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“This stalwart fellow of five lands and two seas …”: The life of Fukushima Yasumasa

Boyd, J.G. (2010) “This stalwart fellow of five lands and two seas …”: The life of Fukushima Yasumasa. In: Australian Historical Association Conference 2010, 5-9 July 2010, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia


The arrival of Commodore Perry in 1853 and the opening of Japan to the West precipitated a crisis that saw the country move from feudal isolation to imperial splendour in little less than half a century, as the country rose from a position of comparative weakness to that of a regional power, allied with Great Britain, then the imperial colossus. The passage of Japan during this turbulent half-century can be charted in the career of the army officer Fukushima Yasumasa, whose dramatic lone horseback ride from Berlin to Vladivostok in 1892–93 brought him fame both at home and on the international stage. The ride, however, was just one part of a long, rich and varied career. Born in the year before Japan’s opening to the West, Fukushima was involved in the short-lived insurrection of 1877, where he served on the staff of Yamagata Aritomo. Fukushima went on to serve as an intelligence officer, holding a number of posts in Korea and China, before being stationed in Berlin for five years. He then served in a staff capacity during both the 1894–95 war with Imperial China and the 1904–05 war against Tsarist Russia, as well as commanding the Japanese contingent during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. He ended his career as the governor of the Kwantung Leased Territories in 1912. An army officer who never led men in battle, although he did direct operations on at least one occasion, he still managed to rise to the rank of full general, primarily on his success as an intelligence analyst. Largely unknown in the west, apart from his famous ride, Fukushima’s career serves to illustrate how Japan moved from isolation to empire and how perceptions of Japan changed, both within Japan and abroad.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Australian Historical Association
Copyright: Australian Historical Association
Notes: Australian Historical Association. Biennial Conference 2010. Reviewing History. The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia 5-9 July 2010 AHA Biennial Conference: Perth Re/Viewing History:
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