Shimane Declares Takeshima Day as February 22nd – Japan Adds Insult to Injury
The following page describes the Japanese Government’s more recent attempts to gain sovereignty over Korea’s Dokdo Island. These rocks located between Japan and Korea are sometimes called Liancourt Rocks or Takeshima. On March 16, 2005, in Matsue, western Japan Shimane prefectural assembly members rose as they voted on the passage of a bill designating February 22 as ‘Takeshima Day’. This was despite Japan’s central government’s efforts to make Shimane Prefecture to give up plans to pass the legislation.
The text of the ordinance translated by Kyodo News read as follows:
“…Takeshima Day shall be instituted in order to promote a movement by the citizens of the prefecture, its cities, towns and villages united as one aimed at establishment of territorial rights on Takeshima (Dokdo) at an early date and at enlightening the opinions of the nation with respect to the issue of Takeshima. The prefecture shall strive to implement measures and policies necessary to promote undertakings befitting the purposes and objectives of Takeshima Day…”
Above Left: On March 16th 2005, Shimane’s cabinet rises as “Takeshima Day” is declared February 22nd.. This was the 100th anniversary of Japan’s annexation of Liancourt Rocks. (Dokdo) Right Above: A Korean newspaper cartoon depicts Shimane’s cabinet as colonial era Japanese soldiers. Japan “incorporated” Takeshima (Dokdo) during the Russo-Japanese War 1904~1905, while Japan was in the process of colonizing Korea.
Why are the Koreans Outraged About “Takeshima Day”?
Koreans immediately reacted with outrage to the declaration and a firestorm of demonstrations took place immediately thereafter. Why did the Koreans become so enraged when Japan’s celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Shimane Prefecture’s incorporation of Takeshima? Why do Koreans continually draw parallels between Japanese colonialism and Takeshima Day?
The following page highlights historical milestones in the days immediately before and after February 22nd 1905, Shimane’s beloved Takeshima Day. Is Takeshima Day, February 22nd, 1905 a day that should be celebrated…?
In the picture to the right, Korean protesters angrily vent their frustration towards Japan’s goverment for what they see as whitewashing Japan’s militaristic past and attempting to encroach onto Korean territory. A detailed study of the circumstances surrounding Japan’s 1905 “incorporation” of Dokdo Island explains Korea’s anger and resentment toward Japan.
January 2nd 1905 – Port Arthur (Lushun) is Captured by Japan’s Second Army
About three weeks before Japan’s cabinet decided to “incorporate” Takeshima, the Japanese Second Army captured Port Arthur and ousted the Russian Pacific Naval Fleet and Army. The Siege of Port Arthur (Japanese: Ryojun Koisen), 1 August 1904 – 2 January 1905, the deep-water port and Russian naval base at the tip of the Liaotung Peninsula in Manchuria, was the longest and most vicious land battle of the Russo-Japanese War.
During the first year of the Russo-Japanese War, Japanese troops landed in Korea and Manchuria and began pushing the Russians back towards their base at Port Arthur. Located on the Liaodong Peninsula, Port Arthur was Russia’s sole warm water port in the Pacific .
The campaign saw the introduction of many weapons that would shape the modern battlefield such as the machine gun, barbed wire, rapid-firing howitzers, bolt-action magazine rifles, and mines. Japanese troops began building trenches and digging tunnels under the Russian lines. To bombard the city, large 11-inch Krupp howitzers were brought in which fired 500-lb. shells. Slowly advancing, Japanese troops took the Waterworks Redoubt on September 19, and launched a major attack against Temple Redoubt and 203 Meter Hill.
As 203 Meter Hill became the new focus of the battle, the attack continued for the next nine days until the Japanese finally overran the Russian positions. The capture of the hill proved critical as Nogi shifted some of his 11-inch Krupps to its summit. From this position, they were able to hit and sink the Russian warships in the harbor. On the night of 2 January 1905, after Port Arthur surrendered.
The Siege of Port Arthur cost the Japanese 57,780 killed, wounded, and missing. The Russians lost 31,306 killed, wounded, and missing. The remaining 23,491 Russian troops were taken into captivity, while their 868 officers were given the choice of joining their men or accepting a parole. To the left above, A map of the Korean peninsula and area during the Russia Japanese War. Important battles are shown, such as Porth Arthur’s Fall (January 2nd 1905) The Battle of Mukden (February 20th 1905) and the Battle of Tsushima (May 27th 1905)
Above left: After the fall of of Port Arthur, January 2nd, a soldier sits atop mountains of spent cartridge cases. Above right: Russian soldiers stare solemnly at the rotting corpses of their fallen comrades. (click picture for larger image)
Seppings Wright’s book “With Togo” published after the war described the destruction in Port Arthur very vividly.
“…At the gates of Port Arthur the Russians had built barricades of felled trees and wire entanglements in a last-minute attempt to stop the Japanese, and these were covered with dead soldiers, still clutching swords in their hands…”Great clouds of smoke rose from 203 Meter Hill where the dead were being burned. ..”
“…Every inch of the ground had been ploughed by the projectiles, rocks were ground to powder. The trenches on the side could scarcely be traced for they were filled to the level of the ground with Russian corpses, burnt beyond recognition. Such a terrible sight I had never looked upon. Everywhere scorched faces with hideous death grins looked up at us with unseeing eyes from the awful debris…”
The Japanese wood block artists’ renderings found to the right, belie the gruesome reality of this era’s “modern” trench warfare shown in the photos of this page.
The first Japanese print celebrates the Fall of Port Arthur (top) The bottom print commemorates the Battle of Nanshan. Japanese Lieutenant Shibakawa Matasaburo raises the rising sun war fan while cutting down a russian soldier. (click pictures for larger image)
January 1st 1905 – Japan’s Imperial Navy Zones the Sea of Japan.
How did the fall of Port Arthur relate to Dokdo – Takeshima?
Japanese military records from the Russo~Japan War show that as Port Arthur fell, a plan was quickly implemented to posture for the Russian Baltic Fleet dispatched to help the now captured city. The Japanese knew the Russian Navy now had to steam through the Tsushima Straits their only logical path to Vladivostok. As a result, the Sea of Japan was precisely zoned and regiments of the Japanese Imperial Navy assigned to each area.
Of course, the waters surrounding Ulleungdo and Dokdo were incorporated into this plan. On January 1st 1905 maps were submitted showing the waters of the Sea of Japan zoned in preparation of the impending battle. At this point the Russians were steaming around Madagascar.
The map above is an original Japanese Imperial Navy map of the East Sea (Sea of Japan) It is dated the 38th year of Meiji January 1st (1905). The map is tilted showing South~North as left~right respectively. It has been labeled in English for reference. This chart shows how the Japanese Imperial Navy mapped, zoned and then assigned certain naval regiments to each area of the Sea of Japan to engage Russia’s Baltic Fleet. (click map for larger image)
January 5th 1905 – Japan’s Imperial Navy Construction Plans For Military Facilities on Dokdo
Japan’s Imperial Navy’s Plans for Dokdo Expose the Aggressive Nature of her “Incorporation.”
Japan’s plan also included building watchtowers on Takeshima (Dokdo) and linking them with telegraph systems already (illegally) built on Korean soil. On January 5th 1905 Captain Yamanaka Shibakichi of the warship Tsushima submitted the results of his topographical survey of Takeshima to determine the feasability of constucting military facilities on the islets. He confirmed it was difficult, but possible to build on Takeshima’s East islet. This can be seen on Captain Saedo Taketaeru’s Report and Deputy Commander Yamanaka’s map below.
Above left and center: These pages are Japanese Imperial Warship Tsushima’s Captain Saedo Taketaeru’s report for constructing military watchtowers and a telegraph station on Takeshima (Dokdo) Island. Above right: Vice Commander Yamanaka Shibakichi’s map. This data was gathered from the November 20th 1904 survey by the warship Tsushima. These activities were undertaken before Japan’s incorporation and thus prove Japan’s motives for incorporation were not peaceful. (click pictures for larger image)
February 20th 1905 -The Battle of Mukden (Shenyang) Begins
Two days before Japan incorporated Takeshima,The Battle of Mukden (Japanese: Hoten Kaisen), the last major land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, started. It was fought from 20 February to 10 March 1905 between Japan and Russia near Mukden in Manchuria. The city is now called Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province in China. The Russian forces consisted of 275,000 infantrymen, 16,000 cavalry, and 1,219 artillery pieces were under General Alexei Nikolajevich Kuropatkin. The Imperial Japanese Army forces consisted of 200,000 infantrymen, 7,350 cavalry, and 992 artillery pieces, were led by Field-Marshal Prince Oyama Iwao. (see battle map)
Above left: Russian soldiers pose beside a trench filled with the corpses of Japanese soldiers. Above right: Japanese infantrymen take a pause in the battle near Liaoyang, (South of Mukden) to build a funeral pyre preparatory to burning their dead. (click pictures for larger image)
Above left: March 11th 1905, Japanese soldiers march into Mukden through its massive gates as Russian forces fell back in disarray to the mountains in the north. Above right: This painting depicts Japanese soldiers beheading Chinese citizens suspected of Russian sympathies near Mukden (Shenyang) from Le Petit Journal, Paris, 23 April 1905. These incidents were reported by foreign war correspondents. (click pics)
Russian General Kuropatkin had lost one third of his armies in battle. More than 20,000 had been killed or were missing in action, apart from the 20,000 left behind in Japanese hands. The wounded numbered more than 49,000. The Japanese casualties reflected the ferocity of the action. Japanese Field Marshall Oyama lost 15, 892 officers and men killed and 59,612 wounded or more than a quarter of the forces commited to battle.
February 22nd, 1905 – Japan Annexes Dokdo – Takeshima
As 500,000 soldiers, Russian and Japanese gave battle in the blood-soaked trenches of Mukden, a tiny unihabited rock was “incorporated” by Shimane Prefecture. There was no mention of Takeshima (Dokdo’s) real name (Liancourt Rocks) in Shimane’s announcement. (see link) The Japanese government did not announce the Cabinet decision in the official gazette, nor make a public announcement at the central government level. The document shows was stamped as for “internal circulation” and not distributed to the general population. As a result, even the Japanese public themselves were not aware of the incorporation until long after 1905.
Due to the harsh conditions on the Sea of Japan, the Imperial Navy couldn’t build their planned watchtower on Takeshima until spring. This would change however after the Japanese Navy would decimate the Baltic Fleet in what would be known as the “Tsushima Massacre” (see link)
Above left: This image is the document “announcing” Japan’s annexation of Dokdo Island. It was an internal document not a public declartion. Above center and right: Japan’s only public announcement was a tiny ad on the second page of a local Japanese language newspaper. No mention is made of the island’s then real names, Dokdo, Liancourt Rocks or Matsushima.
May 27th, 1905 The Infamous ‘Battle of Tsushima’ and Dokdo Island
Three months after Japan siezed Takeshima the Japanese Imperial Navy engaged and destroyed Russia’s Baltic Fleet in the waters surrounding Ulleungdo and Dokdo. The Battle of Tsushima was also known as the “Tsushima Massacre” it was the last and most decisive sea battle of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905.
It was fought on May 27-28, 1905 in the Tsushima Strait. In this battle the Japanese fleet under Admiral Heihachiro Togo destroyed two-thirds of the Russian fleet under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky. Historian Edmund Morris calls it “…The greatest naval battle since Trafalgar…” It was also the largest naval engagement to the day.
The Battle of Tsushima was the only sea battle in history in which steel battleships fought a decisive fleet action. In addition, much to the Russian Navy’s credit, Admiral Rozhestvensky’s battleship fleet conducted a voyage of over 18,000 nautical miles (33 000 km) to reach their Far Eastern station. Nicknamed the ‘Voyage of the Damed, The map above right shows the 18,000 nautical mile journey of Russia’s Baltic Fleet. They were originally sent to aid besieged Port Arthur (Lushun) While the Russians slogged through the sweltering waters of the tropics, Japanese Admiral Togo prepared for the impending battle at the occupied port city of Chinae, South Korea.
Admiral Rozhestvensky was knocked out of action by a shell fragment in his skull. The Russian fleet lost the battleships Knyaz Suvorov, Oslyabya, Imperator Aleksander III and Borodino on May 27. Japanese ships only suffered light damage, mostly to Mikasa. In the evening, Rear Admiral Nebogatov took the command on the Russian side. The Japanese had a large technical supremacy in terms of ordnance. The Russians were using armor-piercing rounds whereas the Japanese were high explosive rounds. (see battle map)
Above left:Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky’s flag battleship Knyaz Suvorov takes a direct hit from the Japanese in the early stages of the Battle of Tsushima. Admiral Rozhestvensky was wounded in the head by a shell fragment, he was transferred to a destroyer that was eventually captured. Rozhestvensky was then taken prisoner by the Japanese navy. Above right: Russian sailors desparately cling to their sinking warships during the Battle of Tsushima.
Above left: The Russian ship Oleg with a gaping hole in her side. She escaped the carnage of Tsushima and limped to Manila where she was interned by American ships. Above right: Admiral Nebogatov commanding the Nakai I surrenders to the Japanese Navy near Takeshima.
During the night action Admiral Togo was able to rest his main fleet of armoured ships. At 9.30am, what remained of the Russian fleet was sighted heading northwards. At 10.34, realising that his situation was hopeless, Admiral Nebogatov ordered six ships remaining under his command to surrender, just south of Takeshima, XGE, an international signal of surrender, was hoisted up, it was only at 10.53 that the Japanese agreed to the surrender.
June 12th , 1905 – Japan’s Imperial Navy Begins Construction on Dokdo – Takeshima
The Battle of Tsushima confirmed the strategic value of Ulleungdo and Dokdo and more detailed plans to build military facilities on Dokdo were drafted immediately following the Battle of Tsushima. About two weeks after 4,380 Russian sailors perished in the Sea of Japan, the Imperial Navy dispatched the warship Hashidate to begin watchtower and telegraph construction on Takeshima.
Above left two images: The construction survey report from the Japanese Imperial Navy for watchtower and telegraph construction. Above right: These are survey maps of Takeshima. The above data was gathered by the warship Hashidate immediately following the Battle of Tsushima. (click images)
The defeat of the Russians around the waters of Ulleungdo Island and Dokdo first spurred a sense of urgency in the Japanese to step up military construction on the islets. With the Russian Navy being less of a threat, the Japanese weren’t as concerned about being attacked while constructing watchtowers. Thus, on June 12th a special team of construction engineers sent by the Japanese Imperial Navy surveyed Takeshima. The report and survey maps are above. (see entire report here)
Japan’s Declaration of Takeshima Day – Korea’s Outrage is Justified
“Historically speaking, what defined Japanese military aggression…?”
Ask any American the above question, they will tell you Japan’s December 7th 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor marked the start of Japanese hostilities. Ask those from northeast Asia and you will get different answers. Chinese and Taiwanese will tell you Japanese aggression started in 1894 with the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. If you ask a Korean they will undoubtedly tell you February 8th 1904 was the start of Japanese military dominance over Korea. (link)
With this in mind, imagine the West’s reaction if Japan commemorated a day celebrating, for example, Japan’s capture of Wake Island or other lands gained furthering Japanese expansionism during World War Two. Through this analogy we can appreciate Korea’s anger. Japan’s decision to honor an annexation of territory for the purpose of colonizing Korea is a slap in the face.
To Koreans, Japan’s attempt to dispute the ownership of Dokdo-Takeshima stems from the legacy of Japanese colonialism and imperialism. Some of the newly discovered Japanese military records show these sentiments are well-founded. To the right, Korean actors dramatize Japan’s seizure of Dokdo in this demonstration in front of Gwanghwamun in downtown Seoul. An actor in traditional Korean clothing potrays “Dokdo” slain by a soldier of the Japanese Imperial Army.
Why Japan’s Policy Toward the Dokdo – Takeshima Dispute is Failing
Unlike other countries once involved in colonialist adventures, Japan has not shed its colonial legacy entirely. This Japanese historical baggage still remains an important stumbling block for her. Japan must prove she is a sincere peaceful county to earn the prowess necessary to play a leading role in shaping international affairs.
Japan’s fundamental foreign policy in the Dokdo/Takeshima issue was to increase its diplomatic pressure on the world stage. However, regarding the announcement of Takeshima Day, it was both counterproductive and damaging for Japan to argue over such an unsubstantiated territorial claim to this small Korean islet. Only by washing away its imperialist stains and by giving up once and for all what it took in times of imperialism, can Japan contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia.