Chiang Kai-Shek and Japan — his military and social experiences in Takada (Joetsu)

(英語の後に日本語が続きます。) It is well-known that Chiang Kai-Shek — the later Chairman of the Nationalist Government of China (1943-1948), and President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) — as a young man wished to pursue a career in the military. Less well known is the fact that he spent a number of his formative years studying in Japan, including almost a year in Takada (now part of Joetsu), training as a soldier in the 13th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army.

He wasn’t the first and would also not be the last of the many young Chinese studying in Japan. From 1903, many Chinese students came to Japan to be educated in law, politics, sociology, etc. A number of them focused also on the military arts and sciences, including Chiang. From 1906-1907 the number of Chinese students in Japan declined again, in part because of Japanese government restrictions but also as a result of the Chinese government encouraging students to go to the USA and Europe instead. Overseas studies exposed Chinese students to a wide range of political ideas.

In 1906 – after cutting his Manchu queue – Chiang spent a number of months in Tokyo at the Seika Gakko studying Japanese. His objective was to gain entry to the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko, a preparatory school for Chinese students to join the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. Since he did not have the required introduction from the military authorities in Beijing, he was unable to start his military training in Japan. He returned to China and entered the Baoding Military Academy in June 1907. After obtaining the required papers, he once again headed for Japan in March 1908 and entered the Tokyo Shinbu Gakko.

Chiang Kai-Shek in Baoding Military Academy in 1907

After graduating from the Shinbu Gakko, Chiang was assigned to the Imperial Japanese Army’s 19th Field Artillery Regiment, of the 13th Division in Takada. An amry assignment was a requirement for entering the Japanese Military Academy. Chiang started his assignment in December 1910.

The climate in Japan’s snow country contrasted sharply with the climate of Zhejiang, Chiang’s place of origin. However, the different climate was not the biggest problem. Chiang also had difficulty adapting to the Japanese army food. Meat was not standard fare in the army and although the army made some concessions for its Chinese soldiers, it did not take Chiang and his fellow Chinese soldiers long to discover Mitsuichi, a Western style restaurant in Takada, located at Omachi, 3-chome, that served meat dishes. Mitsuichi was operated by the Watanabe family who even after many years still had fond memories of Chiang’s visits. Chiang also – and for the same reason, food — often visited the Takada ryokan Sanyukan.

Mitsuichi restaurant, Omachi 3-chome

Mitsuichi no longer exists but some Takada residents still remember the restaurant well. For my friend Furukawa-san it was the place to go when she had a craving for meat during her first pregnancy. Mitsuichi closed its doors sometime during the 1990s and now a funeral parlor occupies its place.

During his time in Takada, Chiang made many Japanese friends and he was recognized particularly for his calligraphy skills. His reputation was such that Wataya, a fruit and vegetables shop, and Minami Kashiten, a sweets shop asked him to design a signboard for their shops. Minami Kashiten was located in Honcho 3-chome, and Wataya somewhere around the Honcho 5-chome intersection. Neither one still exists today.

Signboard of the Wataya fruit & vegetables shop

Chiang’s time in the army in Takada came to a sudden end in October, 1911 when the Wuchang uprising, an armed rebellion against the ruling Qing dynasty took place.  Chiang and two of his Chinese fellow soldiers requested leave for an indefinite period of time in order to join the uprising. Permission was initially withheld and when the army eventually relented and granted them 48 hours of leave, it left them no option but to desert the army and travel to Wuchang. The Wuchang uprising in turn led to the 1911/1912 Xinhai Revolution that ended the Qing dynasty.

While studying in Tokyo, Chiang had struck up a friendship with Chen Qimei, one of his fellow students who – like Chiang — also came from Zhejiang. Chen was a member of Tongmenghui, the underground anti-Qing resistance movement founded by Sun Yat-sen. Chen was instrumental in having Chiang also join Tongmenghui.

Sun Yat-Sen, as first provisional president of the Republic of China, and the first leader of the Nationalist Party of China (Kuomintang) is known as the “Father of the Nation”. After the Xinhai Revolution, he transferred the presidency to Yuan Shikai and left — for reasons of his personal safety — for Japan.  That is where Chiang met Sun for the first time, at the introduction of Chen.

Chiang carried out assignments in China on behalf of Sun and visited Japan in this connection again in 1913, 1914 and 1915. His final visit to Japan took place in 1927 when he met with Nagaoka Gaishi, who was commander of the 13th Division when Chiang was in the 19th Field Artillery Regiment in Takada. Unfortunately, none of these visits afforded Chiang an opportunity to revisit Takada.

Chiang’s feelings toward Japan were probably ambivalent. His studies in Japan and experiences in the military had a strong influence on Chiang. Studying Japanese in Tokyo, his time at the Shinbu Gakko but particularly his military training and life in Takada contributed to positive feelings towards Japan.

During the 1937-1945 war, the Japanese army was his enemy. However, frustrating his allies, particularly the Americans, Chiang seemed to be reluctant to take aggressive action against the Japanese army and prioritized his fight against the communists.

One explanation is that Chiang attached more importance to putting his own house (i.e. unification of China) in order. On the other hand, the documents described below may give another perspective on Chiang’s reluctance.

Chiang took the opportunity of a visit to Japan for consultations with Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi in 1927, to visit also his former division commander, General Nagaoka Gaishi. He presented the general with a scroll reading “I will not go against my teacher” (不負師教).

The Joetsu City Historical Museum has in its collection a scroll written by Chiang which he presented to the city when the museum opened in 1971. In that year Takada, Naoetsu, and other smaller municipalities were combined into Joetsu City. Part of it reads “The past is as fresh as ever in my mind”  (往事如新常懸心目), referencing his fond memories of his time in Takada.

It may not be too far-fetched perhaps to conclude that Chiang’s experiences in Japan and particularly in Takada may have had an effect on the course of events during the 1937-1945 war.

蒋介石と日本 –高田市(現上越市)時代の軍事・社会経験

蒋介石−後の中国国民政府主席(1943-1948)、中華民国総統(台湾)– が若い頃、軍人の道を志していたことはよく知られているが、彼が若い頃、高田市(現上越市)で1年間、陸軍第13師団の兵士として訓練を受けるなど、日本で留学生活を送っていたことはあまり知られていない。










蒋介石の高田での軍隊生活は、1911年10月、清朝に対する武昌の反乱で突然終わりを告げた。 蒋と2人の中国人兵士は、蜂起に参加するために無期限の休暇を申請した。しかし、当初は許可が下りず、結局、軍が48時間の休暇を認めたため、彼らは脱走という形で武昌に向かうしかなかった。この武昌の蜂起が、1911年、1912年の辛亥革命につながり、清朝は滅亡した。

東京に留学していた当時、蒋は同じ浙江出身の留学生、陳其美(ちん きび)と親交を深めていた。陳は、孫文が創設した反清国家的な政治結社「中国同盟会」のメンバーであった。陳は、蒋を「中国同盟会」に参加させるのに尽力した。

孫文は、中華民国初代臨時大総統、中国国民党初代党首として「国父」と呼ばれる。辛亥革命後、袁世凱(えん せいがい)に総統職を譲り、−身の安全を理由に−日本へ向かった。 その時に蒋介石は陳の紹介で初めて孫文に会った。









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