Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Walers to the Orient: The Australian horse trade to Japan 1895 -1939

Along the roadside, 
blossoming wild roses 
in my horse's mouth

woodcut of Japanese cavalry fighting Russians 
using a Bajutsu manoeuvre of pulling the enemy off their horse.

Emperors when Japan bought horses from Australia

Meiji Emperor Mutsuhito 1852-1912 (Meiji Era: 1867-1911)
Taisho Emperor Yoshihito 1879-1926 (Taisho Era: 1911-1925)
Showa Emperor Hirohito 1901-1989 (Showa Era: 1925-1989)

The wars

First Sino-Japanese War, August 1894- April 1895
Boxer Rebellion, 1900 - 1901
Russo-Japanese War, February 1904- September 1905
First World War, July 1914 - November 1918
Second Sino Japanese War, July 1937 - September 1945
Second World WarSeptember 1939 -  armistice August 1945, Japan surrender September 1945.

"Our armed forces occupy Chongju." 
woodcut print of the April 1904 Japanese victory.
Better known as the Battle of Yalu River, on the border of
Korea and China this was the first victory for Japan over Russia in this war. Some Japanese were mounted on ponies of mixed origins but others on suitable horses and more cavalry horses from Australia were on their way for this war. Japan's logistics and intelligence brilliant. 
Great cavalry battle.


Japan has a great horse culture, thousands of years old. From 1895 to 1939 the horse trade from Australia to Japan was a flourishing business. Walers, the Australian horses, were famed for their endurance and were bred by the thousands for the huge trade to India for the British armies. Bred on vast open ranges that created hardiness and survival traits.

Japan's biggest orders were for the Russo-Japanese war but there were decades of sales - a total of 100,000 horses is a conservative estimate. Most of the horses came from Queensland, some from NSW, Victoria and South Australia. 

The trip to Japan took only 20 days. Ships went via Hong Kong - which appeared as their destination on departure - looking as if we were trading with a British colony. This subterfuge was mentioned in the press in Australia as a joke, it was well known. An early example of Australia trading with a neighbour in Asia without British approval first. Hong Kong too, was the usual stop over for ships to unload and take on more cargo.

Early Australian travellers reported on Japan's beauty - gardens, temples, landscape - friendly locals and the striking fact there were no beggars anywhere. In the 1860's the Japanese bought sheep from us, to try and acclimatise them in Japan. By 1880 they abandoned this scheme and bought wool from us instead. 

By the year 1900 The Grand Tour to Europe was replaced by The Grand Tour to Asia - being our neighbours Indonesia - then the Dutch East Indies; Vietnam - then three countries being Annam, Tonkin and Cochin China, all French colonies; China, the Philippines (popular to visit during Spanish colonial times, but after American occupation visitors avoided it for decades due to disease, corruption and violence); British North Borneo and Japan - usually called 'the land of cherry blossoms,' a stop visitors loved. Passengers went on trade ships - most such as mail ships having excellent passenger accommodation. 

The horse trade to Japan started with the Australian government sending a letter recommending our horses to the Japanese government in 1895. News of Japanese successes in China reached Australia, and Britain was an ally of Japan - united in their efforts of colonising China. The Japanese had taken a handful of Australian horses to that conflict and were impressed. Brilliant cavalry officers from Japan came to scout horse buying here. 

Our countries were on friendly terms - indeed, later, Japanese war ships often protected our troopships en route to World War One - for example Japanese warship Ibuki escorted our first Light Horse convoy of ships with troops and horses from Albany in 1915 to the Middle East, and she'd escorted NZ ships to Albany. Relations between Australia and Japan only stopped completely when we were enemies in World War Two. Friendship resumed after that war. Few people realise most of the horses the Japanese rode in World War Two were Australian Walers. 

In the heyday of the horse trade the Japanese were an admirable fighting force. The Samurai code was still ingrained in many from the old Samurai families who had grown up trained in bushido (the way of the warrior)  - honour and ethics, respect to one's enemy and civilians. 

The last Shogun resigned in 1867 to save civil war continuing; however he had the foresight to invite French military personel to Japan in 1866 - top officers in infantry, cavalry and artillery. Quickly the Japanese adapted to western uniforms and training methods. 

Earlier, in 1860, Japan supplied Britain with horses for the Second Opium War in China - 3,000 in one order arranged by Major Fonblanque (British army) who travelled to Yokohama (sic) for horses. The countries were on good terms.

Then, in 1867, the Emperor Meiji (The Enlightened) took over from the Shogun. Big changes began, changing society after centuries of a feudal system. Modernisation, begun by the last Shogun who had worked hard to help his country, began in earnest.

This race in Japan has been held for over 1,000 years,
 a Samurai race, part of the Soma Nomaroi festival.
article and more fabulous photos of this event here 

The class of Samurai was eroded due to Meiji rulings against their privileges. By the time of the Showa Emperor, Royal ambitions corrupted the once honourable military. But, back when bushido ethics held sway the Japanese brought our horses much fame and praise; times were a-changing however - the romance and chivalry of the past galloped headlong into the modern world. 

Australia had constant links with Japan over the nineteenth century. At the Melbourne Exhibition of 1875, the Japanese exhibits of porcelain, silk, laquered and gilded furniture, beautiful swords, art, and other goods were a huge sensation. An Australian delegation went to Japan in 1879 to ask if they would exhibit in the Sydney Exhibition. Mr Sakata visited in 1876 and 1879 and helped establish trade ties with Australians and Japanese. Australians loved seeing Japanese exhibits at our grand Exhibitions which opened up trade with many countries for us. Tensions with the British in Japan had led to conflict during the early 1860's - previously a treaty of 1853 meant good relations. It was all sorted out. The Shogun sent an embassy to Europe in 1862. The British had been travelling to and from Japan for trade and friendship and mutual military support, since the 1600's. 

Japanese military officers travelled widely and trained in European military colleges. They saw the big war horses in China and India, England and Europe. Some were Walers. They bought and trialled horse breeds from several countries, finally deciding ours were the best. 


Why was Japan a militant country?

We had always had Japanese news, from the 1850's onward especially. British were stationed there for trade and diplomacy and news flowed freely from the picturesque and bustling trade port of Nagasaki especially. From Australian newspapers of the day one can see the constant efforts of Russia and Britain to establish military stations on the Japanese islands, both with threatening fleets always off the Japanese coast - while maintaining an outward 'friendship.' Hilarously, one Russian paddle-steamer that went with their fleet in the early 1860's to Nagasaki was named Amerika. Britain and Russia were quietly trying to out-manouvre each other in their efforts to grab China too. 

Japan had to be militant - caught between ruthless empires she needed to be incredibly vigilant to prevent colonisation, hence ruin. The interesting aspect of Russians and British being stationed there and in China meant diplomacy strengthened between these countries in those times - the Russian fleet helped the English at times, for example in the Taiping rebellion, and the countries fought together as allies against China in the Boxer Rebellion. United in their colonial brutality. The Portugese were the first empire to try and take Japan - fortunately, due to Japanese defense, they only got a bit.

The Dutch also traded with Japan from the 1700's, at times under an American flag for passport. The Dutch were another empire in those times which Japan needed to be wary of, while maintaining trade. The Dutch had a lot of colonies. Raffles went to Nagasaki in 1813 after the Brits took Java from the Dutch - to stop the French taking it - then gave it back to the Dutch. 

The French were also colonising madly, particularly in Africa and parts of Asia.

The Prussians/Germans were to be courted lest they turn rapacious eyes to Japan. They too had taken land in nearby China.

No wonder Japanese scholars and diplomats had to learn so many languages, and they had to keep a top class force of fighters!


Sleep on horseback,
The far moon in a continuing dream,
Steam of roasting tea.



Strong horses
illustration from 1645, an album about selecting strong horses and cattle breeds by Kurosawa Sekisai for the Tokugawa Shogunate. 
Horses were vital to the Samurai, renown horsemen for centuries. picture source


The first Sino-Japanese war

of 1894-95 proved big hardy horses would be better in a war over vast terrain, of harsh climate, than ponies. The Japanese government set aside a vast sum of money for the cavalry to go horse shopping...

Although we didn't supply horses for the first Sino-Japanese war - perhaps a few went from those sent as a trial to Japan but that is all - it's where the Japanese army saw the need for a bigger cavalry.

Japanese troops disembarking at Inchon, June 12th, 1894.


Boxer Rebellion

Walers got to this war by several means, and is where the Japanese both used a few and got a good look at what excellent war horses they were, as their allies were mounted on Walers. We exported some horses to Japan, and had been sending horses to China for decades. Anyone could buy our horses at sales such as the Shanghai Horse Bazaar.

The Chinese had some Walers for the cavalry - various units but mainly the Imperial Cavalry. It's said the Empress owed her life to a last minute flight on tireless fleet Walers which took her and her small group of guards through severe terrain to safety. 

This war proved to the Japanese, in the process of improving their army, the superiority of big war horses over ponies in certain conditions. Of course, both have their strengths in different conditions but the vast distances called for big strong, hardy horses - Walers were perfect.

Walers arrived with British forces from India such as Skinner's Horse (1st Bengal Lancers), the 6th Lancers (Watsons Horse) and 16th Bengal Lancers also came over from India on Walers, and the Royal Artillery, 12th Battery. The Germans there were on Walers - they came to Australia, chose them, and we sent them over with a vast fleet -  some of the Japanese, many of the British, Indians and Chinese. Despite all these horses the allies were short on cavalry. 

The Chinese had a large cavalry in units such as irregular cavalry and the Imperial Cavalry, as well as mounted infantry, and the Kansu Braves had two mounted divisions and irregulars. 

Chinese bandits were called Honghzui, most were brilliant horseman. They were true bandits - small groups that ran their own agenda, not a united army. Some were better people than others. In one daring raid in January 1900 some bandits captured a lot of Sikh horses and men, most of these horses were Walers; these particular bandits were exceedingly cruel people and tortured the Sikhs to death. Some better bandits, like many, forced into becoming bandits due to colonial oppression, and some Kansu Braves - people of the Gansu area who were nomadic, not bandits - were determined to help China against the aggressors and came into Pekin with great courage from their remote areas, to fight for the Empress.

Kansu Braves cavalry - Chinese Muslims on local ponies.
Some were Tatars.
Also called Gansu, from that region in China where the nomadic people share ethnicity with Tatar people. 
Commanded by General Ma Bufang and General Ma Hongkui, these brave soldiers stopped the Japanese from capturing Lanzhou, the capital city of their province, Gansu.

The Chinese fought heroically in the Boxer Rebellion and won several clashes. They had no allies against eight well equipped countries invading - the cards were stacked against them. The resilience of the Qing era was such that the Empress Cixi, an extraordinary woman called by the west the Empress-Dowager, eluded the enemy and negotiated peace with little loss of territory. When she returned in a procession of great ceremony, she was accompanied by two units of her Imperial Cavalry mounted on Australian Walers. 

Most photos are copyrighted, there's one of the Empress' Imperial forces returning, accompanied by Kansu braves on their famous tough ponies, the Imperial Guard are on Walers with their famous long walk obvious in the  NSW state library - update - it appears to have been removed from public view, sorry. 

While Australia was busy at the same time in the Boer War - where we sent some 36,000 to 46,000 horses for our own troops and British and Indian regiments - the Japanese honed their military skills in China in the latest mode of fighting. Modern firepower was changing war forever. 

We (Australia) sent a Navy contingent to this land war in China, as those who wanted a fight had already gone to South Africa. We got to China late in 1900, after most of the action, so did no fighting. We left a few months later in July 1901 after mopping up, executing Chinese civilians on British orders, looting, ticket collecting on trains, guard and police duties. Our forces took no horses, being Navy, but obtained local ponies for use there. They chased some enemy in fine style on these ponies, to find it was a funeral procession.

Japanese cavalry at the Boxer Rebellion

In the Boxer Rebellion the Germans did atrocities that some say were the worst but were typical of all armies there - the invention of the postcard recorded the crimes as photographs, the horrific images posted home to Germany. No country that took part was exempt from atrocity. 

The Chinese rallied as The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists, hence being known as boxers by Europeans.

Eight countries allied to fight the Boxers, a nationalist group who rose up against oppressive British and Japanese trade in their country resulting in apartheid, land theft, railroad building to carry away goods, beatings, being traded opium instead of money and using Chinese as slaves. 

The Boxers were also sick of German missionaries (and others) protecting people from Chinese law if they converted to Christianity - thousands of hardened criminals could wreak havoc with western protection, making a mockery of Chinese law in its own country. 

The news correspondent Frederic Coleman bravely wrote about all armies and some of the shocking depravities they did, in 1901. His article was printed in Australian papers. The Japanese were shocked their allies committed widespread rape, something the Japanese did not do then. The Japanese were the only troops who did not loot but all the westerners did. The only things the Japanese were permitted by their officers to take home were captured weapons such as swords and knives, only then with permission. Apart from executions of enemy soldiers which all troops did, they didn't take part in punitative action against Chinese either. The widespread spectacle of the western use of torture was never forgotten, talked about in shock in Japan generations later.

An Australian reporter there, the extraordinary Dr George Morrison, was in the thick of it, including at the Legation, at the time embedded with the Japanese. He was badly injured during the Legation battle. Like Fukushima, who was in charge there, Morrison was an intrepid traveller. He also made a great ride, a little later - quietly riding from Honan to Ubequistan in 1910, almost 4,000 miles, in less than 6 months. Meanwhile he was doing daring feats in China.

There was a circus deciding who was to be Supreme Allied Commander, the R
ussians refused to co-operate with the Japanese, the ideal choice; it was finally agreed to have a German. The right man - for an odd reason - Alfred von Waldersee. 

But von Waldersee was frustrated by his pompous Kaiser. Chuffed to have Germany chosen, the formal ceremonies before leaving went for months -   he was extremely delayed, making him furious - the Rebellion had fairly much run its course by the time he arrived. 

However in an interesting twist of fate, von Waldersee had a Chinese mistress in Germany, Sai Jinghua. She followed him out to the Rebellion. It's thought they stayed in the Dragon Bed in the Royal Palace. This woman convinced Waldersee to stop the looting and executions. Without her strength and von Waldersee's firm hand, it's certain the Boxer Rebellion would have turned from a looting spree with many executions to wholesale massacre on a giant scale. von Waldersee immediately put the Australians on patrol to stop the looting, rape and murder - ironically it was Germans we chased the most. 

The brave Boxer Rebellion was quashed. The looting was unbelievable. Pekin (now Bejing) was sacked. Hong Kong remained with the British who also kept their trading 'rights' with shotgun-treaties for Shanghai and Canton; Russia kept large parts of Manchuria, Japan kept Formosa (Taiwan) and Korea, Germany got Quindao where they already had some territory - the port area on the east. The other countries all got trading concessions, and all got much wealth from stolen gold and valuables - and fining China heavily for the uprising - for the next 39 years China had to pay more than it's annual tax collection to the other countries as the 'fine' for daring to protect their land; a terrible sentence of poverty. Poverty keeps countries vulnerable, as the big empires know only too well.

The Chinese also fought bravely throughout later conflicts, and won. They too used Walers a lot; and had many outstanding generals, soldiers, cavalrymen. Sun Lijeng in Burma and his forces had Walers in WW2 - the Chinese troops were outstanding - courageous, disciplined, great morale - and were a great credit to the horses. They looked after them beautifully. 

The Japanese were  the best carers of our horses in war, of all. In the Boxer Rebellion the Japanese only had a handful of Walers - but they saw plenty. They wanted more.


The great Samurai Kusunoki Masashige, a fourteenth century warrior.

The Samurai were warriors who by the Middle Ages became the ruling class. Samurai are usually referred to as bushi in Japanese, meaning aristocratic warrior . Their strict code of loyalty to their master, self discipline which shunned all luxury, and ethical behaviour, echoed the values of Zen Buddhism which most followed. These chivalrous ideals and rights such as carrying a sword (outlawed by Meiji) saw their demise during Meiji and Taisho's time and were vanished in the time of Showa. The end of the Samurai after almost 1,000 years.
Samurai and Onna Bugeisha in armour. Women warriors were called Onna Bugeisha. Samurai was a class. Male soldiers not necessarily Samurai but highly skilled were called Bugeisha which means 'one who practised the art of war.' Onna means woman. Only males were called Samurai when referring to warriors. photos source

An interesting aspect of the Meiji era taking control from the Samurai is that previously riding horses had been restricted to Samurai class only. They were excellent cavalrymen and horseback archers, highly skilled with the lance and other weapons, most famous for skill with the sword - the best cavalry of the Middle Ages - probably all time.

Non-samurai and women were not permitted to ride horses in a saddle until the Meiji era. Horses were the beast of burden throughout Japan and importantly were seen as the connection between heaven and earth, held sacred at temples. The Meiji emperor let all people ride. Horses for riding suddenly became popular and carriage horses too, by the affluent. Ordinary people could join the cavalry, not just those from Samurai families. More cavalry horses were needed.

There was a blossoming of horse culture in Japan at the time of getting Australian horses possibly not seen before or since. The drawback was that like Henry VIII ordering the destruction of British native breeds by ordering the gelding all stallions under 14.2 hands, the Meiji Emperor did the same - ordering the gelding of all ponies. In trying to improve his cavalry horses, Japanese native breeds, all of pony types and some existing since the stone age, were reduced to dangerously low numbers. 
Kiso Horses
a native pony breed of Japan, all the stallions were gelded on the Emperors orders, but one stallion, kept at a shrine, was found to have escaped. It's very possible this ancient breed has some Waler blood, as Walers were used extensively for breeding war horses in Japan. The Kiso is a wonderful sturdy breed with excellent bone and is found on Honchu, the principal island of Japan. It is critically endangered.
Nambu horses
Have a distinctly different DNA to other Japanese horses and ponies. They're from the picturesque farming area of Iwate, north east Honchu. 

Traditional Samurai mounts and farmers horses. Farmers lived in the same building as their horses - beautifully tended stables attached to the house - which was L-shaped. The lush pastures of Iwate produced Samurai horses at their best in the Edo period 1603-1867. Superb horses, strong and good natured. Possibly gained height in the Meiji era when the Emperor required horses to be tall for the army.

Each year a big festival involves a 15 kilometre walk to the shrine with decorated Nambu horses bearing little children, while bells ring loudly to keep bad spirits away for the year. A wonderful tradition.

The only horse breed not under threat of extinction in Japan is the old Ainu breed of Dosanko (also called Washu and Hokkaido horse), a large pony up to 13 hands. Many naturally pace.

They are very solid, possibly with Waler blood too, from cavalry breeding days on the island. Japan had bought many trotting and harness horses from us for cavalry horse breeding, in the era racing harness horses mostly all naturally paced, which is faster than trotting, before racing hobbles to change the gait of trotters to pacing were invented and widely used. Hmm. Or did the Dosanko always pace, like Icelandic ponies? A great breed, no doubt widely documented.

Dosanko / Washu horses
The hatsumode trek (first shrine visit of the year) in Hokkaido.


Russo-Japanese war

After the defeat of China showed the need for war horses, the army of Mutsuhito, the Meiji Emperor, became an excellent customer. They bought many horses from us for the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. One order was for 10,000 horses, which was filled. 

Several large tramp steamers were contracted to convey the horses to Japan over several trips, one ship, the Langton Grange, carrying over 1,000 head at a time.

Most of the horses for the large 1905 order came from Queensland. The ships, and numbers per single load were :  the Langton Grange (1,500 horses), The Fifeshire (873 ), the Virginian (950), the Darius (200), the Inkum (930), the Jesserie (880), the Everton Grange (1,337) and the Courtfield (964). The Drayton Grange also took horses but directly to Japan, stud horses for breeding. Most did several runs, the Inkum for example took full loads in April, May, July and September. Her first load to to Kiobe was ordered on to Ujina where she unloaded in the midst of a raging naval battle.

There was considerable employment in the horse trade for Australians, for example 41 horsemen went on the Inkum to look after the horses, 60 grooms on the Virginian; some ships had a better ratio of men to horses than others. Shifts were always allocated so there was adequate sleeping time.

Frederic Villiers teaching the Japanese how to handle a fractious horse, 1905.

Born in France in 1851, Villiers studied art in England, becoming a fearless war correspondent and war artist.  At the Russo-Japanese war he worked for the London Illustrated News, embedded with the Japanese army. Villiers had a huge ego, doubtless this photo was done for vanity, the Japanese cavalry were a crack unit and experienced with green horses as well as trained ones.

The agents for this big order of horses were Messrs Maiden and Morton of Sydney. More that year were sent - an estimated 12,000 horses between March and September of 1905 and the trade was still in full swing. 

Newspaper clippings about the horse trade at the end of this article. The Japanese only bought the best and always paid handsomely. It was reported several times in Australian newspapers how kind and patient the Japanese horsemen were. 

The unloading in Japan of some horses was described by Donald McPherson, an Australian journalist (he called them Walers too, and being remounts and gunners, expressing the view the mares and stallions would be sent to stud after service) in the Evening News of 30th September 1905. He saw one load of 800 horses unloaded at Ujina, the military depot. Japanese cavalrymen in smart topboots and khaki came to unload the horses. 

The water was too shallow for the steamer to dock, so the horses were slung over the side in huge comfortable slings, each horse fitted with a new halter. The horse was lowered into a sampan in preference to the ships lighters (small boats) normally used where the ship could not dock - each sampan, dozens of which had come alongside, could carry up to six horses. One particularly wild horse was given a sampan to himself. These sampans were over knee deep in thick luxurious straw, so the horses had a comfortable ride to shore and were supported too, in case their 'sea-legs' made them unsteady. Once ashore they were taken to military stables between Ujina and Hiroshima. Here they were fussed over. Not once did a Japanese handler strike or raise his voice to the horses, even the particularly wild one.  The odd horse that leapt overboard was simply caught by a sampan crew and swum to shore. Not a single horse got a scratch during unloading and all were taken to the stables to recover from the voyage. As Walers are 'one-man' horses - bond strongly to their owner - close ties are created during training. In the Japanese the Waler was most fortunate, handled beautifully.

Japanese on their Walers.  Russo-Japanese war, Manchuria, 1905.

Ammunition area of the Japanese First Army at Panlashantzu 
from The Russo-Japanese War 1904-05, published by K. Ogawa, Tokyo for the Military Survey Department. 

What was this war about?
The Russo-Japanese war was fought over Manchuria and Korea. Basically Japan and Russia fought for possession of them, ignoring the rights of both, in an era of colonisation. 

Manchuria is a large area of north west China. Russia gained much of this area as part of the treaty at the end of the Boxer Rebellion, and valued Port Arthur as a warm sea port. They were a little close for comfort however for Japan.

Dr Miura, Director of the Imperial Government Stud in Japan, came to Australia in 1904 on a horse buying mission. He looked at horses in Qld, Vic and NSW and bought NSW horses. At that stage there were three government studs for the cavalry in Japan, and nine stallion depots, as well as numerous properties for horse breeding belonging to the Royal family. Dr Miura particularly sought good stallions to take home. He bought many, and many good mares, and took care with shipping - all went back on Japanese steamers with big strong, comfortable stables built, one for each horse, much admired in the Australian press. Australians went over with them to care for them en route, such as B.J. Wardell who went with some of Dr Miura's horses on the Taiyuan in September 1904.

 Shows how valuable Port Arthur was to the Russians as a warm water port, given to them after the Boxer Rebellion - of great concern to the Japanese as Russians had invaded Japan in the past.

Russia in the past has taken the large northern island of Japan, Hokkaido, forcibly removing the aboriginal Ainu people just as they removed Tatars from Crimea. They were put into remote areas of the USSR with the intention of genocide by mingling with local populations. There are some Ainu people still on Hokkaido. 

At the time of the Russo Japanese war postcards had not long been invented - immensely popular in the Boxer Rebellion just passed - with better postal services, photography and printing, postcards became eagerly sought and collected. 
Many journalists covered the war; there's a wealth of news articles, photographs and books images of the Japanese cavalry

Military attaches, journalists, and photographers from around the world went to the Russo-Japanese war. These are Westerners who accompanied Japanese forces led by General Kuroki. Journalists wrote enthusiastically about how well the Japanese treated prisoners and civilians, with courtesy and regard not seen before in living memory of war.

The below is a beautiful example of propaganda art, a depiction glorifying war but indeed, this actually happened - as the Russians were losing a battle, Prince Kuropatkin galloped into the fatal maw of enemy (Japanese) forces. This image epitomises the attitude to war at the time - death or glory. It also shows the respect the Japanese had for their enemy, as they created this woodblock print. Kuropatkin was notoriously racist against Asians and oversaw pogroms in the Boxer Rebellion when the Russians slaughtered tens of thousands of Chinese. He was a poor strategist and inept military man. One could say it was karma he was defeated both more nobly and with greater military skill than he himself possessed; he died bravely nonetheless.

“The Battle of Liaoyang: The Enemy General Prince Kuropatkin, Having Tactical Difficulties and the Whole Army Being Defeated, Bravely Came Forward into the Field to Do Bloody Battle”  by Getsuzō, 1904

The British took great interest in this war Japan started and won over the might of Tsarist Russia and were very impressed. A non-western win over a western power was unusual. Britain had already courted Japan as an ally after they defeated China in the first Sino-Japanese war of 1895  - politically expedient as Britain too had colonial talons in China. In 1902 they formed the Anglo-Japanese Alliance to foster their interests in Korea and China. Britain would not send forces to help in this war but watched keenly and sent military attaches.

Orientalism bloomed in the UK as they admired Japanese culture, their fast modernisation which included women attending university, political philosophies and a romantic albeit misguided belief the Samurai code was a living example of ancient knightly chivalry followed by all sections of society. Japanese influence in the arts of the west at this time were particularly seen - ceramics, interior decorating, japanning of furniture, oriental style paintings.

And where Britain put its loyalties, it's minion Australia did too. This Alliance lasted until 1923 when, after forcibly taking the booming German territory in China with Japan, Britain became increasingly concerned over Japanese expansionist policies in China. Japan was getting a little too good at this and Britain didn't like that.

The fear was that Japan may threaten the west now, just as Britain itself had taken over so many countries. The love affair was over. The term ‘bushido’ – once highly popular in England and meaning Samurai chivalry - suddenly came to mean cruelty and treachery instead, as propaganda changed. 

Meanwhile, while the treaty held, we went through World War One with Japan as a valuable ally. Despite Britain cutting ties to Japan after 1923 the horse trade from Australia continued without a hitch. 
Jack London on his Waler Belle.
 One of the war correspondents at the Russo-Japanese war, was author Jack London. He wrote a book about this war and had adventures there himself. Here he's mounted on his Waler named Belle, which he obtained from the Russian Minister in Seoul. He calls Belle "the best horse in Korea" and "An Australian barb" in his book on the war. He rode Belle  hurriedly over 140 miles on tough terrain to get to a story, she never let him down.

The fight for Korea went back to the first Sino-Japanese war of 1894-5, when Japan had taken over the Korean peninsula from China and held it since. It was at that time they started courting the idea of getting war horses from Australia. Among the colonists and traders in China, Australian horses were the most sought after. 

The Inkum, one of the merchant steamships that took horses to Japan, including under fire. A lot of the horses were unbroken. Thick straw was laid along the landing wharf all the way to land, to make their arrival safer, each being led. The horses were quickly and quietly broken in, in the midst of war.
Photo : State Library of NSW.

Tough horses. Walers of the Japanese cavalry outperformed all horses in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 including the famous Cossack horses, even the Russians acknowledged this. Of interest, fighting with the Russians was the great military man, then very young, Carl Gustaf Mannerheim - later famous in Finland. A war notable for great characters on all sides. The Russians also had a couple of thousand Walers in this war, taken from horse ships they caught as war prizes such as the Allenton taking horses to the war. The officer Anatoly Stoessel had some Australian horses at this war.
Australian horses four miles north of Port Arthur with Nogi's Third Army.
North Queensland Register, March 1905

It was a gruelling war, much in freezing snow conditions and on abysmally low rations over vast areas of tough terrain.  Frostbite affected many soldiers. Japanese cavalrymen however, like Australians in war, always put their horse first and got them through superbly apart from deaths in fighting. During this war Japan sent detailed telegrams and reports back to Australia, we were firm friends over our horse trading. Newspapers published exciting up to date reports. 

The majority of Russians were against this war - many officers were court-martialled for wanting the slaughter stopped. Russian morale was the same as their logistics - woeful - men starved and at times had to eat their horses; they were reduced to rags and without boots, having to rob enemy dead for these. Japanese logistics and morale however, was rock solid. 

 Japanese cavalry officers outside their bomb-proof horse stables 

Japanese also gave their horses a funeral when they died/were killed. If there was no chance in war they held much mourning afterwards in their Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines for spirits of the horses. We could be proud of our horses for their endurance, courage and loyalty in this war and their justified fame. Japan was an excellent source of income for Australian horse breeders, agents, harness makers, fodder growers and shippers. 

Japanese on Walers at the Russo-Japanese war 1905

Honghzui on their own cavalry mounts at the battle of Mukden
source wiki

The Japanese had a secret weapon in Manchuria - local Chinese and Manchurian bandits called Honghzui. Top horsemen on their own ponies plus horses captured from Cossacks; crack shots, expert guerrillas.

 Honghzui sided with the Japanese due to previous bad experiences with Russians and fought in a well organised way against the Russians. Russians had been brutally racist to the Chinese with several massacres of civilians, particularly by Cossacks. It was a no-brainer they'd help anyone fighting these oppressors. At times Japanese officers were stationed with the Honghzui. As well as guerrilla tactics, robbing supply trains, running off cavalry horses etc, they fought bravely in major battles.

The Russians didn't realise these annoying bandits were, in effect, well directed and armed Japanese troops. They were good intelligence assets too.

Intrepid journalist Dr Louis Livingston Seaman travelled to the hotspot of Mukden with gifts of firecrackers for the Honghzui and discovered the extent of their activities, writing a book on it. His gifts were so appreciated local Chinese hid him from Russian troops searching the town. Horse power had been vital in Manchuria for thousands of years, the Japanese knew this and used it to their advantage; bandits had become the norm due to constant invasion.

Illustration by R. Caton Woodville, from the Sunday Times (Sydney) November 1904, reprinted from the Sporting and Dramatic News.

The Czar's Own Trick Riders, illustration in The World's News (Sydney) November 1904.
Article with above illustration said the Russians were better with lariats than American cowboys and Australian bushmen, but despite their incredible horsemanship were being beaten by the Japanese. As we were selling horses to the Japanese we could bask in the reflected glow of their expertise and success, and as we admired horsemen no matter whether friend or enemy, we very much appreciated this matching of two excellent horse armies.

Extra notes...

By early 1904 the Russians had several 'volunteer' war cruisers, such as Smolensk and St Petersburg, in several seas. These stopped mostly British ships around the Suez Canal and confiscated all mailbags for Japan - many of these ships were travelling from Australia. The British retaliated by sending a fleet from the Mediterranean to stop this. Germany demanded mail bags taken off their ships, and some were returned that were not for Japan. The Russians had also boarded the Malacca, a merchant ship, and found Naval stores. She was British, it was agreed to unload her at a neutral port to prove the stores were for China, not Japan (sure!). The Russian volunteer Navy behaved impeccably. Meanwhile Turkey was allowing Russian ships loaded with fuel etc for the war, through the Dardenelles, in breach of the Declaration of Paris 1854 (an international Maritime Law agreement); but Turkey has always been at the crossroads of empires, and must put her own welfare first. 

A British military expedition under Francis Younghusband had stealthily set out for Tibet in 1903, and was encamped on its southern reaches by March 1904 with at least 3,000 soldiers. Their aim was colonisation. Being an ally of Japan this invasion would have greatly concerned Russia. Relations between Russia and Great Britain had always been known as 'The Great Game' among the British military elite, and was played out mostly until then along India's borders, including Afghanistan. There were several dreadful massacres by the British in Tibet, described as the Anglo-Tibet war - Younghusband was racist and regarded Tibetans as animals. Lhasa, the holy city, the winter home of the Dalai Llama, was taken. Looting throughout the campaign was shocking. However being winter at the time, the Dalai Llama, to Younghusband's frustration, was absent. After waiting about, and having a religious revelation, he left. Bizarrely, in the preface to his extensive book on the 'adventure" he says he merely went to Tibet to establish neighbourly relations! The British handed Tibet to the Chinese.Tibet regained its independence in 1913; to be won and lost again in later years. Younghusband, born in India, had been raised fighting along its borders. Ironically, after his experience in Tibet, he became an advocate for Indian independence. A typical British military man with few if any morals, although a feted mountaineer. Just noting as this was playing out while Japan and Russia fought over Manchuria and demonstrates the imperial mentality of the times.


Horse trade background

In 1895, James Anderson, a merchant of Sydney, set up trade for several products by going to Kobe, Japan,  with samples – he also took 11 good horses of military type – Walers. Glasscocks, the famous horse agents, also sent a trial batch of 25 horses with government recommendation but rough weather en route meant several were killed before arrival. The horses all met with favour. 

The Japanese were so interested they sent out two stock inspectors to South Australia to study how we bred horses, and to see about purchases. We got some orders from this, but as it was thought the Japanese liked small light ponies, they were shown the wrong types and went elsewhere for horses. This was immediately after the first Sino-Japanese war when the Japanese were actively invading China (Korea). The Korean peninsula was then part of China. Korea had been invaded in turn by China and Japan over the centuries - it was not totally free until after WW2.

In December 1895 Mr. T. J. Burke for the Victorian government, of Melbourne sent 25 horses over for the Japanese government, five were for the cavalry. They went on the Guthrie but such severe storms were met all but seven were killed.

George Kiss sent 34 good horses over on steamer the Federal in 1895 with 6 racehorses sent by K. Calder. No doubt many more went but as China was down as first destination, not all got into the papers.

Mr Salter of Sydney who traded horses to the east (China, Batavia etc) also visited Japan at this time and looked at their cavalry breeding stations and encouraged the Japanese to visit Australia, to buy far better horses than they were currently breeding. This resulted in a trial shipment and newspapers in Japan urging the government to buy Australian horses. Japanese horse inspectors returned again in 1897 to look at horses in the Melbourne area.

In 1898, having bought many European and English and other horses that were unsuitable, the Japanese returned again to look at ours. Giant sums of money had been set aside by the Japanese government for horse purchases. The steamer Futami Maru took a full load over in 1899 - Captain Hillcoat said that horse tram lines were being laid down in Japan and many more horse orders would follow. Japanese steamers had regular Australian runs, leaving daily; no doubt many went back with horses, but few cargoes were itemised in the shipping news. 

1902 Some trotter horses were bought in January, and again in September, sent in several shipments to improve Japanese military horses. Three Japanese cavalry agents toured buying. 

A Japanese Navy visit that year saw Australia turn on the pomp and ceremony; reciprocated by the Japanese giving a display of no less than 4,000 of their perfectly drilled Naval troops; their high ranking officers riding with our VIP's in beautifully turned out landaus drawn by stunning horses, and some, including their Admiral, on good big Walers. We were fast becoming valuable allies and trading partners, and the Anglo-Japanese treaty was important to both countries. Our Lancers put on a good display too, and both countries had a friendly competition seeing who were the best rifle shots.

Australian Town & Country Journal, Sydney, 10th June, 1902.

1903 30 horses went in one load to Yokohama in December, on the Tsinan. Several more loads over these years just listing those sighted in archives, as found. 

1904 inspectors again returned, having bought and trialed horses from other countries including Europe, they got serious about Australian horses. They toured the breeding regions of NSW and Victoria, looked at horses, found the railheads, and ordered many horses. O’Donnell was the agent for some, on one order he bought solid well bred TB’s from G. Kiss of West Maitland by sires such as Stockwell. O'Donnell sent several orders of horses from N.S.W. The TB's were for breeding cavalry mounts in Japan. More harness horses of hackney lines were sent to Japan. Several shipments of hundreds of horses per ship, went to Japan in 1904, described as half being cavalry mounts and half being artillery horses. Several thousand for the year were sent. Dr Miura spent July to September choosing shiploads of horses, Mr J. Nishimura and Mr T. Kirimura, who was to return here many times, helped him. 

In August 1904 two Japanese men, inexperienced riders, were thrown from horses in the Cooma area, both sustained fractures and concussion. They were taken to hospital in Cooma where they stayed weeks, newspapers giving updates on their progress back to health, and worried they would think Walers were too wild and report back home - even although they were not army buyers but private citizens here! 

In February 1904 Japanese buyers were in South Australia. In July four Japanese officers were at Belltrees, Scone, buying horses. In May telegrams from Manchuria praising their Walers to the skies pleased everyone. The Japanese who came here spoke excellent English. The horse traders loved them as they cared about horses immensely - their first questions were always about horse welfare - and they had a true horseman's eye and impeccable judgment. Traders like Morton and Jim Love toured about with them, taking them to studs such as Maryvale and the big horse sales and breeding stations. Traders went over to Japan with some loads and reported the Japanese riders as better than those at the Vienna Riding School - perfect high school dressage, high jumping, brilliant horse care, and always so kind to their horses. They abhorred any form of abuse and wouldn't deal with anyone who hit or hurt a horse. Joseph Rowley took a load over in October. When the Japanese took horses over they always cabled to say they arrived safely, with details. The steamers Australian and Yawata Maru took loads over for them in September. Reports were sent back from Hong Kong, en route, to say all was well. 

In June 1904 Mr Townsend went over with a load of Townsville horses and had a good look about Japan, meeting up with Mr C.B. Suttor our well known government commercial representative sent by NSW and based in Japan for some years. Suttor was tops at promoting our horses. Townsend brought silk and other products back. The horse market was rapidly opening up a whole new trade for Australia and Japan. Suttor had cabled from Hong Kong in March an urgent order back here for the Japanese - 10,000 tons of horse fodder. It was sent, more orders poured in.

The Japanese officers made many good friendships here. Their good eye for a horse, professionalism, manners, prompt attendance at appointments and genuine love of horses all made a huge hit. They were spoken of with immense respect and fondness in the papers. Their punctuality was much appreciated by horse traders, who were very busy people, often in from country buying with a train or ship to catch. Articles about the delights of wasabi were discussed among the notes for the Toowoomba horse sales in the news!

August 1904 the Yawata Maru took over 12 blood horses for the Japanese govt and 1250 tons of barley, as well as other cargo and many passengers. Japan was  popular place to visit. September 1904 10 blood horses for the Japanese govt went over on the Yawata Maru with trader J. Rowley and 9 on the Taiyuan with horseman B. Wardell. 

Photos from the Evening News (Sydney) 3rd September 1904. In an interview for this article, Dr. Miura said if the Japanese government ever approved the breeding and racing of horses, he would recommend no races under 2 miles and no weights under 9 stone. Wise man. Weight carrying stayers bred the good utility and military horses, with a draught grandparent (how Walers were created, and a touch of pony in the mix). Many hunters also went over, chosen by Dr. Miura. When he left Australia he went to San Francisco, to the St. Louis Exposition. No doubt horse shopping in America too.

Many others, many thousands were sent that year. Profuse praise for them under extreme war conditions came back.

During these years the horse was needed for war, the Japanese also bought horses in Europe, Canada and from North America. 

In 1904 news reports said Japan had bought 400 from Odenburg (sic Oldenburg) in Germany and that they were Hungarian horses (Germany was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire at that stage, the horses were no doubt Oldenburgers); while 600 horses bought by Great Britain from Russia were blocked from leaving by Russia at Libau, as they were believed to have been bought for Japan. 1 Russia 0 Britain.

In June 1904 an Englishman, Mr. A.M. Deming from the Cape (South Africa) was in the USA buying 10,000 horses for the Japanese, in Oregon and Washington and hoped to use old horse depots used by the Americans when supplying horses for the Boer War..

1905 - thousands went over as discussed. Mr Masada, who was greatly respected here and made a lot of good friends, stayed here from January to October buying all over Qld and NSW. He was joined in April by Mr Yamamoto who stayed April to October buying horses. Masada got 10,139 good horses. Jim Love travelled about with Masada while he bought horses in Qld. 6,495 were gunners, 3,337 were remounts, 200 hacks for officers chargers, 104 stallions being 83 Thoroughbred stallions, 8 Waler stallions and 13 Clydesdale stallions - all to breed military horses the same way we did, and the Germans and Russians. There were not enough pure Waler type stallions for sale although they got many mares among the army horses which were a ratio of 56 mares to 44 male horses (stallions and geldings). 

Masada's 10,000 horses went over mid year, another 10,000 went over by September; all up a conservative 25,000  for the year went.

In May 1905 W. Muggridge, who bought for the Japanese for many years, was up in Queensland sourcing horses for them around Bowen.

In May 1905 a private load went over from Port Darwin to Japan as a speculation, the horses were not looked after en route and arrived in very poor condition. The Japanese rightly disapproved and paid low prices.

In late 1905 Joseph G. Rowley went over with 22 horses, top priced Thoroughbreds, 8 stallions and 14 mares for the government stud. He reported that sales, although still sound after the war (Russo-Japanese where we sent many thousands), would drop off as Japan was breeding its own good horses in numbers. Rowley talked with Mr. Chayama, the Government Veterinary Surgeon to the Prefecture of Kobe, who told him the government considered Australian horses the best of all they imported. Rowley also said several strong weight carrying Australian polo ponies went over annually for the Yokohama Polo Club. 

Also in October 1905 Japanese officers here bought a draught stallion from Arnold Weinholt which went over to Japan with 400 other horses and some quality cattle on the steamer Wonga Fell.

In 1907 passengers on the Eastern admired shipbuilding at Kobe and enjoyed the first race meeting there - most horses racing were Australian - it was a sand track and well attended. Racing was already established at Yokohama. Many of the horses racing at Kobe had gone over on the Aldenham. The Chingtu took horses and horse-shoes over in June, and another load of 40 horses and horse-shoes in December, trader McKenna went with them and 5 other Australians. In May 42 went over on the Aldenham to Yokohama (probably more just adding as found). In September 8 went to Yokohama from George Kiss.

1908 Kumano Maru takes 2 tons of horseshoes and 2 horses over. Yawata Maru in July takes 3 horses, 150 bales fodder (and the usual large load of passengers).

1909 Mr. Kitamura took back a load of top stallions and mares for remount breeding. etc. Two fine carriage horses went over for the President of the big shipping line Nippon Yusen Kaisha. One died on the way, at Thursday Island, and a top quality replacement was immediately dispatched. Japanese shipping lines were vital to all our trade and mail. The agents for Nippon Yusen Kaisha line here were Burns, Philp and Co. They sent countless horses and other Australian goods to Japan over the years; excellent agents and diplomats.

Horses went every year including through the war years of WW1.

It was often bewailed in those times, 1905 to 1939, that Australia’s best remount breeding mares and stallions had been sold to Japan. One of the suppliers to Japan in the beginning of the twentieth century was Joseph G. Rowley who took a lot of Thoroughbreds on several trips, many for the Japanese government, in 1904 he took over some TB's from the famous Whites of Belltrees. Many of our best horse traders sent horses over, and Japanese officers visited and bought too. Both Australian and Japanese steamers ran non stop carrying horses. Many close friendships were formed, and the Japanese became excellent customers for our coal and wool and other produce, increasingly important to our economy.

As well as army remounts, the Royal carriages of the Meiji Emperor and the Taisho Emperor were pulled by magnificent Australian horses. At the coronation in 1928 people were stunned the new Showa Emperor (Hirohoto) used motors instead of horses for the parade, but it was chiefly because there had been an assassination attempt on him when he was in the state carriage at an earlier event. He survived several such attempts. Of interest, Japan still has the horse-drawn state carriages, which are used for special occasions. 

Horse buyers often went with the horses and had a good look about Japan. In 1906 A.J. Morton did a good report in Australian papers about horses in Japan. He'd sold a lot there himself. He too stressed how kind the Japanese were to their horses.

Emperor Meiji in the Royal coach, by Inoue Yasuji.
The Royal coach is still used.


The Taisho Emperor

photo from Encyclopedia Britannica website

was a most capable horseman (he had excellent teachers such as Nogi and Akiyama) and accomplished in languages, but Taisho suffered from recurring problems such as fever, having had cerebral meningitis as a child. He didn't rule long - 1912 to 1926 - being retired from public life due to his frail health - dying at only 47 years old of a heart attack brought on by pneumonia. He was succeeded by his son Hirohito - the Showa Emperor - who'd ruled in his stead from 1919.

It's often said Taisho had mental problems - rumour or not? However his physical health caused him suffering.

The love of Australian horses had been passed to the Taisho Emperor by his father the Meiji Emperor, Baron Nogi, General Akiyama and other cavalry and artillery officers. 

Taisho also recognised Japan's need for a good Navy and created one of the world's best in super fast time. By the time he ascended to the throne in 1912, his physical health, and possibly mental, was deteriorating so much he was almost never seen in public.

Although the most intelligent girl who could be found in Japan was chosen for Taisho's bride, Kujo Sadako (Empress Teimei) of the Fujiwara clan, who became a devoted wife, it's a matter of conjecture their son Hirohito may have inherited mental problems - he had a lack of empathy and an extreme form of delusions of grandeur. He wanted to rule all Asia at any cost. Many atrocities and possibly history's greatest slaughter of people occurred under his rule. Taisho was more kindly and kept to the strict honour code in its true meaning, but he ruled only a short time.
The Taisho Emperor on his Waler


Japan is precariously close to Russia, Korea and China and over the centuries became militant for defense. Invasion was a constant reality. This strong military culture was used by ruthless leaders to invade others. Until the Showa Emperor, Hirohito, a strong military ethic of honour meant the Japanese armies were respected. Three outstanding warriors who all loved and rode Walers in those days, are below...

General Maresuke Nogi

December 25, 1849 - September 13, 1912

General Nogi

What a man. Nogi was a famous commander in the Russo-Japanese war - particularly renown for winning the crucial battle of Port Arthur (where a massive naval battle was also raging while Australian horses were being offloaded for the Japanese!). He’d been called out of retirement to take command. Thanks to Walers we learn about these extraordinary men and events!  

His men were highly disciplined and professional, and his cavalry a crack unit. Some had been on local Manchurian ponies before the arrival of the extra Australian horses, which he preferred. Nogi had previously been the Governor of Formosa under Japanese occupation, following the first Sino-Japanese war - he was in command when Formosa (Taiwan) was taken.

painting of Nogi on one of General Stoessels's horses given as war prizes on surrender, 1905, - this one looks like a Waler.

He was born into a Samurai family, and is said to be "the last Samurai"- a term used for several Samurai of distinction such as Saigo Takamori. Nogi also studied military skills in Europe (Germany) returning keen to instill bushido - the old Samurai chivalry also outlawed as a term - into military training. The Germans didn't worry about chivalry but to Nogi it was of prime importance, being an intrinsic part of honour.

He wrote poetry in the precise Kanshi style using Chinese characters; one of the finest war poets. Nogi had a lifetime of military service and it is due to his strict and honourable Samurai code his prisoners of war and civilians were so well treated it caused comment in Europe, and praise, noted by the British historian Richard Storry who said he won the admiration of the world.

At the Russo-Japanese war Nogi was beloved by journalists there. He lived simply there in a small Chinese cottage, in keeping with his austere values. Journalists regarded this humble bare cottage in the light of a temple.

Nogi was a great horseman and fearless commander, his only fault being to win at all costs which cost so many lives. Yet outnumbered, he overcame the Russians who were also entrenched on higher ground. He went home a national hero and was created a Baron (danshaku rank), and unlike most war heroes, refused an invitation to go into politics. 

photo of Nogi in Manchuria from Cassel's History of the Russo-Japanese War, Vol 5.

Nogi's two sons - his only children - were killed in the Port Arthur battle along with over 55,000 other Japanese. 

After the war Baron Nogi asked the Emperor if he could commit suicide, he was ashamed as despite victory so much life was lost – he burst into tears telling the Emperor about the loss of life - and because he’d never got over the shame of losing the regimental colours in a civil rebellion of fierce fighting in 1876 when he was a Staff Officer; the famous Satsuma Rebellion.

Losing the colours was no fault of Nogi's, but he suffered shame for decades. The Meiji Emperor said no, you may not commit suicide, and gave Baron Nogi his little grandson Hirohito, a probable psychopath, to train. Nogi had also helped train the mentally ill but good natured Taisho Emperor.

Entry into Port Arthur of General Nogi, Commander of the Third Army.
from the Ogawa album. On their Aussie horses.

The Emperor Meiji died in 1912 - when the funeral passed Baron Nogi’s house he and his wife Shizuko, from the Satsuma Samurai family, committed ritual suicide - to be honourable - as a Samurai follows his master in death. He left 10 notes, one part explaining his reasons, 2 poems, and left his body to medical science. It had been quite a wait, the Emperor laid in state for 45 days before the funeral, Nogi visited twice a day to pay his respects, photos show him stricken with grief

The Emperor had given Nogi permission to suicide after his own death - to loyally follow the emperor thus in death is called junshi. The method of ritual Samurai suicide, by disembowelment, is called seppuku; then unless another Samurai is at hand to help deal the last blow, the throat is cut after that, or the sword fallen on, to bring death. 

Junshi was considered out-moded and was outlawed as far back as 1663, as too many lives were being lost.

Nogi's wife was Samurai herself and had sent her sons and husband a bottle of perfume at the war - funeral perfume to be used in case of their death. Samurai women were taught from young girls how to carry out ritual suicide, the women's method called jigai, usually used in war to prevent enemy capture or rape. Sometimes the husband assisted his wife to make death swift. A woman however was not permitted to help a man in ritual suicide. 

Most Samurai followed Zen Buddhism hence practiced inner peace all their life. The tea ceremony, flower arranging, austerity of lifestyle, all brought inner peace; so did honour and virtue. Nogi and Shizuko personified these ideals. Of the two main forms of Zen Buddhism in Japan, it was 'Rinzai for the shoguns and Sōtō for the peasants.' Nogi practiced the more martial Rinzai Zen. A Samurai woman and man conquered the fear of death.

Shinto was promoted as the national religion in the Meiji era - as the Emperor could be regarded as a god - the leader of the religion and worshipped as a descendant of the sun goddess, making him intrinsically more powerful. Buddhism, previously the major spiritual practice, recognised no such living human as 'god.' Many Samurai-descended clans clung to their buddhism and played polite lip service to the state religion. Japan was remarkably free of religious intolerance.

No matter how much inner peace one may practise, to lose a child is unbearable. They'd lost both their children and Nogi felt responsible as he did for all deaths under his command. He'd had to endure countless victory parades and a European tour while feeling shame, guilt and grief over the butchery of war. 

The act of dying for his Emperor showed Japan he was Samurai - not western - he changed from his western uniform into traditional Japanese garb for his death. The couple had a cup of sake before the deed, part of the very precise ritual.

Nogi believed in an afterlife where he could join his Emperor, to whom his life had been devoted. His wife possibly didn't believe in the afterlife - inferred from her last poem - making her death even more poignant. She left no notes.  

What is extraordinary, is that Nogi's notes gave instructions about his wife's welfare after his death - indeed, one was written to her - he obviously didn't know she would suicide too. She knew his plans however and she was with him at the time. They had showed a deep affection for each other in the 24 hours leading to their deaths - affection normally never showed to others. She killed herself immediately after him, using a knife to her heart - he would have been dying or dead, unable to help - she had to try at least twice. Both were side by side, it is proper to remain seated; they'd fallen forward on their blades only; such self control and courage. 

The couple were buried in the cemetery with their sons Katsunori and Yasanori. There's a poem about when Nogi saw his second son dead at the war by Mori Ogai. 

These acts of suicide stunned Japan as the age of the Samurai was supposedly past. They saw it as the last link to Japan’s feudal days. In both Japan and other countries some understood Nogi's death, others decried it. Flowing tributes to Nogi poured out in print, he was deeply loved and respected. More articles condemned him as a military man and barbarian who lived and died by violence. Yet by this act he did more to achieve international understanding of Japan's obsession with honour and loyalty than anyone. 

A shrine was made at his home where people could leave tributes to his spirit and their prayers for help, as he was deitified and became a kami (Shinto spirit). The Allies bombed this shrine in WW2. The house and stables survived, the shrine was in the garden. Nowadays people pay their respects at a new shrine built for him. 

In times of peace but significantly in war and conflict, his troops were always reported as having the highest morale, in spite of overwhelming enemy forces at times, heat, cold, deprivation or exhaustion. They did not commit atrocities or looting. They died for Nogi as much as for their country. Nogi is one of the great all time Generals. He was called a Shogun as his title would have been in Samurai days (the term General was the equivalent as Shogun as a word and concept had been outlawed). Loyalty to the Shogun was their life, and a Shogun made his men's welfare paramount. They gave him their lives, the least he could do was make them worth living in every way.

The Showa (Hirohito) government shamefully made propaganda from Nogi’s death, twisting loyalty to the Emperor as being death for the flimsiest of reasons for his glory. Hirohito would not heed old officers warning this was wrong. But all this was to come.

Nogi came from honorable times. When he taught at the Peers school he was greatly loved by the boys and girls training there, having endless patience and being a friend to them all. He was kindly and took his meals with the boys, swapping plates if ever he was given a larger serving, to give them more. 

He gave constant lavish gifts of food to maimed soldiers in infirmaries, visiting them regularly, yet lived on a pittance himself as the lowliest soldier, eating only what he needed for life. Gifts of food to him from parents grateful he spared time to tell them about their sons, killed at the war, were all sent to the sick soldiers in hospital. One poor village sent an egg from each villager.  Nogi carefully took every single one to soldiers in hospital. He was brought up in the Samurai tradition of austerity and simplicity. Torn clothes were bad but patched ones to be proud of. Standing naked under a waterfall in subzero temperatures toughens you up, wash in cold water without complaining - at the Russo-Japanese war there is a photo of him capering about happily in nothing but his knickers, washing outdoors in cold water as his men did - although he could have heated water and remain indoors, as an officer. He led by example.

He'd been to England for George V’s coronation, where he was knighted, and met Baden-Powell - on his return in 1911 he started the scouting movement in Japan. 

White horses (greys) are regarded as sacred in Japan, many temples have a white horse living there. General Nogi was presented with a beautiful grey horse by the Russian officer General Anatoly Stoessel, after Nogi accepted his surrender. A popular song was written about this event 'Suishiei no Kaiken' (The Meeting in Shuishiying). It mentions this horse. One of Nogi's ancestors had been gifted the Emperor's horse before a battle, Nogi was gifted this horse by his Emperor after a battle; synchronicity. (details in D.G. Bargen's book Suicidal Honour: General Nogi and the writings of Mori Ogai and Natsume Soseki, pub. Uni. of Hawaii Press, 2006).

When he was put on the army retirement list, Nogi had three horses, he kept only one, Stoessel's grey, and gave the other two to officer friends - he always missed them, especially his Australian horse, he said it was like divorcing your wife then regretting it always. His horses ate far better than himself, on the best money could buy. His stables were brick, his house wood, when he was due home from campaign his wife made sure the stables were immaculate. Info and much more about Nogi, his austerity, great care of his men - he only ate what they ate in the field of war, and if any of his men slept in the open without covering, he did too - in this lovely old book - which also has the text of the notes he left; the book is General Nogi, His Personality and His Death. By Kinya Tamaru, 1912.
General Stoessel rides his charger for the last time, showing it to General Nogi (left), and asking him to look after it.
Australian Star, Saturday 22nd April 1905

According to the Diary of the Russo-Japanese War published in the Kobe Chronicle over 1904-1905, General Stoessel offered Nogi 2 Arab horses and two Australian horses. However it was one of each, according to A Staff Officer's scrapbook by Ian Hamilton (later of Gallipoli notoriety), published in 1907, which reads...'General Stoessel said, "I have two horses, an Australian and an Arab. They are both beauties, and I want you to accept them as a free, willing gift." 
General Nogi replied, " No; I am extremely sorry, but under the orders of the Emperor everything in the fortress has to be handed in without exception or distinction to the Commissioners for captured articles; I promise, however, that I will endeavour to get these horses back from the Commissioners, and if I can succeed I will keep them always in remembrance of a brave adversary." '

He had the horses sent to Japan. After he got home, Nogi spent two years traveling Japan to apologise to parents who had lost their sons in the war. This was immensely appreciated, as was the time he always gave parents of the boys who had been killed in that war, who came to see him.

Then in 1907 he started work as headmaster of the school Hirohito attended, the Peers school. He kept Baron Stoessel's grey horse in his own stables next to his house, named it Kotobuki  - Long Life - and rode it to and from work each day (info from The Tide At Sunrise, in resources below). There is a statue of Kotobuki at Nogi's shrine. 
lovely account of Nogi riding Kotobuki to school every day.

Nogi spent all his personal wealth on hospitals for wounded soldiers and on shrines to the dead from the war, he also convinced the Japanese government to pay for a shrine to the Russian dead at Port Arthur. He also invented an artifical arm for amptuees.
Baron Nogi outside his home, the morning of the day of his death.

Nogi was one of the last commanders to take personal responsibility for those who died under his command, calling it "a shameful victory." 

There is good reason to believe Nogi's Chief of Staff, also a General, was far more responsible for the wasteful human-wave tactics at the fortified Russians than Nogi. General Nogi was finally able to get this man, with whom he often clashed, transferred out of the war, after Port Arthur. Nogi's honour however, would never have allowed him to lay blame with others. The battle of Mukden at the same war saw a greater loss of life - Nogi was not in charge there - yet the loss at Port Arthur got the greater publicity. 

New weapons of mass destruction had changed war forever. As this war was intensely scrutinised, much should have been learned - the Russians had machine guns at Port Arthur, the Japanese did not (they had some machine guns but not many and they were not at this battle) - although they had superior artillery. It was massacre on a giant scale. Men ran at machine guns. Artillery rained down on trenches.

Nogi is often contrasted with ‘leaders’ of the Great War who watched the battle at Port Arthur - but who later threw men to certain death at Gallipoli and the Western Front - over and over and over. General Hamilton and his ilk – French, German, Russian, English - threw men heedlessly to death by the millions while they sat behind lines in safety throughout WW1 failing to think up adequate battle plans. Blitzkrieg became a term for this wasteful style of fighting. Nogi would have been horrified they learned nothing and this happened again. A poem by General Nogi...

~ A Song Of Triumph ~

As a leader of the Imperial Army, I took a million soldiers in hostage.
The battle resulted in a mountain of dead bodies.
I am so ashamed of facing their old fathers.
A song of triumph? 
But how many men can return home?

 original film footage - Russians surrender at Port Arthur, Russo-Japanese war - glimpses of General Nogi in this film. The Russians have large fur hats.


General Akiyama Yoshifuru

February 9, 1859 – November 4, 1930 

A true gentleman and the father of modern Japanese cavalry. The chief reason we sold so many horses to Japan. Another outstanding equestrian who rode Walers, he was born into an Samurai family and worked at basic jobs before studying at the military academy; Akiyama needed to work as his family, like many, had become impoverished after their property was grabbed by the Emperor-government as a means to end the Shogun system and hereditary privilege.

He was a hard working student who succeeded, becoming a Captain of cavalry.

The military academy of Japan had a fiercesome German officer in charge, General Jacob Meckel, sent by Bismark upon Japan's request for a training officer. He was typical of German/Prussian military men of the time - ruthless - and equipped with an enormous, well drilled moustache. Nonetheless he drummed the strategies of famous wars into his pupils and was so scathing of the Japanese cavalry Akiyama was determined to improve it. 

Indeed it was so - Samurai were not allowed to breed military horses any more, by law - the Emperor (government) took it over - so Japanese horse breeding had fallen into a woeful heap. Their once famous horse quality went into rapid decline after Shoguns were outlawed.

Fortunately, the few select pupils chosen were paid to attend the prestigious military academy - personal funds were not needed - it was  education by merit. Akiyama graduated in 1879.

He then paid his own way to study at the elite French military academy - É
cole spéciale militaire de Saint-Cyr - to learn about French cavalry methods, in 1887. Most of his fellows soldiers went to Germany to study. He found the French of the time treated horses kindly, unlike his stern German tutor earlier. He was also much taken with French chivalry, which he took back to Japan and had accepted into military training there, as it was banned to call chivalry (or anything) Samurai any more. 

Akiyama Yoshifuru
source Wiki

His younger brother became a Vice-Admiral and also served at the Russo-Japanese war with distinction. Akiyama was popular in France, the ladies liked him - yet all he would say was that he liked sake. Good man! In fact, he liked sake perhaps a little too much, preferring it to food often. 

Akiyama lived incredibly frugally, perhaps the most spartan of all Samurai. He decried any form of vanity, spurned compliments, used his fingers instead of a comb, did not own a mirror and lived on a simple diet, often only rice and pickles. Nutrition was known about in his times but he declined to have a balanced diet, austerity was etched into his soul. He often had no chair, cushion or bed, his room bare but for kettle and one rice bowl while training and on service.

In the Meiji era, to keep them from revolt, rich Samurai had been given top positions and the sort of luxury once shunned by their class and bestowed with titles such as Duke, Marquis, Count, Baron etc to make up for their ancient rights and lands being taken. Lower ranks of Samurai, also dispossessed but not rewarded, could only win a title by outstanding service. Akiyama, because of his brilliance as cavalry commander, was offered a title. He refused it. Noble in the true sense of the word. He remained true to his Samurai values, rightly called the last Samurai. 

He saw the importance of cavalry and after the first Sino-Japanese war worked hard to establish a training department at the Military Riding School for cavalry officers - becoming Principal at the Military Riding School. 

The army had woefully neglected cavalry in their modernisation, as mounted soldiers formerly were only the very elite class of Samurai. After Samurai had their lands and rights taken, cavalry horses went rapidly into decline - now the responsibility of the Emperor who would not let others breed military horses yet looked more to his infantry and navy. The new cavalry had mounts that were too small, many had bad conformation and poor action. They weren't much of an outfit. Artillery needed horses urgently, being underpowered with ponies. The Emperor's government army studs needed good breeding stock. Akiyama set to work. He'd studied all the famous cavalries of the world, their horses, gear, training, strategies, tactics, general make-up.

 photo source His horse looks like a Waler and probably is, Akiyama placed orders for many horses with J.G. Rowley of Sydney. Rowley always travelled over with his horses and chose good ones, conscious they were for high ranking cavalry officers as well as the government stud. Akiyama was one of the few people Rowley, a difficult man few could deal with, had respect for.

Akiyama imported big horses and improved the government studs out of sight, looking for staying mares and stallions with stamina and good conformation to cross with the best of Japanese ponies he could find. He truly created Japan's cavalry, and so exceedingly well, they triumphed over other armies. He knew horses and he knew cavalry. He sent for horses all around the world that bred for cavalry and artillery.

He sent officers and veterinarians to Australia to select horses. His education in F
rance coupled with Samurai values resulted in he too acting with honour in war - the Germans at that time were rather bloodthirsty and most Japanese at that time were sent to Germany to study, as were many English.

A tremendous cavalry leader, he rode in many battles and many charges - his men would follow him anywhere.

Akiyama Yoshifuru. The face of an old soldier, infinately sad.

Cavalry commander in the first Japanese-Sino war where he led in several battles with great distinction. He served in the Boxer Rebellion. He kept strict discipline, allowing no harm to Chinese civilians, no looting, and made sure his men only took captured weapons home as souvenirs.

In the Russo-Japanese war he successfully led his cavalry in several tremendous battles including against Russian cossacks - for example at the great battle of Mukden - defeating what was at the time regarded as the best cavalry in the world (making his French training college very proud!)

In 1907 he was sent to the second international peace conference at the Hague, where international rules to determine human rights in war were being laid down. Major-General Yoshifura Akiyama, Inspector of Cavalry of Japan, was elected to the Examination Commission - an important role, for a good man.

He too was informally referred to as a Shogun (the term was outlawed by the emperor) as he became a leader of troops and inspired great loyalty and high morale in his troops. His men became internationally recognised equestrians, able to compete at Olympic level.

The Japanese cavalry had horses from many countries and bred their own, to have Walers among the best there was indeed an honour, and Akiyama's instilling patience and true horsemanship into his pupils meant the horses got the very
best of care and handling. His legacy will never be forgotten.

Akiyama, left, and his men on Walers at the Russo-Japanese war 

He was promoted to General in 1916 and in 1917 became commander of The Chosen Army (the Japanese army in Korea), then director of Military Education. Like many, he had a great respect for the hardy and well conformed Korean ponies at times bought and campaigned by the Japanese. Many were bought for crossing to Walers. 

He declined a Field Marshall position and retired from the army in 1923, having ridden horses into his old age. 

In his later years he taught at a local school on his picturesque home island of Shikoku, in his hometown of Matasyama, the only headmaster of a public school in his country who was a General. A man of sound principles, he knew life's true values - stressing to his students that personal ethics were more important than worldly riches, and that the two were incompatible. 

The French delegation at the funeral of Emperor Meiji. Akiyama seated left.

General Akiyama Yoshifuru on his Waler

A highly popular Japanese TV series was made in recent times about three important commanders at the Russo-Japanese war, called Clouds Over the Hill. Akiyama is one of those featured. The film is based on a best selling novel of the same name, by Shiba Ryōtarō.

Akiyama Yoshifuru died in 1930, of diabetes complications, aged 71. A shrine was made at the family home, which was bombed in WW2. A re-construction has been made, an old well was salvaged and sits in corner of the tiny garden, near a statue of Akiyama on a horse. The place is a museum to the Akiyama brothers, considered two of the best commanders Japan has produced.


Major General Yasumasa Fukushima 

27 May 1852 – 19 February 1919

Best ride ever! Fukushima was from a noble Samurai family, a dashing cavalry officer and brilliant spy. He spoke ten languages and was widely travelled, having been to British India, throughout the Middle East, Siberia, Russia, the Baltics, Turkestan, England, Burma, Siam, China, Turkey (more than once) Iran, Iraq, Europe and elsewhere - amazing. 

He kept horses while military attaché in Germany for 5 years, and when military attaché to China, where he'd been able to thoroughly assess the Chinese army - far smaller than Japan had thought. He recognised their value as an ally and reported on this back home, helping shape diplomatic ties. He was keen to keep the major western powers from attacking his country, and realised Japan need to build its army fast and know its enemies and allies capabilities and limitations.

Fukushima achieved fame for riding non-stop from Berlin to Vladivostock in 1892 - ostensibly for a bet with fellow cavalry officers - but he was gathering intelligence, invaluable when planning first the Sino-Japanese war. He'd been very popular while stationed in Germany, winning competitions of strength and arms skills and liking a bet on the result. Thus it seemed natural he did the ride for a wager. In fact he was ordered to go through all countries between Germany and Japan, including Siberia and Russia, to assess their capabilities in case of war.

As he rode through Poland - in fact it was wiped off the map at that time, shared up between aggressors Russia and Germany - he was devastated to see a country could be erased, the dreadful ruin and poverty that invasion and occupation caused. Russians pillaged, burnt, slaughtered. He dreaded this happening to Japan. Although his country was surrounded by sea thus safe in the past, a big new railway through Manchuria would bring Russian troops in giant numbers to the coast, to embark on fast modern ships. He made valuable contacts while in the land once known as Poland - allies in case of Russian aggression - and supported Polish independence. Thus, in the Russo-Japanese war Poles came to fight for Japan, and those Poles forced to fight for the Russians did not look on surrender as defeat.

A good poet, he wrote a poem about the anguish of Polish ruins as he rode through, it filled him with emotion, dreading it happening to Japan. Japan from the mid-nineteenth century had been scrambling to modernise and build their armies - modernising meant contact with outsiders and the risk little Japan would become prey as eyes turned to them.

Fukushima was very much welcomed by ordinary people and the military in Poland, Germany and Russia as he rode along. He met much kindness. This made a big impression on him, he also noted the great defenses Germany had built to keep Russia out. As a Samurai he was well versed in 'The Art of War' and practised its teachings - including know thine enemy. 

book in Japanese about his ride through Eurasia

Yasumasa Fukushima  rode across Europe, Russia, Mongolia, Manchuria, the Gobi desert and Siberia - alone - some 14,400 kilometres, taking 488 days, arriving in June 1893. 

He studied the Trans-Siberian railway and other Russian installations and military movements, as there were concerns about Russian expansion into Mongolia and the ability of rail to move troops into China, hence Korea with fast access to invade Japan.

The Russians weren't concerned about Japanese military aggression at the time, and were very gracious to him on his travels. They knew exactly who he was and considered him no threat. Those who met him spoke glowingly of his care for his horse, his bright eyes, courage, his cheerful manner and intelligence. Being from a tremendous horse culture themselves, they respected him for his immense ride and courage doing it alone. They knew he was spying but honour forbad them attacking a solitary rider, a stranger in their land, instead he found the famous Russian hospitality. Mounted Cossacks galloped to welcome him en masse, providing an escort at times. Military barracks took him in, he was invited to weddings, banqueted and housed most comfortably; everyone was most kind. Russians too had done famous long rides across Asia and Europe.

He got help along the whole route through their country although at times in Mongolia there were some hard times. This interaction with ordinary Russians helped his recommendations of treating Russian prisoners with respect, if that time came (as it did), be accepted without question at home. He found them chivalrous, generous and decent. The Czar also entertained Fukushima, having him to court at St Petersburg.

The horse Gaisen (Triumphant Return) got him through severe snow conditions all the way to Moscow, where at cavalry headquarters he got the vet to examine his horse and gave it 13 days rest. But Gaisen was not well. After they travelled on the horse went lame and weakened, eventually collapsing. It broke Fukushima's heart to leave him behind, dying, in the care of a villager.

Fukushima Yasumasa, Lone Horseman In The Snow
Japanese woodcut, signed Yoshimune

It is such a pitiful thing that Gaisen has become so badly ill, here is this place where he is without anything to comfort his misfortune. He cannot stand for my visit but he shows his gladness. 
When I kneel next to him, his head is down but he moves his ears at my every movement. Even now he makes sounds so sadly, shaking his mouth. It looks like he is trying to say something. I am moved so much by seeing this that I begin crying." from his journal.

Gaisen's imminent death was extremely distressing for his human. A great poet, Fukushima left a heartbroken poem on his horse's mane. He'd bought Gaisen from an English officer at the British Embassy in Berlin for 1,000 marks. It would be interesting to know where the English officer got this horse, bearing in mind most English cavalry horses then were from Australia and that it looks very much like a Waler; it was described as a half-bred. The horse was 10 years old. The bond between a Waler and its owner is immensely strong, a Waler will literally go until it dies for the person it loves. Fukushima gave all his money, a considerable amount representing all he had being his life's savings, to the local police chief to care for Gaisen until his final breath, and to bury him with honour.

Gaisen also saved his life, by fighting off attackers in a forest one night, about 20 miles from Vilna. Gaisen reared and fought them off with his hooves while Fukushima got his revolver out, then they galloped off. These robbers were murderers, having recently killed two policemen, as Fukushima discovered when they made the next village, Yalnuk.

Fukushima pressed on, after spending some days with Gaisen, on a horse named Ural, a gift from the Russians in Moscow where he travelled back to to get a horse, named for the mountains he had to cross. For some days after leaving Gaisen, now riding Ural, his sight was obscured from crying. He got lost a couple of times. This horse was rather crabby and bit him a few times. When he was able Fukushima traded him in Kirghistan for two local ponies, Altai and Hsi Ang, for the rest of the journey; having another wait at one stage while Altai recovered from a burn from a farrier. 

Once home, they were turned onto Fukushima's pastures for a quiet retirement, in later years being adopted by the Emperor and going to Ueno Zoo in Tokyo where they were much visited by the public. 

Fukushima had taken a lock of Gaisen's mane all the way home. He put it on the altar in his home, as warriors did with their horses that died in battle. 

On arrival home he was hailed a national hero and became internationally famous. Some of his reports (one below in newspaper clippings) were published in newspapers but not many, Japan worrying people might guess he was spying, funny that. In WW2 tragically a lot of his reports were destroyed but his book about the ride survived and a few notes and poems from which his journey can be traced. There are other accounts of the times which various later authors have uncovered to fill out a picture of this fascinating man.

Fukushima with the Central Asian ponies he finished the ride with. There are three in this photo. He is wearing the great fur coat that got him through two winters, frozen alps and tundra, and blizzards on the journey.

His journal about the journey has been translated into English by Richard la Tondre, in a book called The Golden Kite. 
The Matsumoto museum in Japan has much of the General's riding gear and equipment, and journals. Fukushima was of the Matsumoto Samurai clan.

The poet Ochiai Naobumi wrote an epic poem at the time, titled Kiba Ryoko (journey on horseback), about this epic ride and the Baron's sorrow at seeing Poland destroyed. 

This poem became a popular children's song in Japan, called Porando Kaiko. In the Russo-Japanese war both Japanese and the Poles there fighting with them loved singing this song.

General Fukushima Yasumasa
who made one of the most extraordinary rides of all time - alone.

Yasumasa on the horse Gaisen he rode from Berlin to Moscow.
They averaged 50 kilometres(31 miles) a day, going for 6 days at a rate of riding from 7 or 9 or up to 12 hours, then having the seventh as a rest day. What a horse.
"Over his military overcoat, he wore a fur coat, carried four saddle-bags made of skins, one sextant, a barometer, a map, a sword and a revolver." source

As well as the First Sino-Japanese war, Fukushima served in the Boxer Rebellion, being in charge at Tietjin and the Foreign Legation. He was able to advise the British that due to his previous experience fighting Chinese, they would fight to the death if trapped, but if left an escape route, would retire when forced, thus his insights shaped defense methods. He'd done a lot of work studying the Chinese troops and defenses. 

Fukushima would have met the Australian journalist Dr. George Morrison, who was also at the legation. Like Fukushima, Morrison had undertaken an extraorinarily long ride - in Morrison's case, simply to save travelling costs and to look at country and cultures - he was a writer. Morrison lived in China for decades.

Fukushima sent officers scouting throughout China, and did a lot of scouting himself deep into Korea. During his time several other Japanese officers became outstanding spies for their country, sometimes openly, other times not, but always with great bravery, diplomacy and genuine intelligence. 

At the Boxer Rebellion Fukushima was highly conscious the Japanese were fighting for the first time with westerners and wanted to show they were civilised and fought with discipline and honour, as he let a war correspondent know when he landed with his 3,000 men at Taku. Little did he know how abominably the other countries would behave! 

He'd graduated from the military Academy in 1874 and fought for the Emperor in the Satusuma Rebellion of 1877. Spying was not taught at the Military Academy when he studied there, intelligence being relatively new in the formal structure of armies as a named department. Yasumasa really started Japans intellience service in the most able manner. Yasumasa knew they must study other armies and make allies, and identify enemies urgently. Colonisation was going on all around. The Firm was born - by WW2, long after his death, Japan had the best intelligence department in the world.

His career, during which he did several acts of notable kindness, had been printed all over the world as he was greatly admired after his ride. Instances of his kindness are still being found. He helped five Vietnamese gain permission to study at university in Japan, knowing their French overlords may forbid it, and his own government if their nationality was declared due to tensions with the French who still possessed Vietnam. He assured them he would help them stay for study and put them down as 'foreigners' on enrollment forms. One, a royal, paid his way through, Japan supported the others financially. This was never forgotten by the grateful recipients who adored Japan ever after and aspired for their country too, to become modernised (source Overturned Chariot by Phan-Bội-Châu, published 1999).

After the big ride he went throughout India, Burma and the Middle East, on return being put in charge of Japanese military intelligence. He rode Walers while in the British colonies, no doubt some reminded him forcibly of his beloved Gaisen. 

He'd asked Britain to provide forces as a deterrent to Russia while at a combined military meeting in Winchester House in 1902 - but they refused. That didn't faze a man who'd ridden across a continent through fire and ice. Undaunted, he went straight to India and saw the Viceroy, Lord Curzon, and the war monger Lord Kitchener. Yasumasa knew most British troops were in fact Indian, a massive military resource. Curzon was wise and knew Japan was a valuable ally. He was learned in Asian conflicts and alliances, had much experience there, and was well aware of Japans military successes. 

Curzon welcomed Fukushima. Neither got along with Kitchener. The visit did a lot for diplomacy, trade and friendship for both Japan and India. No-one knows the discussion but Fukushima left happy, no doubt reassured of support if needed. Lord Curzon soon after invited Japan to the big Coronation Durbar in Delhi in 1903, and reps went. Curzon rode a chestnut Waler named Coronation at the Durbar, the biggest event of its kind in the world. (reference for some of this is Ian Nish, Collected Writings, Volume 1, published 2001). Curzon also sent Younghusband to conquer Tibet in 1903 as a strategic move to distract Russia. 

In his mid 50's Yasumasa served at the Russo-Japanese war where he'd been promoted to Major-General, a vice-chief of Staff to the Second Army. Due to his extensive military attaché exerience and language skills the Japanese War Office made him their offical representative - the man journalists and foreign military attache's turned to for news. Pleased to be his friend as he was famous, and charmed by his company, they eventually realised they never got a single word to print. He didn't drink, so nothing slipped out unintentionally either. Some journalists moved over to the Russians in frustration so Fukushima came up with a fool-proof way to retain possible defectors - the Japanese officers held regular banquets with plenty of gourmet food and good champagne laid on for the foreigners - this kept them happy! They had to content themselves with gossip and observations for war news - the Japanese army to a man were politely silent on military matters. Fukushima negotiated the armistice there with his counterpart Major-General Oronovsky in late 1905.

In 1908 he met the Dalai Lama who requested Japanese help in case of Russian invasion. It was agreed to send Japanese officers there to help train some soldiers (as it turned out, it was China who invaded but that was later).

His secret service and diplomacy skills were immensely valued by the Meiji Emperor who sent him as his representative to the coronation of Edward VII in 1902; while there he quietly negotiated the Japanese-Anglo alliance. In 1907 the Emperor made him a Baron (danshaku rank), in 1914 he was promoted to General, retiring soon after.

A cultivated man, Fukushima loved literature and art, he collected paintings with immaculate taste, owning what was to become a famous Picasso among others. He was an accomplished poet and painted well himself. 

He was cheerful and had an ability to make friends, make people feel valued, and to be trusted. He had all the honour of the Samurai. The English knighted him.  In WW1 he was promoted to General. He died in Tokyo aged 67 in 1919. An incredible man who stressed the need for a good intelligence service for his country, he did the planning, leg work and analysis. He served his country with bravery, intelligence and devotion - and - what a ride, what a horseman. Fukushima was extremely modest, never referring to himself in his extensive writings.


sake cups made after the Russo-Japanese war, celebrating the horses


During World War One

Japan (the Taisho Emperor at that time) was an ally of ours and we supplied them with horses including several shiploads during the war, although not as many as they hoped for. Japan was one of only two countries we supplied with horses during the Great War, over 14.2 hands. We sold Japan horses in 1915 with government approval, Colonel Yamashita arriving in February to select some. In 1916 and 1917 Colonel Robertson, Director of Remounts, helped Major K. Sahara choose some; possibly more went over. The other country we supplied was our best customer ever, India. Unofficially we did supply some other countries, one being the Dutch East Indies. 

The Nikko Maru, a steamer familiar to all on the Australian run, left for Japan in 1915 with passengers and cargo - mostly of horses for the Japanese government. She was seen off by a large crowd of well-wishers, and streamers stretched from the ship to the wharf as she steamed out. 

In 1916 20 horses from George Kiss went over to Yokohama on the Hitachi Maru. Indeed, we were on tremendously friendly terms. In 1912 when two Japanese Naval training ships had arrived in Sydney, the harbour resounded to the thunder of cannon as our Navy welcomed them magnificently - it was said all Farm Cove shook! Banzai! said the headlines! 

In 1916 the Tango Maru also took 30 tons of horseshoes back with other cargo. The Hitachi Maru took 120 tons of horseshoes in December, together with 20 horses and other cargo.

Several times a year throughout the war as before and after, Japanese trade commissioners  were shown about by our trade commissioners with whom they were old friends. In 1917 for example they visited the Government Clydesdale Stud at Canowindra in NSW, and some Thoroughbred studs. Traders took them to horses sales. 

Vets in particular always came to meet the Japanese, whose interest in horse welfare was paramount and who were particularly interested in the scientific side, having sound veterinary knowledge. Our vets exchanged scientific information with them. They were always keen on collecting samples of grass seed too, including good collections of Australian native grasses laughed at by our own farmers who apologised for not knowing a single scientific name of any native grass species but who were great at identifying introduced meadow cultivars. The war it seemed, had only made friendships made through trade grow deeper. 

On our request, the Japanese helped us in WW1 capture the Marshall and Mariana Islands.

 In 1919, soon as the war was over, the Japanese were buying lots of horses again. A good post-war market for us. Several shiploads went over that year. Also in 1919 Japan asked the League of Nations (fore-runner to the United Nations) for racial equality in trade and international affairs. England, supporting the shameful White Australia policy, disgracefully vetoed this. This policy was wrongful and is a shameful part of our past. It was not an official policy, however referred to as that - immigration at the time was mostly based on race. Things changed for the better eventually.

Installation of the Heir Apparent (Hirohito), 1916
Hirohito took over many duties as his father retired early from public life.
(Illustrated London News)

General Kamio, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Army at the formal entry of Tsing-Tao, December, 1914. World War I. (Paul Thompson/New York Times).
Riding their Walers, the Japanese captured the German controlled town when asked by the British.

The Japanese used the war to gain German territories in the Pacific and parts of China - their reward for helping Britain. The English used the Anglo-Japanese alliance to call on Japanese help. 

During this war the Japanese treated their prisoners with great courtesy and care, it was said to show the west they were civilised, but Japan was still a country with sound military personnel who based their training on bushido principles of chivalry. The Germans and Austo-Hungarians captured were given a bar and kitchen in their Bando POW camp in Japan, well fed, well clothed, allowed out on excursions and to give lectures on art, science and music. The Japanese were proud the POW's played Beethoven's 9th symphony for them - the first time ever it was played in Japan. The Japanese came through WW1 with military honour. After the war the horse trade continued without a hitch into the 20's and 30's.


Between world wars

Australia's horse trade to Japan continued unabated. The horses were for their army riding school, cavalry, artillery and government breeding studs. A few racehorses went over. Thousands went over for the invasion of China over the 1930's leading up to WW2.

Japan was our major trade partner - second only to the UK and progressing to becoming number one trade partner.

In 1935 we sent Sir John Latham on a good will mission to Japan - this was immensely well received. Japanese officials expressed wishes for a long friendship and said how much our countries had helped each other over decades of friendly trade. Australians were given wonderful welcomes in Japan. Horse traders loved to visit there.

In 1928, three horses the Japanese government selected from a shipment sent by J.S. O'Donnell of West Maitland were sent to Holland to train for the Olympics. This was the first Olympics Japan competed at. They won no medals in Equestrian but their cavalry was a fine place for keen riders to learn, producing excellent horsemen. The great rider Baron Takeichi Nishi, orphaned as a small child but born into financial security, won gold for Japan on an Italian horse, Uranus, in 1932. In 1936 the Japanese took two Australian bred horses to the Olympics where Nishi rode his beloved Uranus. Tragically he was killed in action on Iwo Jima in WW2, where he was a tank commander. He'd managed to get back to Japan once during the war and visited his horse Uranus, which died a week after Nishi, despite being half a world away. Like Nishi, the Dutch riders who won Olympic gold (1924 and 28) had learned to ride on Walers, in the East Indies cavalry. They may have had discussions about the merits of Australian horses! 

Umpteen Japanese ships traded here and at least weekly took a few horses back with other cargo - numbers sharply rising from 1931. It's hard to estimate how many went over in the 1930's as few ships publicly disclosed cargo but certainly tens of thousands went over. Most taken to China for the invasion.

However, from pre WW1 Japanese foreign policy had been worrying. Bill Donald, the famous Australian journalist, had been a great admirer of Japan but swung to fully support China against renewed Japanese aggression. He made no secret of Japanese threats to China. Donald was an influential man. The Australian government however, run by conservatives interested only in making their rich benefactors richer, chose to turn a blind eye. Donald became advisor to Chang Hsueh-liang, the leader in Manchuria, who was fighting the Japanese. Also, to Chiang Kai-Shek. He could see China was a sleeping giant that only had to unite, to shake off Japanese aggression. Unlike the arrogant British, he got along with the Chinese; he was intelligent, brave and decent.
In the mid to late 1930's, as Japanese aggression in China under Hirohito continued with increasing war crimes, there's no doubt some military officers coming to buy horses here, some staying weeks and travelling about, were spying merrily. Times were changing drastically but few here knew how much - our government chose to turn a blind eye. Japanese trade was crucial for our economy.

A few horse sales in that time that went back with officers...

1925 Captain K. Quada came on the Tango Maru and bought 15 horses for the Military Riding School returning with them on the same ship. Captain Okada came over on the same ship on another trip buying horses for the riding school too.
1926, 15 horses to Yokohama on the Burma Maru OSK in Feb. Also 16 horses in April on the Mishima Maru to Kobe.

1927 Major K. Nozawa came over on the Tango Maru, a liner with a regular run from Australia, and took back 15 good horses for the Tokyo Military Riding School. 
1928 Liet-Col Nozoawa arrived in January on the Tango Maru for horses, which he bought in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
1929 Captain Ogata from the cavalry came for horses on the Aki Maru.
 1932 it was Captain Sakuyama.
1933 Captain Takeshi Kashima came on the Kamo Maru in May for 100 horses, with him were Mr. K. Nishi, Mr. M. Okomoto and Mr. T. Kameyama, all to buy horses.
1934 Major Tokui.
1935 K. Kuno spent months here buying horses. 
1936 Lt-Col S. Ishida - he went to Toowoomba to buy horses. 
1939 62 horses went over from Brisbane on the Tanda. 

Shipping companies such as Burns Philp had close relations with the Japanese through trade, and many good friendships were formed. Plenty of other officers came for horses. There was a great exchange of trade - wool, silk, wheat, rice, all sorts. Japanese had moved here over the decades, many went into the pearling industry as divers, some doctors, merchants; they married here and settled down. Many passengers went back and forth and a 'Cherry blossom' policy of encouraging Japanese women to visit for cultural purposes - bringing their plays, dress and so on - bloomed. The love affair with Japan continued blissfully ignorant of their crimes in China, right up until WW2 broke out.



Japanese equestrians took Australian horses to the 1932 Olympics at Los Angeles, where, on an Italian horse of Anglo-Norman breeding named Uranus, Baron Nishi won gold. He got a standing ovation, as the jumps course was massive.

These Olympics became a landmark in the Olympic spirit and the hearts of all horse lovers - due to the humanity of a Japanese rider on his old Australian horse. In those days, only army officers were permitted to ride at the Olympics.

Shunzo Kido and his horse Kyugun had been to the 1928 Olympics, where the courses were a doddle. Shunzo was happy his old equine friend would be perfectly ok at these Olympics - the course was designed by the same man.

But. The eventing course for 1932 was notorious. The designer realised his 1928 course was too easy and made the fatal mistake of over-compensating. The 1932 course was terribly dangerous.

Lt-Col. Shunzo Kido and his horse Kyugun.

Over 22 miles(over 30 kilometres) long - the most gruelling Olympic course ever made. Exceedingly cruel. Crosscountry, hilly and over 50 obstacles. Most exhausted horses fell. Several men were hospitalised. Few finished. Not a single team - of three riders and horses - finished at all.

Lieutenant Colonel Shunzo Kido on his Australian horse Kyugun, were doing well on this course. They cleared everything. They were "within a flea breath" of finishing - only one last jump. They were well in front of any other competitor on time too, about to get gold. However the horse, 19 years old, was exhausted. He was heaving but would not give up, trying his heart out for his beloved rider. Shunzo knew the horse was only running on courage; he was spent. He felt his horse would die if he was pushed another inch. 

Shunzo pulled him up before the last jump, and put his head on his mane. He knew one more jump might finish his gallant mount and chose kindness over glory. He dismounted. The horse, dripping sweat and nostrils extended as he laboured for breath, leaned his head into Shunzo's shoulder as if saying 'sorry.' The entire crowd and the judges burst into tears. Kyugun had big ears, which in old horse folklore means 'big ears, big heart.' Indeed, he proved this true.

Two years later, to honour this act of humanity, the Americans kindly erected a plaque in California for Shunzo. His beautiful example of caring for the horse's welfare before fame has been often lauded, and is a great example of the Japanese attitude to the horse - one of great humanity. 

The Japanese took 11 horses to these Olympics, described by the Americans as 'none being clean-bred" - meaning none were pure Thoroughbred. At least two were Walers - Kyugun, ridden by Lieutenant Colonel Shunzo Kido, and Sonshin, a 13 year old ridden by Captain Taro Nara. On the gruelling cross country course Sonshin failed at the waterjump, exhausted, and was withdrawn. The only horse to finish the course without falling was Jenny Camp, a bay American mare, yet this game mare finished outside the alloted time. 

It is possible Kyugun is by the great jumping horse Radium (a chestnut, not the little bay TB by same name) as he looks very similar.
Captain Taro Nara on Sonshin
The Sun (Sydney) 14th August 1932.

little video of Baron Nishi at these Olympics, at the very beginning is a glimpse of Kido and Kyugun, in the centre of three riders. 


' Horse stable.'
Early 17th century. Six panel screen: ink, pigment and gold paint on paper, lacquer on wood, silk, paper, metal.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.


The second Sino-Japanese war 

& World War Two

Traumatic memories on all sides. The Japanese military had changed beyond recognition. The fall from grace.

In 1937 Japan invaded China and declared war - however war began when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931. Hirohito's grandiose idea to expand his empire throughout Asia was in full swing - the once honourable army corrupted. 

What they did in China was terror and depravity on a giant scale. Little Japan, once terrified of empires itself, had become one. 

The Japanese soldiers themselves were treated appallingly and many were ordered to commit war crimes, even in training. A terrible time.

Japanese soldiers suicided at record rates during the war in China article about suicide in this war. Suicide of soldiers indicates an immoral army, with poor, immoral government.

Powerful factions formed in the Japanese army, in the 1930's becoming so strong that assassinations - including Prime Ministers - were frequent. 

In 1936 an attempted coup by an army faction saw several people murdered, it was put down by the rest of the army. Several army men were tried and executed, others sacked, others transferred. Factions are a sign of poor leadership. The right wing extremist faction - nationalists, always brutal - wanted Hirohito's Asian war pursued aggressively.

The horses were vital in many areas to all sides.

Japanese troops in Manchuria 1931

Japanese soldier gives water to a dying horse, second Sino-Japanese war, battle of Shanghai

England, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and North America supported China against the Japanese in the 1930's. 

Australia supplied many horses to Japan over this time; agent J.S. (Jack) O'Donnell of West Maitland being a major buyer in NSW for this market. In April 1933 a Japanese ship, the Geisho Mara, loading in Melbourne with iron, also took 30 tons of horse shoes to Japan. Countless ships left with horses. The Tamon Maru and Morioka Maru left in 1937 with hundreds of tons of horse shoes, the rest of their cargo scrap iron.

Our Prime Minister, Menzies, a conservative who admired Hitler and Hirohito's nationalist policies - changed tack when war broke out. Menzies was known as "Pig-Iron Bob" for supplying the Japanese with much iron in the 30's for military purposes.

We also supplied horses to China over this time although not as many, as they didn't have the funds. China was an old and highly valued trading partner. When a load of 98 ponies went over to Hong Kong and Shanghai in July 1939, it was reported we were gaining a market in China for ponies as Japan banned them getting Manchurian ponies. News here reported both sides of this conflict equally. Sympathies lay with China and Manchuria but friendly ties with Japan and dependence on them for our economy meant loyalties were tested. Newspapers noted the bandits in Manchuria forsook their loyalty to Japan and now fought for the Chinese. This spoke volumes. 

Japanese cavalry second Sino-Japanese war

In 1931 masses of Japanese cavalry invaded Manchuria. Armies, war lords and Chinese rebels skirmished and fought in gruelling conditions. The Chinese of neccessity became masters of guerrilla warfare - Manchuria was occupied by the Japanese from 1931 until the end of World War Two - they installed a puppet government of token Chinese and called the area Manchukuo.

During this conflict brave China had some wins - in 1938 General Chu Tey's men captured well over 1,000 Australian horses from the Japanese, and used them well in their cavalry. The General himself rode a Waler.

Sales to Japan were dropping off in late 1939 - alliances were changing as world war broke out - miraculously news of atrocities in China leaked out as propaganda machines swung hurriedly about face. Our friend was now our enemy. We were at war.

Japanese cavalry on Walers
  the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invading Manchuria 1935

General Iwane Matsui on his Waler enters Nanking, China, in 1937

Nanking, Unit 731 and Unit 100 are horrors that are well known so won't be gone into here. Bizzarely the Emperor who was directly responsible, Royal family members directly involved in war crimes, the torturers of Unit 731 and Unit 100 were all given immunity from prosecution by North America via MacArthur; the worst torturers being rewarded with top jobs at his army's own chemical and biological warfare Unit at Maryland. 

Apology... the Japanese Government has apologised for their war crimes of the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War Two, in 1972 (PM Tanaka). Several since. Which is more than a lot of countries have done. They maintain at war memorials and in school books they went to Asia to liberate it from western occupiers; however denial of a country's own war crimes by governments is scarcely confined to Japan. The appalling crimes make it hard for many affected to move on. Little Hong Kong for example, was estimated to have lost over 250,000 civilians to Japanese rape and brutality in the brief occupation there. Japanese leaders need to work harder on reconciliation. The best apology however, for all empires, is to stop being an empire. They have done that.

In many other books that touch on the war, Japanese have written with great wisdom and insight. Few countries indeed, have such refreshing honesty about their own history. 

Australia was the first country to re-establish trade with its old friend Japan, in 1952.  Horse buyers came here that year, for racehorses. Japan had been vital to our economy. 

As with the aftermath of all war, it took some people far longer to move on, some incapable of doing so. Few like to admit it but war crimes against the Japanese in the Pacific and S.E. Asia by the Allies happened too. We decry the treatment of Allies in POW camps - it was shocking - but where were our POW camps? We shot those who surrendered and who were wounded, ordinary soldiers, not the torturers that all camp guards become. We lost 5,000 Australians in New Guinea, they lost 220,000. War never has a wholly 'good' side. Apologies recognise wrong, hence bring change, and heal. Moving on is healthy. My grandfather Capt. E.E. Andrews and other family members were in the Dutch East Indies, PNG and area in that war, traumatised from seeing American torture and mutilation of ordinary Japanese soldiers, let alone all that war does to people; yet we have moved on - mentioning as one speaks from the heart, not as an outsider to these matters.

 Battle of Hong Kong, 1941. Japanese on Walers

...because war can turn any human being into a monster, I am against all wars.
Kato Shuichi

Japanese soldiers made sunhats for their horses in the tropical weather of South China in 1939

 Japanese loading horses for WW2 from the album of Kawahra Yuzo. 

Chinese leader Chiang Kai Shek had been fighting the Japanese and an internal war against warlords and the communists of Mao Tse Tung. His Kuomintang forces (KMT) bore most of the fighting. Mao' communists cunningly avoided most action, saving strength to destroy the KMT afterwards and take over China themselves. Chiang was winning against the Japanese in all areas when war stopped - he rode a grey Waler during part of the war and later, in peace, rode Celestial Horses - special Chinese horses with breeding right back to the Han period, a discerning man! A couple of Chiang's best friends were Australians, hugely helpful to China, such as the amazing William Henry Donald - said to be the most important westerner in China since Marco Polo. 

Australian veterinary surgeon Lieut-Colonel W. J. B. Murphy, of the First Australian Survey Unit, was stationed in New Guinea throughout WW2. He saw and studied the diseases that affected horses there. He wrote a report about it for UNRRA, and gave a talk to Rotary in 1946. He said the Japanese soldiers showed immense courage, and touching reverence for their horses, and how they held funerals for them, and how hard it was for some to have to eat horse when faced with starvation. 

He described the Japanese vets there as "among the best in the world." Not everyone did war crimes, vets are there to save lives. 

Japanese soldiers with their horses (probably on a train) WW2

Australia sold horses to Japan up to WW2. The Japanese cavalry were largely mounted on Australian horses, or their own horses bred from Walers, for WW2. Unlike other countries at that time which were superbly mounted but found the era of the cavalry was past, so went away without horses, they used horses effectively in several theatres. Places such as Manchuria, Burma (where Rangoon was won by the Japanese using skillful cavalry tactics), China, Korea, and western New Guinea. 

Third Division, in China, 1940.  Ponies and mules used for pack-horses.
The tall horse is unquestionably a Waler (I own one identical to this horse, she is off Mt Riddoch station, now aged 26.)

 Genjiru Inui on his Waler, Kyoto cavalry camp, 1941. 
This man was sent to the Pacific, had a tough war of fighting, and survived to go home to his wife. source, his diary - English translation. He was at Guam, Guadalcanal etc.

Australians shot 740 Japanese horses at Rabaul after the war, the remainder of 4,000 veteran cavalry horses sent there from China, these horses were mostly all bred in Australia. Rabaul is on New Britain, a large island near New Guinea, and was a Japanese HQ. Many had been taken to New Guinea, for example in August 1942 a convoy of ships taking troops also took 170 horses over to Buna-Goa and in August 1942 the Yasukawa Maru took 200 horses over to Basabua. Australians also trained and used many of these horses for a raceday to boost morale at Rabaul, when war was over, to celebrate Australia Day, January 1946.

In July 1942 2,000 Japanese soldiers with field guns and horses landed at Gona, northern coast of New Guinea. Many of these horses were soon captured by Australians, as well as horses abandoned by the Japanese at Hansa Bay as Australians closed on them. Horses used to haul loads from Buna over Kokoda by the Japanese became poor and had harness galls, they were abandoned by the Japanese on grass country to recover and were caught by Australians too. There is one known instance of the Japanese shooting 50 horses in New Guinea when there was no food for them. Australians used Walers on the Kokoda track too, brought over from Australia, and were the only men able to get their horses through this gruelling terrain and in good health. Outstanding. Walers too were the only horses to get through, even local ponies could not cope. Americans had many Walers in New Guinea too, all died from starvation and misuse.

The Japanese at times in New Guinea had been forced to eat some of their own horses, this was hard for them as they revered horses so much. On the whole the Japanese looked after their war horses exceedingly well, putting their welfare before their own. It was only when both were utterly at deaths door from starvation could they bear to sacrifice them.  Some turned their horses free and chose to starve to death. 

Australians also used captured Japanese horses for race days to ease stress during the war. 

Above: Allied troops inspect captured Japanese horses, raced for entertainment, 10th October 1943 in Soputa (village on crossroads of the Kokoda Trail), New Guinea. Race day and gymkhana was organised by the 11th Australian Division. One winner was named Soputrid.

above:  Allied nurses celebrate picking the winner. Photos by Robert Buchanan.

The winner was Padre Bill, ridden by Gunner Cecil Gatchell. Padre Bill was trained in the dark by Corporal Connolly in the hope other troops would not get wind of his form, hence lose heavily to the bookies. Padre Bill was a favorite with the other troops nurses, however, and as the nurses were greatly admired themselves, it transpired many soldiers had bet with them. The bookies were the only ones not jumping for joy. Above: Padre Bill with Gatchell up.

No-one present was aware these Japanese horses were Walers. There had been fierce fighting in this area; nor was it over. Losses to all were awful. The day was much appreciated.

Padre Bill ridden by Captain Houghton in the Dobodura Hurdle at the same Sopura meeting, which he also won. Clearly hurdling was not the day job of either horse or rider. source, and more photos of these races

The Japanese armies under Hirohito suffered much. In turn, they imposed suffering on others. This interview with a Japanese pow shows how badly they were treated in training - beatings to the extent bones were broken. Practising bayonet charges on living people another atrocity. The new methods of training that came about under Hirohito's rule were so upsetting to some of the old Japanese commanders that some suicided to protest, such as General Yoshibashi who disembowelled himself in 1920 after radical changes for the cavalry were introduced. He foretold the cruel new methods would lead to disaster for the country, how right he was. Japanese crimes in WW2 marr and overshadow their great bravery and fighting success.

A Japanese horse (Waler) caught by Australians in WW2 as Japanese retreated, and used as packhorse. Photo taken at Hansa Bay, New Guinea, June 1944. This horse is also in great condition - it had just been through a tough war, and before that had been used with the Japanese in the arduous war in China. The Australians were not aware most of the Japanese horses had been bred in Australia. This old campaigner had a lucky reprieve from execution, unlike many of its companions. War has so many cruel ironies.
Japanese cavalry horse being unloaded at Kiukiang, China, during the war. One can see the sturdy sling that helped keep the horse safe, and made it a painless business. The cavalry was vital to army movement within China.

A Japanese vet dresses a horses hoof on Rabaul, January 1946.
Australians were training the captured horses for a raceday to celebrate Australia Day and started a Turf Club to hold regular races while stationed there. The army sent race saddles, and jockey colours and caps. Other sports were also held such as cricket.
Japanese vets, horsemen and farriers helped care for the horses.
The Japanese had surrendered in August 1945. Those who committed war crimes were tried, some were executed. In March 1946 the rest of Japanese left on New Britain were taken home, many on one of their hospital ships as a transport. 
After the races, before they embarked for home, the Australians shot all the horses, believing they were Japanese.

 magnificent Waler and Japanese rider.
This photo is on several websites, on tumblr it's captioned "A Japanese Army officer and his horse during the invasion of Manchuria, 1931." under the subject "Japanese Invasion of Manchuria."

After World War Two

"Peace is the shared hope of horses and people." 

Mori Hiroshi

An occupying army (North America) immediately took over the Japanese military academy and grounds and still have a massive base there. It was a highly distressing time for Japan just after the war, violent crimes committed by the occupiers, radiation from the nuclear bombs, the agonies of napalm North Americans illegally dropped all over Japan etc. The Japanese were not permitted military forces or to train. Such were the terms of surrender - thousands of years of proud heritage vanished. 

However the need for self defense was apparent such as when the Soviets attacked the northern Japanese islands in the Afghan wars in the 1960's. Japan established a small military force for vital self defense. Many Japanese have discovered the atrocities of WW2 and realising war is simply evil and all people can turn into monsters, don't want a large army again. Others think it's high time they got a decent army together again - a country must have a means to defend itself. Japan is now rebuilding its armed forces. Having an occupying army after all these decades is an unneccessary ongoing trauma.

The Japanese army has no cavalry - like most armies now - but Japanese horsemanship skills are kept alive and demonstrated in wonderful displays at annual shrine festivals. These skills are thousands of years old. It would be wonderful if they started a ceremonial troop to honour their heritage.

Gobaken-jyo or Gobami-dokoro (the honoured place for the Emperor to watch horsemanship) 1911. The pavilion where the Emperor and Royal family watched cavalry drills and parades, and the grand ones of the annual graduation day at the military academy.

This tradition was started by the Meiji Emperor who loved to watch his army train and their displays, especially horsemanship. He once watched a parade in heavy rain, hence the pavilion was built. The pavilion was moved when the cavalry base moved in 1916. It was used for the Royal family to watch the cavalry, a place to stay while visiting, and a billet for any Royal family member studying at the academy for cavalry. 


In 1954 a load of 30 racehorses went from Australia to Japan. They were found to be radio-active when tested with a geiger counter by Professor Yasuhi Nishiwaki of Osaka University Medical Department. 

The horses had gone over on the Kyowa Maru which had passed 850 miles south west of Bikini Atoll where atom bombs were used by North America (NA). The horses were put into quarantine at Kobe. One wonders how many people and life forms have been affected and indeed, whether the horses became radioactive within Australia due to nuclear bomb tests here by the UK - another of PigIronBob Menzies' policies - allowing at least 12 massive nuclear bombs, and 600 'smaller' ones be dropped on Australia by the UK as "tests."

Nuclear bombs leave a lethal legacy for all, for generations - fallout travels over the whole world. From nuclear power plants too. The UK and NthA are the world's worst offenders. Culpable. 
article with good scientific analysis of nuclear dangers - Fukushima, Hiroshima, global fallout.


Japanese horse lore 

Some war memorials were built especially for the horses; such as the war memorial in the town of Honbetsu, on the horse-breeding island of Hokkaido. Mori Hiroshi instigated this after WW2 - he found a wooden ramp used by horses to walk onto trains - and felt their spirits enter his body. This is one of the sites tens of thousands of horses went to war from government studs. Several hundred thousand went to the war in China/Manchuria in the 1930's-40's. Information from a paper by Aaron Skablund, link below. More in Seaton's book listed below. 

The Yushukan War Memorial Museum in the grounds of the famous Yasukuni shrine, Tokyo, has artifacts from the war. This war shrine lists the names of those killed in war, civilians too. Millions. There's a statue of a horse erected in 1958 to honour horses that died in war. People leave water there for the horses in the afterlife. Other animals and birds used in war are also honoured.

This military horse statue had been conceived by shrine management, organised and made by an expert, but due to various circumstances had been left in storage. It was the kindly horseman Shunzo Kido, cavalry officer and instructor, who got a group together and organised the statue to be mounted on a plinth at the war memorial, to honour all horses that served at war. He had the statue ready, in place, for Japan's day of honouring horses now called Favorite Horse Day, on 7th April, 1958, when it was unveiled. April 7th was the special day to honour war horses, which has become tradition, now people can pay their respects on this day at the shrine and leave prayers for the horses and offerings, in the same way on ANZAC Day, 25th April, we leave apples, carrots and sheafs of hay and oats for our departed war horses.


Twelve shrines still keep a real horse, many others have installed a statue instead. The horse is special to Shinto as local deities - kami - are believed to ride horses between this world and theirs; the horse is the connection between earth and heaven. 

Komagata shrines are those dedicated to the gods and goddesses of horses, and various deities that protect horses; and are found throughout Japan. One shrine keeps white horse that was a recent gift from New Zealand, in the ancient sacred stables. 


A newspaper article in the Coolgardie Advertiser, of June 1896 - an Australian newspaper - gave some information about horses going to Japan in the past;  Article text...

'Japanese Horses, Past and Future.
One of the many subjects connected with national defence which is engaging public attention in Japan is the improvement for military purposes of the breed of horses. The Japanese department of agriculture has issued a report from which it appears that allusions to horses abound in the earliest records. Early in the 16th century Italians and Portuguese introduced Arab horses, and in the 18th century the reigning Shogun employed a Dutchman to import sires from Persia and to take charge of breeding establishments. A Persian horse which died at one of these establishments in 1742 had a tombstone, which still exists, erected to his memory. In 1867 Napoleon presented the Shogun with 26 Algerian sires and mares, and it is chiefly from these stocks that the present Japanese hybrids are derived. The Vice-Minister of Agriculture thinks there is no need for any distinction in breeding between horses designed for military uses and those for the ordinary purposes of life. Japanese ponies must have produced qualities rendering them peculiarly suitable for their surroundings ; hence the best native breeds should be perfected and crossed with the best foreign breeds, such as the Arab and the English. The Vice-Minister specially desires to see horses imported from Australia and New Zealand.'


The film 'Uma' (horse) made in 1941, shows the love of a horse by a girl who raised it, in rural poverty, and her anguish when it's sold to the army. This shows the huge demand for horses that not even masses of overseas buying and breeding within Japan could cover. Conscripted horses were paid for but far below value. The country was stripped of horses for the invasion of China, now WW2 required many more. Old breeds were decimated. So much propaganda was made of the value of donating horses to help the war effort that people held a celebration when their horse was taken, but it made life hard for those such as delivery men and farmers left with no means to make a living.


The instigation in the 1930's of Aiba no hi - Horse Love Day - as an annual day to celebrate horses - was to stress the importance of military horses and their sacrifice. It was also to emotionally co-erce people, exploiting their deep love of horses into giving their horses for the war efforts. This day highlighted the bravery of war horses, there were two huge processions of mounted soldiers to shrines, one in Nara and one in Tokyo, and many celebrations. Thousands of Shinto priests presided over celebrations of the military horse. Every Buddist temple throughout the Japanese empire had big celebrations. The spirits of horses that were restless with nowhere to go, were comforted. Japanese always mourned greatly for horses lost in war, and each soldier prayed for his horse's spirit. Locks of their mane were always taken home to be placed on the altar. In Australia this annual event was reported as being to mourn Australian horses lost in war by the Japanese.


Good news - the government in contemporary Japan has declared horse culture a national asset in Hokkaido. Horses have been part of the heartbeat there for time immemorial. 

Kakeuma Shinji at Fujinomori Shrine, Fusimi Ward in Kyoto 
Shrines also hold annual events, with horses and riding - many showing battlefields skills such as archery, riding to reduce as a target, picking up weapons from the ground, sacred horse racing and so on...

There are films of sacred horse racing online.


White horses were prayed to for rains to stop, and black horses for rains to fall.  The white horse is also the sacred mount of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, the most powerful of all. White is the colour of purity, and as white horses are sacred at most temples, people may feed but not touch the white horse. 

It’s believed horses are the offspring of dragons and water creatures. 


Bajutsu... Samurai horsemanship was called bajutsu, a martial art encompassing all aspects of horses for war. The height of mounted combat. Horse care was part of it, as was military training of horse and rider. Horses were taught to go over a wide range of terrain, jumps, through fire and noise, and negotiate water obstacles. Among the skills were various fighting manouvres and weapon skills.

Various weapons were used as well as training to fight without weapons, and techniques as clouting the enemy with the heavy stirrup, a manouvre designed as part of the charge.

The nagamaki, a type of very long handled sword, and the naginata, like a lance with a bladed end were used; both these were also deployed by infantry epecially against mounted enemy. 

The sword mostly associated with the Japanese, the katana, in fact owes it's slight curve, length, and one sharpened side (a slashing sabre rather than a thrusting rapier) to design perfected by Samurai riders. The archetypal cavalry sabre.

The invention of the stirrup was as important to warfare as the invention of gunpowder. The fighter could stand in the stirrups to fight, and balance far better hence have more power and accuracy; and stay on more easily when the horse swung about in defense or offense. 

The Japanese were using brilliantly designed stirrups (abumi) at least three centuries before Europe got stirrups. 

Various treatises and manuals were written about Bajutsu. Like a lot of horse knowledge gained and guarded by a small elite, there was a lot of secrecy... certain traditions only passed down in code, by example, or by telling in person - never written.

Bajutsu is being revitalised, in Belgium equestrians use the methods to help train mounted police. As an art it waned and flourished over the centuries as peace or war was dominant. There were about 20 dojos - a dojo is a school of martial art, a training place - of bajutsu at the beginning of the twentieth century. They faded away as mechanisation came in until this art became extinct, although some aspects are kept alive - combat riding skills and archery - archery is also regarded as a separate and equally prestigious discipline called yabusame

Yabusame, horseback archery
source of above 3 photos.


A horseback game similar to polo was enjoyed and kept warriors and their horses fit, called dakyû. Long sticks with a small net at the end like polocrosse sticks are used and a ball. This game is kept alive as heritage folk culture and played today; usually at shrine festivals. Three different forms are played, once there were more versions of this ancient sport.


horse statue at a shrine

Horses have been part of Japanese culture for thousands of years. It's wonderful that Australia who shares the love of horses, had a relationship for half a century with Japan concerning horses - right at the end of the era of horses, when they were very important to society - before the infernal internal combustion engine took over.

a shrine horse
from the 'green shinto' website 

Little model horses are offered as mounts for visiting deities and to ancestral spirits, the spirits are called kami. Ema - meaning picture horse - is also popular, a picture of a horse with a prayer. Ema is left at temples for kami. 
Despite all this, from the early part of the Showa era (late 1920’s) people started to eat horse in Japan. It had previously been taboo, as horses were sacred.


short film of a young horseback archer whose family have been the champs for over 1,000 years

The Japanese word for the gemstone agate is ma-neo, meaning horse brain.


Yonaguni ponies, one of the world's smallest breeds, are native Japanese ponies found on the western most Japanese island Yonaguni, and some nearby south west islands all in the group called the Yaeyama islands. Top spot. They got down to only 53 until a group formed to protect them, now they number over 100 - still rare. They run wild on the island, beautiful ponies, perfect for children, being about 11 hands high with tough hooves. They are government listed as a National Treasure.

a horseman who protects some of these ponies with photos

Most native horse breeds of Japan are critically endangered - less than 100 in total. Some breeds are classified as National Treasures so have government protection although what this entails is hard to determine. For some it means a reserve of land where they may remain safely free to graze which is good. For others a small local tax is being introduced to fund feeding and general care. Thankfully the government is finally helping a little, as their breeds face extinction. The Australian government does nothing to help our own breed the Waler, in the wild; nor any of our wild populations. 

The Kandachime horses live on the northern part of Honshu on Cape Shiriya. Belonging to no-one, these solid and very gentle horses wander about freely and enjoy pats from visitors. Kandachime in earlier times meant the nobility, or court official of high rank; some sources in the modern era say it means "horses that stand in the cold."

They got down to only 9 horses by 1999, but a careful preservation program by the Aomori Prefecture  is slowly building numbers up. They number less than 100. Youngsters in photo - photo source.

Studies by people such as Prof Ken Nozawa of Kyoto University have traced the relationship of the Japanese native breeds to other breeds, proving the Noma breed of Japan is very different to the others. There are links with European, Indonesian, Mongolian and Korean breeds.

Yawata horse, photo from Pinterest (the link there will not load). Traditional model made in Aomori prefecture from when the Nambu clan practiced archery on horseback. Each year the strongest horses were donated to the shrine. These carved and painted model horses were sold by shrines, to represent their strong horses. They're still made and sold, a strong tradition. 


Boy on Hobby Horse, circa 1780 
by artist Ippitsusei Buncho. 
Pinterest from The Kimono Gallery 
The hobby horse made for children as a toy is common to many horse cultures including Japan; old illustrations show these. They were also part of dancing traditions as with most horse cultures - representing a real horse - often in a comic mode.


Japan was a marvellous customer for horses over a long time, providing a livelihood for many Australians. We traded in many commodities, Japanese ships were daily sights here and went to our ships aid in times of danger at sea, as we did for them. Many ships carried horses over, some on each trip. It’s wonderful to know some Japanese horses may carry Waler genes, that the Japanese showed the world how tough they are - and importantly, really looked after them. Horses have been important to both countries and a part of our folklore and culture. It’s amazing the places our Walers take us. 


Book The Cavalry in the Russo-Japanese War by Count Karl Gustav Wrangel, a famous Swede in the Austrian Army, can be read online

Genetics of Japanese native breeds and phylogenetic relationship to other some breeds.

this is worth settling down and getting comfortable for - a film about the Meiji era and the Russo-Japanese war featuring three characters - one of whom is Akiyama of the cavalry. Great Japanese drama featuring some excellent old footage too.
book: Local History and War Memories in Hokkaido, by Philip A. Seaton. Published by Routledge, 2015. Great resource. Also covers Mori and his horse memorial. Loads of great horse info. A must for anyone studying Japanese war horses.

Book: The Tide at Sunrise. A History of the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05. By David and Peggy Warner. Published 2002 by Routledge/Frank Cass.

recommended reading: The estrangement of Great Britain and Japan, 1917-1935, by Captain Malcolm Kennedy, 1969, University of Manchester Press. Available online to read free.

Niphon and Pe-Che-Li, or, Two Years in Japan and Northern China, by Major Edward Barrington de Fonblanque. A delightful read; a few pages omitted from the online version.

Movie about General Nogi at the Russo-Japanese war, with lauded performances from the actor playing Nogi, is Hill 203, also called 303 kochi.

A movie of modern times is Sanbongi Nougyoukou,
Bajutsubu (三本木農業高校、馬術部), the true story of a high school girl who befriends a blind horse, it exemplifies the Japanese love of horses.


 Samurai horse festival Soma Nomaoi 


great documentary

~ Matsuri no Uma~
 ~The Horses Of Fukushima ~

Tokue Hosokawa and his daughter Miwa heroically remain to care for their horses, dying of radiation, after the Fukushima nuclear terror.

Once their farm supplied the Soma Nomaoi horses. True horse lovers whose care for horses and bravery in the face of the political corruption and suffering that is nuclear power, is heartrending.


A few news articles of the times

Los Angeles Herald, Volume 38, Number 18, 29 April 1892

A Long Ride. Major Yasumasa Fukushima, military attache to the Japanese legation in Berlin, is about to start out on a horseback ride from the German capital to Tokio. Exclusive of waterways, which he will have to travel by boat, he estimates that he will cover about 10,000 miles. He expects to ride six days in every seven, and to cover about thirty to thirty-five miles a day on the average. 
His trip, with due allowance for unforeseen delays, will last about fifteen months, and during it he will suffer the intense cold of two winters and the correspondingly intense heat of a summer. 
Major Yasumasa Fukushima in his great fur coat weighs 154 pounds; his extra clothing, twenty-five pounds, and his arms, tools, etc., thirty-three pounds. The total weight for his horse, therefore, will be 212 pounds. The way of horse aud rider will be from Berlin to St. Petersburg via Warsaw and Kowno; from St. Petersburg to Moscow, Kasan, Omsk, Semipalatinsk; through Mongolia via Kobdo, Uljassutai, the northern part of the Gobi desert, Kiachta to Siberia; aud from Irkutsk to Vladivostock, along the road on the left bank of the Amur and the right bank of the Ussuri. Then he will proceed to Manchuria and China. From Peking he will ride to Shanghai, will sail over the Chinese sea to Nagasaki, and will ride thence to his home in Tokio.—New York Sun.


Petersburg Times (South Australia) June 1893.

RIDE ACROSS ASIA. The "Vossiche Zeitung" has received a letter from Major Fukushima (who has completed his ride from Berlin across Asia to Vladivostock, whence he takes ship for Japan) dated Udinsk, on the Baikal Lake, 28th December. In it Major Fukushima says that when he rode away from Altai on the 19th of September a great number of people accompanied him in spite of the rain, among whom were several ladies dressed as officers, on horseback. The escort left the Major in a wood full of red flowers, and drank to his "happy journey." He met with great friendliness from the villiages in the Ural Mountains. On the 23rd September he climbed the highest mountain, the boundary between Russia and China, about 9380 feet high. With his pocket-knife he SCRATCHED ON THE TOPMOST ROCKS the words, " The Japanese Major Yasumasa Fukushima rode past here;" and then he bade the west farewell. The landscape changed very suddenly, and he was soon in an arid district. The Chinese officials were very ungracious, and the Major was often in great need of food and shelter. The in- security of life among the hordes of Mongo- lians forced him to sleep with LOADED REVOLVER AND DRAWN SWORD by his side. He reached Urga on the 11th of November, 1240 miles from Altai, and during the whole ride he had only four com- plete days of rest, having ridden without nterruption all the 50 days. Four times he slept in a house; the rest of the nights in Mongolian tents. He gives an interesting accountof these dirty tents, with their ragged inhabitants and half starved savage dogs. Still tea was always to be had, drunk amid the pressing curiosity of the people, who would not believe that the Major was a Japanese, and asked the silliestquestions. The preparation of food was done in such a disgusting fashion, thatonly extreme hunger could overcome the Major's reluctance to partake of it. TheEXCLUSIVE MEAT DIET caused a malady of the stomach, and once an attack of fever compelled the Major to halt in a village. He overcame it by eating as little meat as possible, and drinking milk and eating cooked wheat, which, however, he could not always get enough to satisfy his hunger. The barbarous people only mocked at his illness, and his sufferings were in creased by the intense cold. It was scarcely warmer in the tents than out side. The Major had four horses with him, two for riding, the others to carry corn and baggage. On the 18th October one of these fell dead. The modern Mongolians, he says, are very uncivilised. They have LOST THEIR FORMER POWER AND COURAGE, and are not capable of ever again playing a part in the history of the world. On the 18th November the Major left Urge, and on the 25th reached a town in Siberia, where a rich Russian merchant became his host, and where he enjoyed the luxury of baths, cleanliness, and civilised surroundings for three days. On the 8th December, after ten days' ride through mountain and valley and along theBaikal Lake, he reached Irkotek. He had met with much snow and frost in the moun- tains, and was often obliged to continue his journey at night, the days being so short. Then the full moon shone clearly above the mountains, and rocks, woods, and water looked fairy-like in its light. In the solitude the harmonious sounding of the tele- graph wire along the route, vibrating in thewind, was like music to the traveller. After ten days' sight-seeing, banqueting, etc., in Irkutsk, the Major continued his journey. At thetime of his letter, his uniform, procured in Berlin. had become very dirty. He promised another letter by the next post from Udinsk.-


The Australian Town and Country Journal, 14th December, 1895.

Of the trial shipment of 25 horses sent from Sydney to the East by steamer Guthrie, only seven reached port alive. Rough weather was experienced. One day five were hurled from their stalls on the starboard side over the winch, and sustained such in juries that they had to be shot. Thirteen were cut and knocked so badly that they also had to be killed. The horses were the property of Mr. T. J. Burke, of Melbourne, who had received a special commission from the Japanese Government. Five of the horses were intended for the Japanese cavalry.


The Telegraph, 27th December 1895.

Horses for Japan. 
Since Japan is ambitious of becoming a military power it has been considered highly probable that a trade in horses could be established with that country by Australia for cavalry mounts. In September last the Victorian Minister of Agriculture wrote to the Japanese Agricultural Department stating that Mr. O. F. Glasscock had been induced to send a trial shipment of 25 horses, suitable for farming purposes, to Yokohama. A reply has now been received from Count Enomotto Takeaki, Minister for Agriculture and Commerce at Tokio, acknowledging the receipt of the letter, and stating that the matter was communicated to the Marquis Oyama, Minister of State for War, and instructions given to the Commissioner of Customs to afford the person in charge of the horses every assistance. As announced some time ago, the experiment proved somewhat expensive to the shippers, many of the horses being killed by the rough weather experienced before the steamer reached her destination. It seems to be agreed, however, that a market exists for horses in Japan, and if they could be safely landed a good return would no doubt be obtained on the speculation. 


The Telegraph, (Brisbane), 10th January 1902.
Affairs in China
Return of the Court. Cavalry on Australian Horses. Tang-fuh-Siang to be Beheaded.
London, January 9.
The publicity which attended the return of the Imperial Chinese court to Pekin is regarded in a revolutionary light, according to Chinese customs. The Empress-Dowager repeatedly acknowledged the salutations of the foreigners after the ceremony of burning incense to her ancestors in the Temple of the Goddess of Mercy. The British garrison at Pekin was closely confined to barracks during the re-entry of the court into the city, but the American Legation guards were allowed to see the spectacle. Two companies of Chinese cavalry, who were mounted on Australian horses, formed part of the Imperial procession. Later. After the re-entry of the court the Empress-Dowager gave audience to various high Chinese officials, and also conferred decorations on several British, American, and Japanese officers.The Empress-Dowager, at the instance of Yuen-shi-kui, who was recently appointed Viceroy of Chi-li, and Liu-kun-yi, and Chaug-ohih-tung, Viceroys of the Yung-tszo provinces, has commanded the Tartar general in command in the province of Kansu to decapitate Tung-fuh-siang (who was exiled to Kansu on account of the leading part taken by him in the attack on the legations), before he either rebels against the Government of China or involves China in trouble with the foreign Powers. The influence of the Empress-Dowager over the Emperor of China appears to be supreme.

The Sydney Mail and NSW Advertiser 31st August 1904.
New South Wales Bloodstock for Japan

*text omitted due to space, details of top quality TB stallions also several photos of the horses; photo of the buyers here for interest.*

Horse Buying Commission
J. Nishimura. T. Kitamuni. Dr. S. Miura, Director of Imperial Government Stud. S. Muggridge.
(The newspaper erred with an initial - it is W. Muggridge, a well known judge at horse shows. He became a Corporal in WW1 working at the Remount Depot and Army Veterinary Hospital. He also authored many news articles and a book 'How To Train A Race Horse.' By 1918 he'd had 12 years exclusively supplying the Japanese government with horses; info from a news article of May 1918 in the Australasian.)



Maryborough Chronicle, Wide Bay and Burnett Advertiser, 
24th May 1904.
The 'Daily Mail's' St. Petersburg correspondent states that the Japanese cavalry have been provided with excellent Australian horses, full of staying powers.


Wagga Wagga Express 26th May, 1904
A telegram from Liao-yang, Manchuria, states that no exertion seems to tire the Australian horses which are being used by the Japanese cavalry.


Evening News (Sydney) 21st September, 1904.

The E.and A. mail steamer Australian, from Sydney, en route to Japan via ports, arrived at Hongkong on Tuesday. Captain, Shaw reports 'all well.' The horses shipped at Sydney for Japan are also in good condition. The horses by the Japanese mail steamer Yawata Maru, from Sydney to Japan, have also reached Hong Kong in good order.

Evening Journal (Adelaide) 24th September 1904.

The Japanese artillery has been described as up-to-date and excellent. It is perhaps pardonable to use the superlative, and say most up-to-date and unexcelled. One arm of the field artillery is shown on the sketch, which also exhibits a phase of Japanese mobility. The horse, which is grazing while the trooper has a rest, is transporting a complete rapid-fire machine gun—a type which has been used with terrible effect in the present war. There are no parts other than those shown—the pieces of a modern gun which are strapped on a horse's back
and which together make a not inconvenient load over the territory which is being traversed by the Mikado's troops. Though the appearance of the weapon appears to be "mixed" in the little picture, which is a tracing of an actual photograph, it is averred that the gun can be unstrapped and set up for action in 10 minutes, and that the work can be done by one man. In the days that are now fast waning artillery was a distinct branch, but now apparently it has become so bracketed with infantry and cavalry as to be part and parcel of both.

Western Champion (NSW), 7th April 1905

Horses for Japan.
Mr. R. G. Lackey, who recently under-went an operation for hernia, has gone to Japan in charge of 950 horses purchased for the Japanese Government. The Virginia, the vessel carrying the horses sailed on Sunday last for Hong Kong where a Japanese cruiser will meet her and convoy her to her destination. Other shipments are to follow, about 10,000 horses having, we understand, been purchased for the Japanese Government.


Gympie Times and Mary River Mining Gazette, 18th May 1905
Japanese Horse Buyers.
Mr. M. Kane, a well-known pastoralist of the Gulf, the owner of Nara Station, 140 miles from Croydon, is at present in Townsville, having seized the opportunity, after delivering a mob of horses at Richmond, of visiting the Eastern coast, for the first time since he settled in the Gulf country 26 years ago. Mr. Kane's visit to Richmond was made with the object of delivering 129 head of horses which were purchased on be half of the Japanese Government from Inverleigh and Midlothian stations. Speaking of the operations of Japanese horse buyers in the Gulf, Mr. Kane informed an 'Evening Star' representative that they have already taken a fair number of horses from the stations. ''They're very keen buyers, I promise you,' said Mr. Kane. They are going in principally for high class mares. Isuppose with the intention of breeding up for the army. Any good class of mare will go, but a gelding with the slightest blemish is passed out. The Japanese buyers them selves do the inspecting

Warwick Examiner and Times, 27th May 1905
BOWEN, Friday,—A record shipment of 1837 horses left for Japan to-day.


Warwick Examiner and Times (Qld), 10th June 1905
BRISBANE Friday.—The steamer Jesserie loaded at Bowen yesterday and to-day 880 horses for Japan, via Hongkong.


The Richmond River Herald and Northern Rivers Advertiser, 14th July 1905

Horses for Japan
The shippers of 10,000 horses from Australia for the use of the Japanese armies in Manchuria have been particularly fortunate. Quite a small fleet of vessels has been despatched, and none of the ships have been detained, while the losses by death on the voyages have been comparatively small. On Saturday two vessels — the Inkum and the Langton Grange — returned to Sydney. The Inkum sailed in April last with 932 horses from Broadmount, and on the way to Kobe 130 animals died. This was the heaviest loss incurred. Upon reaching Kobe the Inkum was ordered to Ujina to land the live stock. She was discharging there when the naval battle was fought. The Langton Grange took from Townsville no fewer than 1100 horses — the largest shipment ever made from Australia. She, too, landed her stock at Ujina, in Japan. The Langton Grange brought back to Sydney 56 officers and crew of the steamer Courtfield, another of the vessels which left Australia with horses for our allies. The Courtfield, it appears, has been ordered elsewhere, and her crew being Australians were sent home by the next steamer of the fleet.    


The Northern Miner (Chartres Towers) 6th May 1905.

The Horse Trade.

Robert Russell reports:- A very much easier market last Saturday; about 136 head were yarded, and only 62 sold, only one shipping buyer was present the others being engaged at the Reid River with Mr. Masuda, the Japanese Government Inspector.

Prices receded fully £1 per head, and horses with the slightest blemish were unsaleable, excepting to local buyers.

Maiden and Morton's agent Informs me that he will buy no more until those on hand are shipped, and then only a small number will be required to fill their order.

I will advise owners when buyers will be ready to operate ; in the mean-time I have buyers for Indian horses only, from 4 to 6 years, bounders, gunners and remounts.Thus endeth the Japanese horse boom.


Clarence and Richmond Examiner (NSW), 23rd September 1905.
Amongst the passengers by the Prinz Sigismund from the East is Mr. J. Lodge, who accompanied the steamer Inkum to Japan with a shipment of horses. Mr. Lodge stated that the Inkum lost 200 horses out of 815 carried. These horses were loaded at Brisbane and Bowen. The vessel enjoyed splendid weather, but the heat was terrific. From July l8 to August 1 the temperature of the ship averaged 90 deg. to 96 deg. Many of the animals were mares in foal and the heat played havoc with them. He says that the horse shipments from Australia are now completed, and Japan will go in for breeding, having purchased some of the best blood stock in Australia. He considers the Japanese have purchased altogether about 12,000 horses from Australia.

Australian Town and Country Journal, 27th September 1905.
For nearly a year now, horses have been leaving the shores of Australia in large shipments, and though it has been an open secret that those horses were being dispatched to Britain's allies in the Far East, nominally they were being shipped to some Chinese port.
With a view to gathering some facts regarding the work of mobilising the horses in Australia, our representative waited on Mr. A. J. Morton recently, and learnt how the work had been carried through, and something about horseflesh in Queensland generally.
"Sometime before February last," said Mr. Morton, "our firm, Messrs. Maiden and Morton, received an order for horses, running well into four figures, and shortly after I made a start at purchasing horses in Queensland. I proceeded to Toowoomba, which is the main horse selling depot in that state, and I might just say in passing, that on an average, 2000 horses a month are auctioned in tho Toowoomba sale yards alone.
"I decided to purchase in the yards, and also established buyers in towns along the railway lines from Charleville to Cunnamulla, Warwick to Toowoomba, Toowoomba to Brisbane, Brisbane to Bundaberg, and on the south coast line as well. Dates were fixed upon for the purchase of horses in each town, and the buyers attended, and bought to our instructions. The horses once bought, they were trucked away to one of two depots. These depots were established, one on the coast of Queensland, the other on the Darling Downs.
"By this method more horses were purchased than could otherwise have been done in the limited time at our disposal, and a far better selection secured than could have been got together through inspecting mobs on stations, though some horses were purchased by this
latter method.
"As a rule, the horses offered to us were in the pink of condition, having plenty of substance, and being of a good hardy breed. Creamies, greys, and piebalds were barred, but any others were taken as long as they were up to the standard, viz., height from 14.2 to 15.3 hands, and age from 5 to 8 years.
"Each horse as it was purchased was branded on his hoof with a number, and an accurate description of it taken at the same time. This latter was a very necessary precaution, in case of the animal getting lost or straying.
"A large number of unbroken horses were purchased, as was to be expected, and after their purchase they had to be broken. For this purpose four or live 'breakers,' men used to horse breaking, were engaged in catching and handling them. This I found was going to be a long and tedious job if thc horses were to be yarded and pounded in the usual old method, but fortune favoured me, for I dropped across a couple of real American cowboys, and after seeing an exhibition of what they could do I engaged them straight away. They were marvels with the lasso, and if there were no yards handy in which the horses, could be caught these boys made no bother about catching them in the open, no matter at what speed the horse they were seeking to catch was travelling or what the country was.
"Their method was to ride at some distance one on either side of the horse they wanted, and gradually close in on him till within 40ft to 50ft. Then out would fly the lassos, each over the animal's head, and fixing their end to the lasso round the saddle horns, they would bring their own horses well down on their haunches, and the lassoed animal was brought up sharp fore and aft, as you might say, between these two boys. It was no trouble then to brand or han dle the captured horse, and to give you some idea of how expeditious these cowboys were in their work, I can tell you I've seen them bring down 250 horses in five hours or nearly a horse a minute, in the Pinkenbah Yards.
"It is a great pity the lasso is not used altogether on the cattle stations, not only in Queensland, but throughout Australia, for in the hands of expert throwers the lasso would be a wonderful time and labour saving device, and the work would be both fast and good.
"The horses, after being yarded, were brought to one or other of our depots until the day of inspection by the purchasers, who, after making an exhaustive examination of each animal, had them branded again with another number on the hoof, and also had another description made out of each horse passed, which description was forwarded on with the horse to its destination.
"From the depots, the horses were trucked to the ship's side, at the shipping wharf at Pinkenbah, which I should like to say I consider the best horse-shipping wharf in Australia. The arrangements are as complete as the most careful shipper and lover of horses could wish for. The trucks come right up to the stockyards, and the animals are first of all untrucked into big square yards; from those yards they proceed on into a triangular-shaped yard, at the apex of which they pass along, one at a time, into the race, which leads the horse straight on board any vessel required that is lying alongside. The railway officials there are to be highly complimented on their perfect arrangements for shipping large quantities of horses.
"As the animals pass along the race, a halter is placed on each one's neck, and as it emerges on board a man grabs the rope attached, and loads it along to its stall.
"That's about all as to the work of getting the horses together, and the shipping part of the business you have already dealt with in an article that appeared a few months ago in your Paper, describing the getting on board of a large shipment of horses at Darling Harbour." "And what ideas have you formed on Queensland horseflesh,' after your experiences up there?" Mr Morton was asked. "Well, I may say I was most agreeably surprised to see the quality of the horses offered for sale in Queensland. We purchased hundreds up there equal, if not superior, to the best horses your will see in private vehicles in Sydney, especially the last lot we purchased in the south-west part of the northern colony. The best gun-horses purchased appeared to be bred by light or half-bred draught stallions, and I saw a number of these stallions from which the gun horses were bred. They were evidently a type of their own, about the size of a Suffolk Punch, with not much hair on their legs, but with good flat bone and nice round barrels.
"From inquiries I made I found these Australian gunner stallions were bred by crossing a good shaped active draught mare with a blood stallion. There are a large number of these stallions in use in Queensland, principally owned by selectors and farmers. "Many of them are sold in the sale yards, and snapped up quickly by the Indian buyers for use in the Indian Army, for, when docked and trimmed up, they show all the characteristics of the true gunner, having all the strength of a Clydesdale, combined with the activity of a coach horse. In the yards one of these stallions will easily fetch from £20 to £30, and occasionally up to £40, whereas a weedy horse will only fetch from £7 to £8.
"We also saw a great number of exceptionally fine greys in Queensland, but for purchase purposes they were useless, that colour being prohibited, but for shape and general appearance they were uncommonly good for any hackney work."
Incidentally, Mr. Morton ventured the opinion that greys will die out, as there are hardly any grey stallions in use now. Breeders do not fancy the colour. One of these greys, the pick of the mobs, in fact, forms the subject of our illustration. It is a grey mare purchased by Mr. Morton for his own use. A better mare, as those who have had the pleasure of trying her say, never carried pigskin, and she is as docile as she is good-looking.
"I should say, notwithstanding the fact that there are an undoubted lot of very fine horses in Queensland," went on Mr. Morton, "there are a crowd of small, weedy nondescripts up there that are almost useless for any class of work, and they are disposed of in the sale yards at from £1 to £3 a head. The difference will immediately become apparent between those weeds and the class we have been formerly discussing, when I tell you that one of those high, clean, gunner, wheeler, or cavalry horses will fetch as much at £40; ordinary remounts from £15 to £30 apiece, and bounders from £6 to £S.
"Unfortunately, a great many horses go through the Queensland yards in poor condition, whereas were they fat, they would realise high prices. Indian buyers, you know, won't touch poor horses. Whether this is because the remount officers in India refuse   horses not in the best of condition or not, I do not know, but the fact remains that the buyers for the Indian Army market will not touch anything unless it is in tip-top condition.
"A rather common complaint many horses in Queensland suffer from is cataract of the eyes, which I was informed was caused by a grass seed. I should say at least 10 per cent. of Queensland horses have their eyes affected, and another 25 per cent, of them have other blemishes beyond cure. This latter complaint, if one can call it such, is principally caused to a great extent through the rough timber country they are bred in, and when they are brought into the yards, being naturally inclined to be lively, they damage themselves still further.
"You can put down at least another 25 per cent. of horses in Queensland as weeds and nondescripts, leaving, however, the handsome balance of 40 per cent. of real good stuff.
"Although we were not buying heavy draught horses, we saw a fine lot of this class of animal in the sister State, but they are very hard to purchase, and command exceedingly high prices. We also came across some excellent cobs, and shipped a good many that would do credit to Australia even in Rotten Row. Those cobs are bred principally by strong 14 hand pony stallions, out of blood or light nuggetty mares”


Evening News, Sydney 8th June 1908

The G.M.S. Prins Waldemar, which leaves West Circular Quay at noon for Manila, Hong Kong and Yokohama, via ports, will take away 26 horses, 25 being for Yokohama, and one for New Guinea. Mr. J. Kiss has shipped 24 for Yokohama, Mr. J. Inglis and Company one for Yokohama, and Mr. W. Schmidt one for New Guinea...

The Northwestern Advocate and Emu Bay Times (Tas.), 6th June 1916

HORSES FOR BATAVIA. Captain V. Riemsdyk is at present in Australia for the purpose. of buying cavalry remounts and packers for Batavia on behalf of the Dutch Government. The orders from Batavia have usually been filled by a horse-trader here without restriction as to export.   Since the war started certain prohibitive regulations have been instituted, and no animal over 14h. 2in. in height is allowed to leave the Commonwealth, excepting for India and Japan. The Japanese Government was allowed to take a few head of 'riding school' horses, under special permit, and a small shipment of thoroughbreds for the Japanese racing clubs, under Government endorsement, was allowed to go East during the past year.


Sydney Morning Herald, 1st March 1919

Major J. Honda, of the Imperial Japanese Army, is at present in Sydney making arrangements for the purchase of 30 or more Australian horses for the Japanese Cavalry School.


The Advocate (Tas), 25th January 1922
The Minister for Agriculture (Hon. J. B. Hayes) has been advised that Major Yamanonchi will shortly arrive in Tasmania for the purpose of purchasing horses suitable for the Japanese military authorities.

The Sun (Sydney) 25th June 1924

Nineteen horses consigned to Kobe, left Sydney on the N.Y.K. steamer Tango Maru to-day They were housed in special stalls on deck.


Record (S.A.), 17th January 1927

300 for Japan
Australia has been recognised for many years as the happy hunting   ground of' the remount officer, the military representative whose business it is to supply all the equine requirements of the cavalry and artillery.
In India the distinctive term "Waler," meaning a horse from New South Wales has long been a synonym for the best in horseflesh. But Australia's once famous horse trade with India has declined during the past decade. It is not yet dead, how ever, for over 500 gunner and cavalry types of horses are scheduled to leave for Calcutta by the Sardhana.  
Some 50 of these horses were shipped at Melbourne and the rest are to be taken on board at Newcastle and Brisbane. These horses are all required by the Indian Government, and the shippers include some of the most experienced Australian horse-breeders.
Several Japanese officers arrived in Melbourne by the Houtman and they purpose taking back with them some 300 horses from Queensland. Most, indeed, nearly all the cavalry horses are obtained from Queensland nowadays, and the best artillery animals are bred in Central Australia.


The Inverell Times, 10th June 1931.

Twenty horses left Sydney on Wednesday for Kobe, Japan, by the O.S.K. motor freighter Melbourne Maru. They are destined as remounts for the Japanese cavalry. Of recent years inquiries for the horses have come from the Japanese army periodically and hostilities in China are said to have resulted In the loss of many cavalry mounts, so that further orders are hoped for.


The Brisbane Courier, 10th May 1933. (extract from article)
Captain Kashima is an officer of the Japanese Army. His mission is to buy horses, and again New South Wales is the favoured State in this respect. The horses, it is understood, are required for the Tokio Military Riding School.

The Queenslander, 17th May 1934.
Among the passengers on the Kamo Maru, which reached Brisbane from Japan on Tuesday morning and sailed later in the day for Sydney and Melbourne, was Major K. Tokui whose mission to Australia is to buy horses for the Japanese army.


The Daily News (Perth) 15th February, 1938.
Chinese Generals Ride Jap Horses
Australian horses captured from the Japanese are now ridden by General Chu Teh, famed commander- in-chief of the Eighth Route Army and many other officers of the former Red Army. Chu Teh is harassing the Japanese in North and Central China with the manoeuvring tactics for which he is noted, reports Edgar Snow...


The Maitland Mercury, 24th January 1939
Tributes by Japan TOKYO, January 23.
Thousands of Australian horses, or their forbears, which were among army mounts killed in China, will be honoured in services in Japan next month. Special memorial rites will be inaugrated for the spirits of such steeds in 70,000 Buddhist temples throughout the Empire, and 180,000 priests will pray and recite the late Emperor Meiji's poem, paying tribute to war horses. Bells will be tolled, and the day will be perpetuated annually henceforth.

Gippsland Times, 16th October 1939.

DEMAND FOR HORSES In addition to wool and wheat, another Australia product for which an increased demand is expected is horses, the Defence Department having signified that 2,500 will be needed immediately. In many parts of the world the Australia "whaler" is regarded as an ideal military mount. Large numbers have been exported to India for years as remounts. 
In the war which has been waging in China for the past two years the Japanese military authorities have made extensive use of Australian "whalers." 
The greatest demand for these sturdy steeds was during" the Great War”, and in consequence horse-raising was an important industry in this country by 1918. There was then a total of 1 2,527,149 horses, but since then the number has declined considerably as a result of the development in motor transport and a decline in demand from abroad. During the past few years the average price of horses exported from this country has been around £30.
India, up to the present, .is taking the bulk of the horses exported from Australia. Over 90 per cent. of these are used for remount purposes.


© Janet Lane 2015. Please free free to share this information, just don't copy slabs of my work and say it's yours. Thanks for understanding and your honesty. The images I checked as much as possible, are not copyrighted, but nor are they mine so please check yourself if you want to use them. Lots of fabulous images are sadly copyrighted so can't be used here. Thanks for dropping by! 


Unknown said...

excellent read. Interesting comments about Grey's in QLD, quote;
"We also saw a great number of exceptionally fine greys in Queensland, but for purchase purposes they were useless, that colour being prohibited, but for shape and general appearance they were uncommonly good for any hackney work."
Incidentally, Mr. Morton ventured the opinion that greys will die out, as there are hardly any grey stallions in use now. Breeders do not fancy the colour. One of these greys, the pick of the mobs, in fact, forms the subject of our illustration. It is a grey mare purchased by Mr. Morton for his own use. A better mare, as those who have had the pleasure of trying her say, never carried pigskin, and she is as docile as she is good-looking.

Apricot said...

thanks, yes Queensland had a lot of greys, but no worries they sold ok, despite this article. Think of Granite! Amazing to think all those horses they bred for the export trade and we do not have a single one left today we know of. That article had a nice photo of a grey. Thanks for your comment! JL

Angelukis said...

Such an informative and intereting article. I am fascinated by the illustration from 1645 of "Strong Horses". Excuse me if I'm just overlooking it, but I don't see the source. I would love to have a print of it.

Apricot said...

Put a picture source under it now - sorry it was my first blog, and wasn't au fait with loading links for a while. Glad you enjoyed it.