Four Photograph Albums Documenting Training and Service in the Imperial Japanese Army in the Interwar Years
Very good. Four photograph albums containing a total of 558 mounted images documenting military training and service in Japan in 1920s and 30s, all in very good condition. Although we acquired these albums together, they appear to have belonged to different people. Most, if not all, were officers. One album has handwritten captions, the others do not, but do have some group photographs with captions in the negative. Two identity documents are tipped in to one album that, we are told, are for people with the family names Yokoo and Hayashi. During the interwar years, Japanese culture was pervaded by the conviction that a strong military was the solution to most problems, foreign and domestic. The Army enjoyed considerable independence from the civilian government, and various factions within the military played a major role in directing the country’s foreign policy. As described by historian David Hunter-Chester in The Culture of Military Organizations, (Cambridge, 2019) the Imperial Japanese Army’s “organizational culture produced tough, proficient, and courageous soldiers.” These albums reflect great pride in military service, with numerous images of their subjects in dress uniform (singly and in groups) and engaged in military exercises, including bayonet training, firing machine guns, field and parade drills, physical fitness (ropes course, gymnastics), equestrian training, cleaning and assembly of weapons, and more. There are also images of soldiers in the classroom, at leisure (sporting events, sumo, at a public bath, etc.), and at special events and celebrations—the latter characterized by an abundance of Japanese and Imperial Army flags. These albums reflect an ethos that was soon to vanish. The military culture of pride in excellence, according to Hunter-Chester, “left it unable to deal with military losses; it was a culture that prized reputation over public honesty, ritualized death and placed its own judgment above question. According to its own creed, the [Army] should have ‘done its utmost to protect the state.’ Instead its soldiers are remembered in Japan and much of the world as ‘beasts.’”.