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The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN; Kyūjitai: 大日本帝國海軍 Shinjitai: 大日本帝国海軍 Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigunⓘ 'Navy of the Greater Japanese Empire', or 日本海軍 Nippon Kaigun, 'Japanese Navy') was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945, when it was dissolved following Japan's surrender in World War II. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was formed between 1952 and 1954 after the dissolution of the IJN.
|Imperial Japanese Navy
(Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kaigun)
|Empire of Japan
|Navy Blue and White
|Gunkan kōshinkyoku ("Gunkan March")
|Emperor of Japan
|Minister of the Navy
|Chief of the Navy General Staff
|Ranks of the Imperial Japanese Navy
|List of aircraft
The Imperial Japanese Navy was the third largest navy in the world by 1920, behind the Royal Navy and the United States Navy (USN). It was supported by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service for aircraft and airstrike operation from the fleet. It was the primary opponent of the Western Allies in the Pacific War.
The origins of the Imperial Japanese Navy go back to early interactions with nations on the Asian continent, beginning in the early medieval period and reaching a peak of activity during the 16th and 17th centuries at a time of cultural exchange with European powers during the Age of Discovery. After two centuries of stagnation during the country's ensuing seclusion policy under the shōgun of the Edo period, Japan's navy was comparatively backward when the country was forced open to trade by American intervention in 1854. This eventually led to the Meiji Restoration. Accompanying the re-ascendance of the Emperor came a period of frantic modernization and industrialization. The navy had several successes, sometimes against much more powerful enemies such as in the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, before being largely destroyed in World War II.
Japan has a long history of naval interaction with the Asian continent, involving transportation of troops between Korea and Japan, starting at least with the beginning of the Kofun period in the 3rd century.
Following the attempts at Mongol invasions of Japan by Kubilai Khan in 1274 and 1281, Japanese wakō became very active in plundering the coast of China. In response to threats of Chinese invasion of Japan, in 1405 the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu capitulated to Chinese demands and sent twenty captured Japanese pirates to China, where they were boiled in a cauldron in Ningbo.
Japan undertook major naval building efforts in the 16th century, during the Warring States period when feudal rulers vying for supremacy built vast coastal navies of several hundred ships. Around that time Japan may have developed one of the first ironclad warships when Oda Nobunaga, a daimyō, had six iron-covered Oatakebune made in 1576. In 1588 Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued a ban on Wakō piracy; the pirates then became vassals of Hideyoshi, and comprised the naval force used in the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592–1598).
Japan built her first large ocean-going warships in the beginning of the 17th century, following contacts with the Western nations during the Nanban trade period. In 1613, the daimyō of Sendai, in agreement with the Tokugawa Bakufu, built Date Maru, a 500-ton galleon-type ship that transported the Japanese embassy of Hasekura Tsunenaga to the Americas, which then continued to Europe. From 1604 the Bakufu also commissioned about 350 Red seal ships, usually armed and incorporating some Western technologies, mainly for Southeast Asian trade.
Western studies and the end of seclusion
For more than 200 years, beginning in the 1640s, the Japanese policy of seclusion ("sakoku") forbade contacts with the outside world and prohibited the construction of ocean-going ships on pain of death. Contacts were maintained, however, with the Dutch through the port of Nagasaki, the Chinese also through Nagasaki and the Ryukyus and Korea through intermediaries with Tsushima. The study of Western sciences, called "rangaku" through the Dutch enclave of Dejima in Nagasaki led to the transfer of knowledge related to the Western technological and scientific revolution which allowed Japan to remain aware of naval sciences, such as cartography, optics and mechanical sciences. Seclusion, however, led to the loss of any naval and maritime traditions the nation possessed.
Apart from Dutch trade ships, no other Western vessels were allowed to enter Japanese ports. A notable exception was during the Napoleonic wars when neutral ships flew the Dutch flag. Frictions with the foreign ships, however, started from the beginning of the 19th century. The Nagasaki Harbour Incident involving HMS Phaeton in 1808, and other subsequent incidents in the following decades, led the shogunate to enact an Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels. Western ships, which were increasing their presence around Japan due to whaling and the trade with China, began to challenge the seclusion policy.
The Morrison Incident in 1837 and news of China's defeat during the Opium War led the shogunate to repeal the law to execute foreigners, and instead to adopt the Order for the Provision of Firewood and Water. The shogunate also began to strengthen the nation's coastal defenses. Many Japanese realized that traditional ways would not be sufficient to repel further intrusions, and western knowledge was utilized through the Dutch at Dejima to reinforce Japan's capability to repel the foreigners; field guns, mortars, and firearms were obtained, and coastal defenses reinforced. Numerous attempts to open Japan ended in failure, in part to Japanese resistance, until the early 1850s.
During 1853 and 1854, American warships under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry, entered Edo Bay and made demonstrations of force requesting trade negotiations. After two hundred years of seclusion, the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa led to the opening of Japan to international trade and interaction. This was soon followed by the 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce and treaties with other powers.
Development of shogunal and domain naval forces
As soon as Japan opened up to foreign influences, the Tokugawa shogunate recognized the vulnerability of the country from the sea and initiated an active policy of assimilation and adoption of Western naval technologies. In 1855, with Dutch assistance, the shogunate acquired its first steam warship, Kankō Maru, and began using it for training, establishing a Naval Training Center at Nagasaki.
Samurai such as the future Admiral Enomoto Takeaki (1836–1908) was sent by the shogunate to study in the Netherlands for several years. In 1859 the Naval Training Center relocated to Tsukiji in Tokyo. In 1857 the shogunate acquired its first screw-driven steam warship Kanrin Maru and used it as an escort for the 1860 Japanese delegation to the United States. In 1865 the French naval engineer Léonce Verny was hired to build Japan's first modern naval arsenals, at Yokosuka and Nagasaki.
The shogunate also allowed and then ordered various domains to purchase warships and to develop naval fleets, Satsuma, especially, had petitioned the shogunate to build modern naval vessels. A naval center had been set up by the Satsuma domain in Kagoshima, students were sent abroad for training and a number of ships were acquired. The domains of Chōshū, Hizen, Tosa and Kaga joined Satsuma in acquiring ships. These naval elements proved insufficient during the Royal Navy's Bombardment of Kagoshima in 1863 and the Allied bombardments of Shimonoseki in 1863–64.
By the mid-1860s the shogunate had a fleet of eight warships and thirty-six auxiliaries. Satsuma (which had the largest domain fleet) had nine steamships, Choshu had five ships plus numerous auxiliary craft, Kaga had ten ships and Chikuzen eight. Numerous smaller domains also had acquired a number of ships. However, these fleets resembled maritime organizations rather than actual navies with ships functioning as transports as well as combat vessels; they were also manned by personnel who lacked experienced seamanship except for coastal sailing and who had virtually no combat training.
Creation of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1868–72)
Although the Meiji reformers had overthrown the Tokugawa shogunate, tensions between the former ruler and the restoration leaders led to the Boshin War (January 1868 to June 1869). The early part of the conflict largely involved land battles, with naval forces playing a minimal role transporting troops from western to eastern Japan. Only the Battle of Awa (28 January 1868) was significant; this also proved one of the few Tokugawa successes in the war. Tokugawa Yoshinobu eventually surrendered after the fall of Edo in July 1868, and as a result most of Japan accepted the emperor's rule, however resistance continued in the North.
On 26 March 1868 the first naval review in Japan took place in Osaka Bay, with six ships from the private domain navies of Saga, Chōshū, Satsuma, Kurume, Kumamoto and Hiroshima participating. The total tonnage of these ships was 2,252 tons, which was far smaller than the tonnage of the single foreign vessel (from the French Navy) that also participated. The following year, in July 1869, the Imperial Japanese Navy was formally established, two months after the last combat of the Boshin War.
Enomoto Takeaki, the admiral of the shōgun's navy, refused to surrender all his ships, remitting just four vessels, and escaped to northern Honshū with the remnants of the shōgun's navy: eight steam warships and 2,000 men. Following the defeat of pro-shogunate resistance on Honshū, Admiral Enomoto Takeaki fled to Hokkaidō, where he established the breakaway Republic of Ezo (27 January 1869). The new Meiji government dispatched a military force to defeat the rebels, culminating with the Naval Battle of Hakodate in May 1869. The Imperial side took delivery (February 1869) of the French-built ironclad Kotetsu (originally ordered by the Tokugawa shogunate) and used it decisively towards the end of the conflict.
In February 1868 the Imperial government had placed all captured shogunate naval vessels under the Navy Army affairs section. In the following months, military forces of the government came under the control of several organizations which were established and then disbanded until the establishment of the Ministry of War and of the Ministry of the Navy of Japan in 1872. For the first two years (1868–1870) of the Meiji state no national, centrally controlled navy existed, – the Meiji government only administered those Tokugawa vessels captured in the early phase of the Boshin War of 1868–1869. All other naval vessels remained under the control of the various domains which had been acquired during the Bakumatsu period. The naval forces mirrored the political environment of Japan at the time: the domains retained their political as well as military independence from the Imperial government. Katsu Kaishū a former Tokugawa navy leader, was brought into the government as Vice Minister of the Navy in 1872, and became the first Minister of the Navy from 1873 until 1878 because of his naval experience and his ability to control Tokugawa personnel who retained positions in the government naval forces. Upon assuming office Katsu Kaishu recommended the rapid centralization of all naval forces – government and domain – under one agency. The nascent Meiji government in its first years did not have the necessary political and military force to implement such a policy and so, like much of the government, the naval forces retained a decentralized structure in most of 1869 through 1870.
The incident involving Enomoto Takeaki's refusal to surrender and his escape to Hokkaidō with a large part of the former Tokugawa Navy's best warships embarrassed the Meiji government politically. The imperial side had to rely on considerable naval assistance from the most powerful domains as the government did not have enough naval power to put down the rebellion on its own. Although the rebel forces in Hokkaidō surrendered, the government's response to the rebellion demonstrated the need for a strong centralized naval force. Even before the rebellion the restoration leaders had realized the need for greater political, economic and military centralization and by August 1869 most of the domains had returned their lands and population registers to the government. In 1871 the domains were abolished altogether and as with the political context the centralization of the navy began with the domains donating their forces to the central government. As a result, in 1871 Japan could finally boast a centrally controlled navy, this was also the institutional beginning of the Imperial Japanese Navy.
Secondary Service (1872–1882)
After the consolidation of the government the new Meiji state set about to build up national strength. The Meiji government honored the treaties with the Western powers signed during the Bakumatsu period with the ultimate goal of revising them, leading to a subsided threat from the sea. This however led to conflict with those disgruntled samurai who wanted to expel the westerners and with groups which opposed the Meiji reforms. Internal dissent – including peasant uprisings – become a greater concern for the government, which curtailed plans for naval expansion as a result. In the immediate period from 1868 many members of the Meiji coalition advocated giving preference to maritime forces over the army and saw naval strength as paramount. In 1870 the new government drafted an ambitious plan to develop a navy with 200 ships organized into ten fleets. The plan was abandoned within a year due to lack of resources. Financial considerations were a major factor restricting the growth of the navy during the 1870s. Japan at the time was not a wealthy state. Soon, however, domestic rebellions, the Saga Rebellion (1874) and especially the Satsuma Rebellion (1877), forced the government to focus on land warfare, and the army gained prominence.
Naval policy, as expressed by the slogan Shusei Kokubō (literally: "Static Defense"), focused on coastal defenses, on a standing army (established with the assistance of the second French Military Mission to Japan), and a coastal navy that could act in a supportive role to drive an invading enemy from the coast. The resulting military organization followed the Rikushu Kaijū (Army first, Navy second) principle. This meant a defense designed to repel an enemy from Japanese territory, and the chief responsibility for that mission rested upon Japan's army; consequently, the army gained the bulk of the military expenditures. During the 1870s and 1880s, the Imperial Japanese Navy remained an essentially coastal-defense force, although the Meiji government continued to modernize it. Jo Sho Maru (soon renamed Ryūjō Maru) commissioned by Thomas Glover was launched at Aberdeen, Scotland on 27 March 1869.
British support and influence
In 1870 an Imperial decree determined that Britain's Royal Navy should serve as the model for development, instead of the Netherlands navy. In 1873 a thirty-four-man British naval mission, headed by Lt. Comdr. Archibald Douglas, arrived in Japan. Douglas directed instruction at the Naval Academy at Tsukiji for several years, the mission remained in Japan until 1879, substantially advancing the development of the navy and firmly establishing British traditions within the Japanese navy from matters of seamanship to the style of its uniforms and the attitudes of its officers.
From September 1870, the English Lieutenant Horse, a former gunnery instructor for the Saga fief during the Bakumatsu period, was put in charge of gunnery practice on board the Ryūjō. In 1871, the ministry resolved to send 16 trainees abroad for training in naval sciences (14 to Great Britain, two to the United States), among which was Heihachirō Tōgō. Later, Commander L.P. Willan was hired in 1879 to train naval cadets.
Ships such as the Fusō, Kongō and Hiei were built in British shipyards, and they were the first warships built abroad specifically for the Imperial Japanese Navy. Private construction companies such as Ishikawajima and Kawasaki also emerged around this time.
First interventions abroad (Taiwan 1874, Korea 1875–76)
During 1873, a plan to invade the Korean Peninsula, the Seikanron proposal made by Saigō Takamori, was narrowly abandoned by decision of the central government in Tokyo. In 1874, the Taiwan expedition was the first foray abroad of the new Imperial Japanese Navy and Army after the Mudan Incident of 1871, however the navy served largely as a transport force.
Various interventions in the Korean Peninsula continued in 1875–1876, starting with the Ganghwa Island incident provoked by the Japanese gunboat Un'yō, leading to the dispatch of a large force of the Imperial Japanese Navy. As a result, the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876 was signed, marking the official opening of Korea to foreign trade, and Japan's first example of Western-style interventionism and adoption of "unequal treaties" tactics.
In 1878, the Japanese cruiser Seiki sailed to Europe with an entirely Japanese crew.
Naval expansion (1882–1893)
First naval expansion bill
After the Imo Incident in July 1882, Iwakura Tomomi submitted a document to the daijō-kan titled "Opinions Regarding Naval Expansion" asserting that a strong navy was essential to maintaining the security of Japan. In furthering his argument, Iwakura suggested that domestic rebellions were no longer Japan's primary military concern and that naval affairs should take precedence over army concerns; a strong navy was more important than a sizable army to preserve the Japanese state. Furthermore, he justified that a large, modern navy, would have the added potential benefit of instilling Japan with greater international prestige and recognition, as navies were internationally recognized hallmarks of power and status. Iwakura also suggested that the Meiji government could support naval growth by increasing taxes on tobacco, sake, and soy.
After lengthy discussions, Iwakura eventually convinced the ruling coalition to support Japan's first multi-year naval expansion plan in history. In May 1883, the government approved a plan that, when completed, would add 32 warships over eight years at a cost of just over ¥26 million. This development was very significant for the navy, as the amount allocated virtually equaled the navy's entire budget between 1873 and 1882. The 1882 naval expansion plan succeeded in a large part because of Satsuma power, influence, and patronage. Between 19 August and 23 November 1882, Satsuma forces with Iwakura's leadership, worked tirelessly to secure support for the Navy's expansion plan. After uniting the other Satsuma members of the Dajokan, Iwakura approached the emperor the Meiji emperor arguing persuasively just as he did with the Dajokan, that naval expansion was critical to Japan's security and that the standing army of forty thousand men was more than sufficient for domestic purposes. While the government should direct the lion's share of future military appropriations toward naval matters, a powerful navy would legitimize an increase in tax revenue. On November 24, the emperor assembled select ministers of the daijō-kan together with military officers, and announced the need for increased tax revenues to provide adequate funding for military expansion, this was followed by an imperial re-script. The following month, in December, an annual ¥7.5-million tax increase on sake, soy, and tobacco was fully approved, in the hopes that it would provide ¥3.5 million annually for warship construction and ¥2.5 million for warship maintenance. In February 1883, the government directed further revenues from other ministries to support an increase in the navy's warship construction and purchasing budget. By March 1883, the navy secured the ¥6.5 million required annually to support an eight-year expansion plan, this was the largest that the Imperial Japanese Navy had secured in its young existence.
However, naval expansion remained a highly contentious issue for both the government and the navy throughout much of the 1880s. Overseas advances in naval technology increased the costs of purchasing large components of a modern fleet, so that by 1885 cost overruns had jeopardized the entire 1883 plan. Furthermore, increased costs coupled with decreased domestic tax revenues, heightened concern and political tension in Japan regarding funding naval expansion. In 1883, two large warships were ordered from British shipyards.
The Naniwa and Takachiho were 3,650 ton ships. They were capable of speeds up to 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph) and were armed with 54 to 76 mm (2 to 3 in) deck armor and two 260 mm (10 in) Krupp guns. The naval architect Sasō Sachū designed these on the line of the Elswick class of protected cruisers but with superior specifications. An arms race was taking place with China however, who equipped herself with two 7,335 ton German-built battleships (Ting Yüan and Chen-Yüan). Unable to confront the Chinese fleet with only two modern cruisers, Japan resorted to French assistance to build a large, modern fleet which could prevail in the upcoming conflict.
Influence of the French "Jeune École" (1880s)
During the 1880s, France took the lead in influence, due to its "Jeune École" ("young school") doctrine, favoring small, fast warships, especially cruisers and torpedo boats, against bigger units. The choice of France may also have been influenced by the Minister of the Navy, who happened to be Enomoto Takeaki at that time (Navy Minister 1880–1885), a former ally of the French during the Boshin War. Also, Japan was uneasy with being dependent on Great Britain, at a time when Great Britain was very close to China.
The Meiji government issued its First Naval Expansion bill in 1882, requiring the construction of 48 warships, of which 22 were to be torpedo boats. The naval successes of the French Navy against China in the Sino-French War of 1883–85 seemed to validate the potential of torpedo boats, an approach which was also attractive to the limited resources of Japan. In 1885, the new Navy slogan became Kaikoku Nippon (Jp:海国日本, "Maritime Japan").
In 1885, the leading French Navy engineer Émile Bertin was hired for four years to reinforce the Japanese Navy and to direct the construction of the arsenals of Kure and Sasebo. He developed the Sankeikan class of cruisers; three units featuring a single powerful main gun, the 320 mm (13 in) Canet gun. Altogether, Bertin supervised the building of more than 20 units. They helped establish the first true modern naval force of Japan. It allowed Japan to achieve mastery in the building of large units, since some of the ships were imported, and some others were built domestically at the arsenal of Yokosuka:
- 3 cruisers: the 4,700 ton Matsushima and Itsukushima, built in France, and the Hashidate, built at Yokosuka.
- 3 coastal warships of 4,278 tons.
- 2 small cruisers: the Chiyoda, a small cruiser of 2,439 tons built in Britain, and the Yaeyama, 1,800 tons, built at Yokosuka.
- 1 frigate, the 1,600 ton Takao, built at Yokosuka.
- 1 aviso: the 726 ton Chishima, built in France.
- 16 torpedo boats of 54 tons each, built in France by the Companie du Creusot in 1888, and assembled in Japan.
This period also allowed Japan "to embrace the revolutionary new technologies embodied in torpedoes, torpedo-boats and mines, of which the French at the time were probably the world's best exponents". Japan acquired its first torpedoes in 1884, and established a "Torpedo Training Center" at Yokosuka in 1886.
These ships, ordered during the fiscal years 1885 and 1886, were the last major orders placed with France. The unexplained sinking of Unebi en route from France to Japan in December 1886, created embarrassment however.
Japan turned again to Britain, with the order of a revolutionary torpedo boat, Kotaka, which was considered the first effective design of a destroyer, in 1887 and with the purchase of Yoshino, built at the Armstrong works in Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, the fastest cruiser in the world at the time of her launch in 1892. In 1889, she ordered the Clyde-built Chiyoda, which defined the type for armored cruisers.
Between 1882 and 1918, ending with the visit of the French Military Mission to Japan, the Imperial Japanese Navy stopped relying on foreign instructors altogether. In 1886, she manufactured her own prismatic powder, and in 1892 one of her officers invented a powerful explosive, the Shimose powder.
First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895)
Japan continued the modernization of its navy, especially as China was also building a powerful modern fleet with foreign, especially German, assistance, and as a result tensions were building between the two countries over Korea. The Japanese naval leadership on the eve of hostilities, was generally cautious and even apprehensive as the navy had not yet received the warships ordered in February 1893, particularly the battleships Fuji and Yashima and the cruiser Akashi. Hence, initiating hostilities at the time was not ideal, and the navy was far less confident than the Japanese army about the outcome of a war with China.
Japan's main strategy was to gain command of the sea as this was critical to the operations on land. An early victory over the Beiyang fleet would allow Japan to transport troops and material to the Korean Peninsula, however any prolongation of the war would increase the risk of intervention by the European powers with interests in East Asia. The army's Fifth Division would land at Chemulpo on the western coast of Korea, both to engage and push Chinese forces northwest up the peninsula and to draw the Beiyang Fleet into the Yellow Sea, where it would be engaged in decisive battle. Depending upon the outcome of this engagement, Japan would make one of three choices; If the Combined Fleet were to win decisively, the larger part of the Japanese army would undertake immediate landings on the coast between Shanhaiguan and Tianjin in order to defeat the Chinese army and bring the war to a swift conclusion. If the engagement were to be a draw and neither side gained control of the sea, the army would concentrate on the occupation of Korea. Lastly, if the Combined Fleet was defeated and consequently lost command of the sea, the bulk of the army would remain in Japan and prepare to repel a Chinese invasion, while the Fifth Division in Korea would be ordered to hang on and fight a rearguard action.
A Japanese squadron intercepted and defeated a Chinese force near Korean island of Pungdo; damaging a cruiser, sinking a loaded transport, capturing one gunboat and destroying another. The battle occurred before the war was officially declared on 1 August 1894. On August 10, the Japanese ventured into the Yellow Sea to seek out the Beiyang Fleet and bombarded both Weihaiwei and Port Arthur. Finding only small vessels in either harbor, the Combined Fleet returned to Korea to support further landings off the Chinese coast. The Beiyang Fleet under the command of Admiral Ding was initially ordered to stay close to the Chinese coast while reinforcements were sent to Korea by land. But as Japanese troops had very quickly advanced northward from Seoul to Pyongyang the Chinese decided to rush troops to Korea by sea under a naval escort, in mid-September. Concurrently, because there had been no decisive encounter at sea, the Japanese decided to send more troops to Korea. Early in September, the navy was directed to support further landings and to support the army on Korea's western coast. As Japanese ground forces then moved north to attack Pyongyang, Admiral Ito correctly guessed that the Chinese would attempt to reinforce their army in Korea by sea. On 14 September, the Combined Fleet went north to search the Korean and Chinese coasts and to bring the Beiyang Fleet to battle. On 17 September 1894, the Japanese encountered them off the mouth of the Yalu River. The Combined Fleet then devastated the Beiyang Fleet during the battle, in which the Chinese fleet lost eight out of 12 warships. The Chinese subsequently retreated behind the Weihaiwei fortifications. However, they were then surprised by Japanese troops, who outflanked the harbour's defenses in coordination with the navy. The remnants of the Beiyang Fleet were destroyed at Weihaiwei. Although Japan turned out victorious, the two large German-made Chinese ironclad battleships (Dingyuan and Zhenyuan) remained almost impervious to Japanese guns, highlighting the need for bigger capital ships in the Imperial Japanese Navy. The next step of the Imperial Japanese Navy's expansion would thus involve a combination of heavily armed large warships, with smaller and innovative offensive units permitting aggressive tactics.
As a result of the conflict, under the Treaty of Shimonoseki (April 17, 1895), Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands were transferred to Japan. The Imperial Japanese Navy took possession of the island and quelled opposition movements between March and October 1895. Japan also obtained the Liaodong Peninsula, although she was forced by Russia, Germany and France to return it to China (Triple Intervention), only to see Russia take possession of it soon after.
Suppression of the Boxer rebellion (1900)
The Imperial Japanese Navy further intervened in China in 1900 by participating, together with Western Powers, in the suppression of the Chinese Boxer Rebellion. The Navy supplied the largest number of warships (18 out of a total of 50) and delivered the largest contingent of troops among the intervening nations (20,840 Imperial Japanese Army and Navy soldiers, out of a total of 54,000).
The conflict allowed Japan to enter combat together with Western nations and to acquire first-hand understanding of their fighting methods.
Naval buildup and tensions with Russia
Following the war against China, the Triple Intervention under Russian leadership, pressured Japan to renounce its claim to the Liaodong Peninsula. The Japanese were well aware of the naval power the three countries possessed in East Asian waters, particularly Russia. Faced with little choice the Japanese retroceded the territory back to China for an additional 30 million taels (roughly ¥45 million). With the humiliation of the forced return of the Liaodong Peninsula, Japan began to build up its military strength in preparation for future confrontations. The political capital and public support for the navy gained as a result of the recent conflict with China, also encouraged popular and legislative support for naval expansion.
In 1895, Yamamoto Gombei was assigned to compose a study of Japan's future naval needs. He believed that Japan should have sufficient naval strength to not only to deal with a single hypothetical enemy separately, but to also confront any fleet from two combined powers that might be dispatched against Japan from overseas waters. He assumed that with their conflicting global interests, it was highly unlikely that the British and Russians would ever join together in a war against Japan, considering it more likely that a major power like Russia in alliance with a lesser naval power, would dispatch a portion of their fleet against Japan. Yamamoto therefore calculated that four battleships would be the main battle force that a major power could divert from their other naval commitments to use against Japan and he also added two more battleships that might be contributed to such a naval expedition by a lesser hostile power. In order to achieve victory Japan should have a force of six of the largest battleships supplemented by four armored cruisers of at least 7,000 tons. The centerpiece of this expansion was to be the acquisition of four new battleships in addition to the two which were already being completed in Britain being part of an earlier construction program. Yamamoto was also advocating the construction of a balanced fleet.
Battleships would be supplemented by lesser warships of various types, including cruisers that could seek out and pursue the enemy and a sufficient number of destroyers and torpedo boats capable of striking the enemy in home ports. As a result, the program also included the construction of twenty-three destroyers, sixty-three torpedo boats, and an expansion of Japanese shipyards and repair and training facilities. In 1897, because of fears that the size of the Russian fleet assigned to East Asian waters could be larger than previously believed, the plan was revised. Although budgetary limitations simply could not permit the construction of another battleship squadron, the new Harvey and KC armor plates could resist all but the largest AP shells. Japan could now acquire armored cruisers that could take the place in the battle line. Hence, with new armor and lighter but more powerful quick-firing guns, this new cruiser type was superior to many older battleships still afloat. Subsequently, the revisions to the ten-year plan led to the four protected cruisers being replaced by an additional two armored cruisers. As a consequence the "Six-Six Fleet" was born, with six battleships and six armored cruisers.
The program for a 260,000-ton navy to be completed over a ten-year period in two stages of construction, with the total cost being ¥280 million, was approved by the cabinet in late 1895 and funded by the Diet in early 1896. Of the total warship acquisitions accounted for just over ¥200 million. The first stage would begin in 1896 and be completed by 1902; the second would run from 1897 to 1905. The program was financed significantly from the Chinese indemnity secured after the First Sino-Japanese War. This was used to fund the bulk of the naval expansion, roughly ¥139 million, with public loans and existing government revenue providing the rest of the financing required over the ten years of the program. Japan's industrial resources at the time were inadequate for the construction of a fleet of armored warships domestically, as the country was still in the process of developing and acquiring the industrial infrastructure for the construction of major naval vessels. Consequently, the overwhelming majority was built in British shipyards. With the completion of the fleet, Japan would become the fourth strongest naval power in the world in a single decade. In 1902, Japan formed an alliance with Britain, the terms of which stated that if Japan went to war in the Far East and that a third power entered the fight against Japan, then Britain would come to the aid of the Japanese. This was a check to prevent any third power from intervening militarily in any future war with Russia.
Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905)
- 6 battleships (all British-built)
- 8 armored cruisers (4 British-, 2 Italian-, 1 German-built Yakumo, and 1 French-built Azuma)
- 9 cruisers (5 Japanese, 2 British and 2 US-built)
- 24 destroyers (16 British- and 8 Japanese-built)
- 63 torpedo boats (26 German-, 10 British-, 17 French-, and 10 Japanese-built)
One of these battleships, Mikasa, which was among the most powerful warships afloat when completed, was ordered from the Vickers shipyard in the United Kingdom at the end of 1898, for delivery to Japan in 1902. Commercial shipbuilding in Japan was exhibited by construction of the twin screw steamer Aki-Maru, built for Nippon Yusen Kaisha by the Mitsubishi Dockyard & Engine Works, Nagasaki. The Imperial Japanese cruiser Chitose was built at the Union Iron Works in San Francisco, California.
These dispositions culminated with the Russo-Japanese War. At the Battle of Tsushima, Admiral Togo (flag in Mikasa) led the Japanese Grand Fleet into the decisive engagement of the war. The Russian fleet was almost completely annihilated: out of 38 Russian ships, 21 were sunk, seven captured, six disarmed, 4,545 Russian servicemen died and 6,106 were taken prisoner. On the other hand, the Japanese only lost 116 men and three torpedo boats. These victories broke Russian strength in East Asia, and triggered waves of mutinies in the Russian Navy at Sevastopol, Vladivostok and Kronstadt, peaking in June with the Potemkin uprising, thereby contributing to the Russian Revolution of 1905. The victory at Tsushima elevated the stature of the navy.
The Imperial Japanese Navy acquired its first submarines in 1905 from Electric Boat Company, barely four years after the US Navy had commissioned its own first submarine, USS Holland. The ships were Holland designs and were developed under the supervision of Electric Boat's representative, Arthur L. Busch. These five submarines (known as Holland Type VII's) were shipped in kit form to Japan (October 1904) and then assembled at the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Yokosuka Naval Arsenal, to become hulls No.1 through 5, and became operational at the end of 1905.
Towards an autonomous national navy (1905–1914)
Japan continued in its efforts to build up a strong national naval industry. Following a strategy of "copy, improve, innovate", foreign ships of various designs were usually analysed in depth, their specifications often improved on, and then were purchased in pairs so as to organize comparative testing and improvements. Over the years, the importation of whole classes of ships was progressively substituted by local assembly, and then complete local production, starting with the smallest ships, such as torpedo boats and cruisers in the 1880s, to finish with whole battleships in the early 20th century. The last major purchase was in 1913 when the battlecruiser Kongō was purchased from the Vickers shipyard. By 1918, there was no aspect of shipbuilding technology where Japanese capabilities fell significantly below world standards.
The period immediately after Tsushima also saw the IJN, under the influence of the navalist theoretician Satō Tetsutarō, adopt an explicit policy of building for a potential future conflict against the US Navy. Satō called for a battlefleet at least 70% as strong as that of the US. In 1907, the official policy of the Navy became an 'eight-eight fleet' of eight modern battleships and eight battlecruisers. However, financial constraints prevented this ideal ever becoming a reality.
By 1920, the Imperial Japanese Navy was the world's third largest navy and a leader in naval development:
- Following its 1897 invention by Marconi, the Japanese Navy was the first navy to employ wireless telegraphy in combat, at the 1905 Battle of Tsushima.
- In 1905, it began building the battleship Satsuma, at the time the largest warship in the world by displacement, and the first ship to be designed, ordered and laid down as an "all-big-gun" battleship, about one year prior to the launching of HMS Dreadnought. However, due to a lack of material, she was completed with a mixed battery of rifles, launched on 15 November 1906, and completed on 25 March 1910.
- Between 1903 and 1910, Japan began to build battleships domestically. The 1906 battleship Satsuma was built in Japan with about 80% material imported from Great Britain, with the following battleship class in 1909, the Kawachi, being built with only 20% imported parts.