Kokunimasa, Panorama of the Japanese Victory at the Battle of the River Yalu

Kokunimasa (1874 - 1944) Panorama of the Japanese Victory at the Battle of the River Yalu, 1904. Oban Hexaptych.

Click here for the full six-sheet image.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This fascinating print is by Kokunimasa, the son of Hosai Baido. The extraordinary panorama shows the full extent of the battle of the River Yalu in Korea in the Sino-Russian war of 1904. Prints of this war are considerably rarer than the Sino-Japanese war of a decade earlier. The right hand three sheets of the print are known and in museum collections; this complete six sheet version seems to be unknown in its entirety.

The print is very important in terms of military history; this was the war that established modern combat for western armies, showed the devastating use of artillery batteries, introduced trench warfare and acted strategically as a precursor and foretaste of the horrors of the Great War in Europe a decade later. It was the first victory of a Far Eastern state against a European super-power and was the source of immense national pride to the Japanese and led to the pre-eminence of the Japanese army and its subsequent consequences. This battle - the first major one of the conflict - was a decisive victory for the Japanese and a severe blow to Russian prestige. A full account of the battle is given on the Wikipedia page Battle of the Yalu River.

This is a magnificent piece and neatly illustrates the Japanese lurch to modernity. On the far left is the modern Japanese flag and behind it the trans-Siberian express train, carrying belated reinforcements to the Russian line. Pictured in the foreground is one of the powerful 4.7 inch Howitzers supplied by the German armaments firm Krupps which were to prove so devastating in the First World War. In the middle distance the fire and smoke of modern munitions cloud the scene of battle and in the distance are the iron clad ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy pounding the Russian positions. In the far left sheet more, modern, heavy field guns are being manoeuvered into position.

This is a rare piece of militaria and an important and rare Japanese print. There is a later copperplate autograph across  the top of the third sheet reading “Japanese Army Capturing Kiulian”. Accurate depictions such as these would have been important documents to strategists at the turn of the century and this does not detract from the value of the print. All six sheets attached, the print is currently conservation mounted for exhibition. Fine condition colour and impression.