Propaganda Kimono
Man’s Haori  |  Tsumugi silk, yuzen dyed silk haura  |  39”x49”

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Propaganda Kimono

Admiral Heihachiro Togo died in 1934 and there are pictorial kimono from that year commemorating his demise. But this man’s garment is a curious amalgam, with both a beautifully dyed image of the Mikasa, Togo’s flag-ship at the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese war - May 27, 1905, and an unfurling newspaper describing the European journey of Prince, and later, Emperor, Hirohito (Emperor Showa) in Taisho 10 (1921).

Hirohito was the first Japanese Crown Prince to travel abroad and this piece describes his arrival in England on Saturday, May 7, 1921. It goes on to say that "since his departure from Japan on March 3, the voyage of over sixty days...", and mentions the Prince's dinner with British Foreign Secretary, Sir George Nathaniel Curzon.

In fact, Hirohito spent six months in the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands, and France, and upon his return home became Regent of Japan on November 29, 1921, replacing his ailing father who had developed mental illness.

Why the Mikasa was melded here to Hirohito's journey is a bit mysterious. The ship was actually built in England and finished in 1902. After sinking in shallow water in 1905, she was salvaged, repaired, and re-armed with larger, Japanese-made guns. Disarmed in 1922, the Mikasa still exists as a museum in Japan and is the only battleship of her era left in the world.

Perhaps Hirohito as emmisary and the Mikasa signifying power are united here because 1921 was a tumultuous year for Japanese - English relations. The Anglo-Japanese Aliance, first signed in 1902 and expanded in scope in 1905 and 1911, was largely ineffectual by December 1921 when it was superceded by the Four-Power Treaty between Britain, Japan, the US and France. This agreement, which included territorial protections for Japan, nevertheless limited the tonnage, firepower, and number of warships Japan might build to a set fraction of those erected by the Western signatories. From it's inception, the Treaty was viewed by many Japanese as insultingly racist and abetted in the radicalization of elements of Japan's military during their colonial drive in the 1930's.