Japanese-era “Dominion Day”
（Associate Professor, Tamkang University Department of History）
During the 50-year period from 1895 to 1945, grand ceremonies were held in Taiwan every June 17 to commemorate the commencement of Japanese rule over the island. Based on the June 17 “Dominion Day” celebratory addresses delivered by successive Japanese Viceroys to Taiwan together with other historical documents, we may familiarize ourselves with the conditions of Japanese rule prevailing during that colonial era. In addition, this date marks the fork in the road where Taiwan and China began following separate paths. This week’s Window on Taiwan invites Associate Prof. Tsai Chin-tang of the Tamkang University Department of History to make an in-depth discussion of Japan’s half-century rule of Taiwan and its reverberations.
In accordance with Article 2, Sections 2 and 3 of the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed at Shun Pan Lo at Shimonoseki in Japan on April 17, 1895, the entire island of Taiwan, the Pescadores and other associated island groups, along with their fortifications, military materiel, factories and public facilities, were ceded to Japanese rule in perpetuity. On May 29, Japanese troops landed at Aoti and, after putting down resistance in Keelung on June 3, entered Taipei on June 7. A week later, Admiral Kabayama Sukenori, the first Japanese Viceroy to Taiwan, also arrived in Taipei. Ceremonies for the inauguration of Japanese rule were held on June 17. In the morning of that day, civil and military officials first gathered at the “Office of the Viceroy” (formerly, the Municipal Government Administrative Yamen) to conduct a Japanese “dominion inauguration ritual.” After the noon hour of the same day, a military review was conducted in the plaza in front of the former Governor’s Yamen. At 3:00 in the afternoon, at the same location, Admiral Kabayama and the commander of the occupying military force, Yoshihisa Shinnoh, with the British Counsel stationed in Tamsui in attendance, conducted a “Dominion Inauguration Commemoration Ceremony.” Thus was marked the formal beginning of Japanese rule in Taiwan, which, until the day sovereign power was handed over to the National Government on October 25, 1945, lasted for 50 years, 4 months and 8 days. During this 50-year period, June 17 was known in Taiwan as “Dominion Day.”
One of five major holidays in the Japanese colonial era
In the Japanese almanac of pre-W.W. II days were listed the so-called “Four Big Holidays,” which included: * “National Celebration and Oblation Day” (祝祭日－Shiusaihi), celebrating the New Year (the 1st day of the 1st month); * “New Era Inauguration Festival,” (紀元節－Kigensetsu), celebrating the establishment of the modern-day nation-state of Japan (11th day of the 2nd month); * “Son of Heaven Festival,” (天長節－Tendohsetsu), celebrating the Emperor’s birthday (which, for example, was the 29th day of the 4th month during the Showa Reign Period); and * “Meiji Festival,” (明治節－Meijusetsu) celebrating the birthday of Emperor Mutsuhito of the Meiji Reign Period (3rd day of the 11th month). To these four holidays, a fifth – Dominion Day – was added in Taiwan, which together constituted the “Five Big Holidays.” These five days, categorized as “celebratory days,” combined with “oblation days” such as for “i””Oblation to the Spirit of the Spring and Autumn Emperor’s,”（ 春秋皇靈祭－Shun Ka Koa Rei Ki）”Taiwan Shinto Oblation,” etc. were rest days, also known as “flag days,” and marked on the almanac with the Japanese national flag. On said days, besides taking the day off to commemorate this or that occasion, the Taiwanese people were required by the Japanese authorities to display the Japanese national flag and to perform Shinto religious rituals and other ceremonies. Of the Five Big Holidays, Dominion Day together with Taiwan Shinto Oblation Day may be considered as the two major holidays symbolizing Japanese dominion over Taiwan. During Taiwan’s Japanese colonial era, the “children’s vocal music” part of the primary school curriculum for included mandatory teaching of the lyrics to the song Dominion Day, which proclaimed that the effulgence of the Japanese Son of Heaven’s dominion over the world had from that day forward commenced to illumine the whole of Taiwan, in addition to which they were required to learn the Japanese national anthem, Kimigayo (君之代 -Age of the Noble Ruler).
Taiwan’s status as “colony” formally confirmed
Japan’s taking possession of Taiwan as its colony had its earlier historical roots. During the mid 19th century, Western countries, with Britain at their forefront, repeatedly flexed their military muscles in East Asia, as the consequence of which China, the theretofore-paramount power in East Asian was defeated in the Opium War, and the once-closed country of Japan, under the coercion of brute force, had no choice but to open its doors to the West, entailing the opening of various ports to Western trade. Following the inception of the Meiji Reformation, in response to this 19th century phenomenon of ravenous vitimization of weak nations by strong ones, Japan did all in its power to learn from Western countries, implementing various programs designed to enrich the country and bolster its military might, to promote economic production and develop commercial enterprise, and to “advance civilization.” Over the course of nearly 30 years of sharp-witted political scheming, the Meiji government finally defeated the Ch’ing Empire, which had similarly embarked on reformation but with lamentably limited efficacy, taking Taiwan as its prize.
In that era, economic development along capitalist lines and possession of colonies were the prerequisites for being ranked among the world’s national superpowers. Initially, there was controversy in Japan as to whether Taiwan was to be treated as an integral part of the Japanese nation-state’s territory – as had been the fate of Hokaido and the Ryukyu Islands [Okinawa] in the early phase of the Meiji Reformation – or as a colony. In 1905, the prime minister at the time, Katsura Taroh (桂太郎), responding to an inquiry during the 21st Session of the Imperial National Assembly, stated matter-of-factly, “Of course, it’s a colony, and it certainly can’t be viewed as national territory.” Thus was Taiwan’s status as a “colony” formally affirmed.
Paving the road to capitalism
In the process of establishing a colonial Taiwan, however, one must not overlook the key policy-making roles of the 4th Japanese Viceroy to Taiwan, Kodama Gentaroh and Civil Governnor Gotoh Shinpei. It was during the period of these two men’s collaboration, from 1898 to 1906, that the foundation of Japanese rule over Taiwan was established. Apart from suppressing resistance to Japanese rule, conducting surveys of indigenous customs, enlisting the support of Taiwan’s gentry, and instituting a government-run commodity monopoly system, their programs for governing Taiwan included land surveys, transportation network planning, augmentation of public hygiene facilities, and the promotion of various industries, which took sugar production as its earliest priority. This entire series of measures, moreover, was aimed at paving the way to the development of a capitalist economy in Taiwan. Consequently, massive capital investments by the likes of the Mitsui and Suzuki conglomerates were funneled into Taiwan, at first to engage in sugar refining, later to gradually expand their scopes of operation to mining, farming, forestry, and animal husbandry.
During the process of Taiwan’s capitalistic evolution, its physical infrastructure became considerably more advanced than that of Ch’ing Dynasty China during the T’ung Chih Reign Period. Quite dramatic progress was achieved, for instance, as the consequence of such public works projects as municipal renewal and laying of sewer systems – matters of such critical importance to public hygiene yet so universally disregarded by the Chinese Empire of that era. Taking, as an example, the seaside town of Putzu in Chiayi County, it had previously been a region in which severe outbreaks of bubonic plague epidemics had commonly occurred. Bubonic plague epidemics finally came to an end there as the result of preventive measures such as public sanitation, rodent extermination, construction of ground-level and underground sewage systems, razing of dilapidated buildings, development of newly planned municipal areas, etc.
Educational and political inequities
Still, Taiwan was, after all, a mere colony. Despite the fact that during Taiwan’s capitalistic evolution infrastructural hardware construction projects may have contributed to its progress, in terms of its social software construction, there nevertheless persisted glaring inequities of treatment accorded to native Taiwanese versus Japanese nationals. While the Japanese colonial authorities forever trumpeted such slogans as “everyone treated alike,” “ethnic coalescence,” and “assimilationism,” such verbiage degenerated into a mere palliative for dulling the populace’s minds, and the Taiwan people were never able to achieve substantive civilizational advancement or cultural enlightenment.
War-era abandonment of colonial policies
In the aftermath of the eruption of war in East Asian in 1937, the Japanese colonial authorities began taking steps to redress these injustices, in hopes of thereby enlisting the manpower and material support of its colonial subjects: In 1940, they began permitting Taiwanese to adopt Japanese nam3s; in 1941, they ended the legal segregation of primary schools for children of Taiwanese and Japanese ancestry; in 1943, they instituted the compulsory primary education; in 1944, they enacted the Military Conscription Law, and implemented a military draft system in the following year; and in 1945 a Popular Legislature Election Law was enacted, though the war’s end short-circuited its implementation. This series of measures demonstrated a Japanese policy of decolonialization impelled by wartime exigencies, which, however, came to no effect, as they came too late in the game of W.W. II.
The 50 years of Japan’s colonial rule over Taiwan had its bright side and its dark side. Regardless, it was watershed during which Taiwan and China began going their separate ways.
Compiled and edited by Tina Lee/Translated by James Decker