Little Bits of History

January 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 18, 2017

1915: Japan issues Twenty-One Demands to the government of China. During World War I, the Empire of Japan had Ōkuma Shigenobu as Prime Minister. He sent a list of demands to China which would extend Japanese control of Manchuria as well as increase control over the economy. The Japanese had gained a great deal of influence in northern China and Manchuria during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War. At the time, Japan ranked with European imperialist powers in their quest to take control of China. The Qing dynasty was overthrown and a new Republic of China was created under General Yuan Shikai. Japan saw this development as a way to increase her own power on the mainland.

Early drafting of the demandswas done by Shigenobu and Foreign Minister Katō Takaaki, who would later serve as Prime Minister of Japan. They were presented to the Genrō and Japanese Emperor Taishō. They went next to the Diet who approved the list of demands after which they were presented to Shikai on this date. Along with the demands came threats of dire consequences if they were not met. The demands were divided into five groups.

The first group demanded that Japan’s seizure of German ports and operations be recognized along with control over infrastructure in the Shandong Province. Groups two and three sequentially granted Japan a wider sphere of influence over greater territories and natural as well as manmade resources. Group four barred China from making similar deals with other foreign powers. And the most aggressive and final list demanded China hire Japanese advisors who would take control of China’s finances and police as well as freedom to build their own infrastructure. They attempted to keep this last section secret while putting pressure on the new Chinese government.

A new list of Thirteen Demands was sent on May 7, almost two weeks after China’s rejection of the first list. Shikai was not in a strong enough position, since he was still in battle with other warlords over total control of China and he capitulated and signed the reduced document on May 25, 1915. The consequences for Japan were mainly negative. The signing of the demands did little to increase the de facto power Japan already had in China but it did greatly antagonize relations between Japan and the US and Great Britain who had been Japan’s greatest ally up to this point. The British Foreign Office was dismayed by Japan’s overbearing and bullying behaviors. The Chinese themselves organized a total boycott of all Japanese imports and the economic consequences were considerable.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. – Frederick Douglass

As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. – Adam Smith

Freedom is our most precious commodity and if we are not eternally vigilant, government will take it all away. Individual freedom demands individual responsibility. – Lyn Nofziger

No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. – Alice Walker


Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 15, 2015
Mongol fleet destroyed in a typhoon (ink and water on paper by Kikuchi Yosai)

Mongol fleet destroyed in a typhoon (ink and water on paper by Kikuchi Yosai)

August 15, 1281: The fleet of Kublai Khan is destroyed. The Mongol invasion of Japan was a series of attacks on the island nation from the mainland. Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in 1271 and by the next year was receiving information from King Chungnyeol encouraging an attack on Japan along with the use of a well prepared fleet. The first invasion took place in 1274. Kublai Khan had about 15,000 Mongol and Chinese soldiers along with 8000 Korean soldiers. Also under his command were 300 large ships and 400-500 smaller ones. They first landed on Tsushima Island and the Japanese were greatly outnumbered. They fought and lost. The island was overtaken and the next to be invaded was Iki with the same results the Mongols kept island hopping. This lasted for several islands and about two weeks.

The Mongols’ next landing was met with a better prepared army and they were able to drive off the Mongol armies. Thousands of Mongols were gathered at Torikai-Gata but the Japanese were able to match their armies and with reinforcements were able to defeat them with Mongolian casualties numbering about 13,500. After their defeat, they withdrew to their ships. The Japanese, seeing their advantage, attacked until the forces left entirely to return to the mainland. On their way home, they ran into a typhoon and many of their ships sank, killing those aboard. Preparations to relaunch an attack were underway by 1275. Diplomatic relations deteriorated and armament buildups ensued. In the spring of 1281, the Mongols sent two separate forces of 900 ships and 40,000 troops.

They waited in Korea while they met difficulties in getting supplies for their attacks. Food and fighting men were not as easy to amass as had been hoped. They set off and landed at Tsushima again, this time they were repelled. There were a number of skirmishes over the course of the summer but the Japanese, although outnumbered, were able to defend their homelands. As the Mongol ships were once more heading toward Japan, a kamikaze or divine wind swept over the seas. A massive typhoon which lasted two straight days destroyed much of Kublai Khan’s navy.

Today, it also theorized that much of the damage was exacerbated by the type of boats used. As they tried to amass their huge sailing contingent, they used whatever boats were available. These were hastily acquired flat-bottomed river boats built in Goryeo. The better ships for open water and able to withstand the storms were too expensive and the time needed for construction was too great. So the traditional ships or boats were used and these were less able to withstand storms because they are more easily able to capsize. With these added losses to what had been suffered over the course of the summer, Kublai Khan had to be content with leaving the East alone and turn his conquests in a different direction.

A defeat borne with pride is also a victory. – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

The problems of victory are more agreeable than the problems of defeat, but they are no less difficult. – Winston Churchill

Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated. – Maya Angelou

Also on this day: Yasgur’s Farm – In 1969, Woodstock began.
Requiem – In 1935, a plane crash killed Will Rogers and Wiley Post.
Military Precision – In 1995, Shannon Faulkner arrived at the Citadel.
Macbeth – In 1057, King Macbeth was killed.
Taliesin I – In 1914, Frank Lloyd Wright’s house was destroyed.

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The Sun Rose

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 11, 2015


February 11, 660 BC: Japan is founded. Prior to this date, according to Japanese mythology, the Age of the Gods began with the creation of the Japanese islands by Izanagi and Izanami who stood on a golden bridge and with jeweled spears dipped into the ocean waters, bring forth the islands of Japan. The gods ruled all the islands they created until this date. Emperor Jimmu was a descendant of the sun goddess as well as of the storm god. He captured Yamato and used that as his center of power and ruled from there until 585 BC. Dates for all early emperors were accepted as sacrosanct during the reign of Emperor Kanmu (737-806). Before that time, all emperors before Ōjin were known as sumera no mikoto/ōkimi.

Jimmu was born on February 13, 711 BC which was the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar. He was said to have died on March 11, 585 BC at the age of 126 and ruled until his death. All dates given are according to the lunisolar traditional Japanese calendar. There are different versions of the myths and they disagree in details. The accepted stories are also not in agreement with even earlier versions which place three dynasties between the origins of Japan and the time of the writings. Jimmu’s dynasty became one long constant genealogy in both the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki versions of the creation of Japan.

Jimmu’s grave is said to be near Unebiyama in Kashihara. The veneration of Emperor Jimmu was important to the imperial cult established with the Meiji restoration. A new holiday called Kigensetsu or Era Day, was begun in 1872-73 and commemorated Jimmu’s rise to power. Between 1873 and 1945 an imperial envoy sent offerings each year to the site of Jimmu’s tomb. In 1890, Kashihara Shrine was established. During World War II, expansionist propaganda used Emperor Jimmu and his rise to power with many stone monuments relating to key events in his life erected around Japan. Today, the date is still celebrated as a national holiday.

Japan is an archipelago of 6,852 islands off the east coast of Asia. The four largest islands are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku and together they contain about 97% of Japan’s land mass. The total area of Japan is 145,925 square miles, or slightly smaller than the state of Montana. There are about 126.5 million people living there with 98.5% of them Japanese (Korean and Chinese make up another percent). They are governed by a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with Emperor Akihito reigning since January 7, 1989. Prime minister is Shinzō Abe. Their current constitution has been in effect since May 3, 1947.

When you look at Japanese traditional architecture, you have to look at Japanese culture and its relationship with nature. You can actually live in a harmonious, close contact with nature – this very unique to Japan. – Tadao Ando

Japan, not only a mega-busy city that thrives on electronics and efficiency, actually has an almost sacred appreciation of nature. One must travel outside of Tokyo to truly experience the ‘old Japan’ and more importantly feel these aspects of Japanese culture. – Apolo Ohno

Maitake mushrooms are known in Japan as ‘the dancing mushroom.’ According to a Japanese legend, a group of Buddhist nuns and woodcutters met on a mountain trail, where they discovered a fruiting of maitake mushrooms emerging from the forest floor. Rejoicing at their discovery of this delicious mushroom, they danced to celebrate. – Paul Stamets

Japan is the most intoxicating place for me. In Kyoto, there’s an inn called the Tawaraya which is quite extraordinary. The Japanese culture fascinates me: the food, the dress, the manners and the traditions. It’s the travel experience that has moved me the most. – Roman Coppola

Also on this day: Pennsylvania Hospital – In 1752, the first hospital in the colonies opened.
Coal – In 1808, anthracite coal was first used to heat a home.
Jack Paar; Tonight Show – In 1960, Jack Paar walked off a live telecast of the Tonight Show.
Science Fiction – In 1938, television first showed a sci-fi film.
The King Duke – In 1873, King Amadeo I of Spain abdicated.

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First PM

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 22, 2013
Itō Hirobumi

Itō Hirobumi

December 22, 1885: Itō Hirobumi becomes the first Prime Minister of Japan. Japan had been ruled by Shoguns for centuries, sometimes with nods to the Emperor and sometimes not. The Meiji Restoration was a period of conflict between Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last of the shoguns, and Emperor Kōmei (Emperor Meiji’s father). On November 9, 1867 the 15th Tokugawa Shogun placed “his prerogatives at the Emperor’s disposal.” Ten days later, he resigned as Shogun.

The English-language term for the head of government is Prime Minister. In Japan, the literal translation for the post is “Prime Minister of the Cabinet.” The Emperor of Japan appoints the Prime Minister after the Diet (bicameral legislature of Japan) puts forth one of their members for the post. The Prime Minister must have the support of the House of Representatives. As head of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister controls who becomes and retains the positions of Ministers of State.

Hirobumi was born in 1841 to an adopted son of a lower class samurai. He received samurai status in 1863 and was one of the Chōshū Five, five young men permitted to study in London. He was influenced by Western culture during his year at University College London. He returned to Japan and counseled against foreign wars. After the Meiji Restoration, Hirobumi was appointed governor of Hyōgo Prefecture, junior council for Foreign Affairs, and sent to the US to study Western Currency systems.

Hirobumi was the 1st, 5th, 7th, and 10th Prime Minister of Japan, spending about 8 years in the role overall. The post was created based on Western systems of governance. Hirobumi resigned on April 30, 1888 to head the Privy Council where he could retain power behind the scenes. He again took on the role of Prime Minister with varying degrees of success. Tired of the political games, in-fighting, and back stabbing, he resigned for good in 1901. In 1905 he became Resident-General of Korea and was assassinated by a Korean national on October 26, 1909.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” – P.J. O’Rourke

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” – Abraham Lincoln

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe.  No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time.” – Winston Churchill

“The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government.” – Henry Ward Beecher

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Japan is an archipelago to the east of continental Asia. There are 6,852 islands making up the nation with the four largest being Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku. Tokyo is the capital and located on Honshu. The greater metropolitan area holds 30 million people making it the largest metropolitan area in the world. There is no official language for the 126 million Japanese citizens, but four languages predominate with several other dialects available. They give the date of February 11, 660 BC as their founding date with the Meiji Constitution coming into effect on November 29, 1890 and their current constitution taking effect May 3, 1947. Emperor Akihito rules with the help of Prime minister Shinzō Abe. Japan has officially denounced the right to declare war, but it still maintains a military presence backed with a budget that make it the fifth largest in the world, just slightly ahead of the France’s.

Also on this day: March to the Sea – In 1864, General Sherman finished his march into Savannah, Georgia.
Fly Ash – In 2008, the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant’s dike collapsed.
Under Water – In 1937, The Lincoln Tunnel in NYC was opened.