûbashi at the Tokyo Imperial Palace was expanded in preparation for this event. The Babasakimon palace gate was torn down, and sections of the outer moats filled in, to expand the plaza and make it easier for both official processions, and paradegoers (members of the public) to move in and out of the plaza. New plaza entrances were constructed at Babasaki and Hibiya, and both were fitted with temporary but immense triumphal arches for the occasion. The two were 18.5 and 15 meters high, respectively, and were lit with electric lights for six days, beginning on April 30.
The Palace Plaza was filled with tens of thousands of weapons captured in the Russo-Japanese War, which had ended in Japanese victory the previous year. Items on display included some 70,000 rifles, hundreds of field artillery and garrison artillery, over one thousand swords, and two thousand wagons.
On the morning of April 30, the Emperor traveled in an open, gold and scarlet, carriage from Nijûbashi, through the Palace Plaza, and through the triumphal arch at Babasaki, passing by huge crowds gathered along the sides of the streets as he made his way to the Aoyama Military Parade Field. There, over 30,000 troops were arranged in three long rows to be reviewed. The Emperor, still in his carriage, moved up and down the rows, followed by Prince Uihwa of the Korean Empire, Japanese Imperial Prince Fushimi Sadanaru, and other members of the Imperial family. Prince Uihwa was described as a formal representative of Japan's "intimate neighboring Protectorate." Japanese senior staff members on horseback were accompanied or followed by Colonel CV Hume; that the British military attaché was present and treated as roughly equal status with the senior Japanese officers was a product of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, concluded in 1902.
Following this inspection, the Emperor and the various princes and officers accompanying him took up a position, and watched as the troops marched past. The Emperor then handed Field Marshal Ôyama Iwao an Imperial Rescript expressing imperial approval and pleasure at the martial spirit and discipline of the troops. Roughly 50,000 people watched from grandstands set up around the field, including some 10,000 students, and a number of foreign diplomats, along with several hundred other Westerners.
The Emperor returned to the palace passing through the triumphal arch at the Hibiya Gate. Meanwhile, however, it took the better part of six hours for the troops to march in a formal parade from Aoyama to and through the Palace Plaza, entering via Wadakura and exiting at Hibiya before disbanding. This unprecedented military parade through the city provided an extensive spectacle for the public to view. After it was over, around 7pm, the weapons display in the Palace Plaza was made open to the public, to come in and see.
A series of rites were then held for the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine over the course of the next several days, extending the events connected to the victory over Russia further.
- Takashi Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy, University of California Press (1996), 132-137.
- Including twenty-two times at Aoyama, conducted either on Army Commencement Day (rikugun hajime) in January, or the Emperor's Birthday (Nov 3) each year.
- The first formal naval inspection performed by the emperor took place in 1868, at what is now Tenpôzan Park in Osaka. Sue Henny and Jean-Pierre Lehmann, Themes and Theories in Modern Japanese History: Essays in Memory of Richard Storry, A&C Black (2013), 172.
- Dangerous bottlenecks had formed at the Babasakimon and Sakuradamon during celebrations in 1889 and 1895, leading to the death of at least one member of the public during the latter event.
- Fujitani, 136.