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4 Russo-Japanese ? Hand Painted Post Cards


11 Nov 2020
May I get some help with these postcards? They look to be hand painted. I believe they're Russo-Japanese War period. There is a postcard with the cavalry leading a procession and a carriage in the background. There's a ceremony with two men dancing. There's one with a person (royalty?) inside a tent which I'm guessing are 2 Geisha on the right side and 2 Samurai on the left side. I believe this last one is the Imperial Army on the left and the procession on the right with the carriage in front of the men on horseback. Any Ideas on age? These appear to be a set. What is happening? Ceremony? Preparing for war? Thanks for any help.



Well, the Universal Postal Union was established by the treaty of Bern in 1874, so the card could date back as far as that.

The back of the postcard just says "postcard" in Japanese, written right to left, as was the fashion up until the mid 20th century..

The flag with the rays was probably the Japanese Imperial Army flag, but that doesn't narrow things down much as it was used from 1870-1945. The bottom left card may tell us a little more, as it looks like they may be carrying the standard of the Emperor, and wearing red shako with white plumes, a french style that was adopted during the Meiji era: List of Japanese flags - Wikipedia

Indeed, their uniform seems to match that of the Imperial Guard:
Until 1939, the Cavalry of the Imperial Guard wore a French style parade uniform consisting of a dark-blue tunic with red Brandenburg braiding, a red kepi and red breeches. The red kepi had a white plume with a red base. Prior to the general adoption of khaki by the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), an all white linen uniform had been worn in hot weather.

The Infantry of the Imperial Guard wore a dark blue uniform with white leggings for both parade and service wear until 1905. It was distinguished from that of the line infantry by a red band and piping on the peaked service cap (instead of yellow). Officers wore a dark blue tunic with 5 rows of black mohair froggings and dark blue breeches with a red stripe down each seam.

Following the adoption of a khaki service dress, the Guard Infantry wore this on all occasions, although officers retained the blue and red uniform for certain ceremonial occasions when not parading with troops.

In the field, the army's standard khaki uniform was worn by all Imperial Guard units from 1905 to 1945. Guard units were distinguished by a wreathed star in bronze worn on the headgear, in contrast to the plain five pointed star worn by other units.

The bottom of the cards have some text to describe the artwork, the one you posted of the troops looks like 京都御所御着... "Arrival at the Kyoto imperial palace?"

The imperial palace was officially moved to Tokyo in 1869, but the wikipedia article notes that both the Taisho (1912-1926) and Showa (1926-1989) emperors had their enthronement ceremonies at the Kyoto Gosho, perhaps one of their ascensions is the event these cards are commemorating? Judging from the military outfits that look to straddle the fashions of the turn of the century: ornate parade uniforms with bicorne/tricorne hats and shakos, tassels, sashes, and ornate embroidery evoking a euro-fancy Meiji fashion for the mounted officers, but tan peaked/field caps on the soldiers (which were worn from 1905 onward), I'd wager a guess that we're looking at a postcard set commemorating the enthronement of the Taisho emperor (Yoshihito) in 1912.

Here's a photo of him:

From Wiki about Kyoto Palace:
The Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所, Kyōto-gosho) is the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. Since the Meiji Restoration in 1869, the Emperors have resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace, while the preservation of the Kyoto Imperial Palace was ordered in 1877.[1] Today, the grounds are open to the public, and the Imperial Household Agency hosts public tours of the buildings several times a day.

The Kyoto Imperial Palace is the latest of the imperial palaces built at or near its site in the northeastern part of the old capital of Heian-kyō (now known as Kyoto) after the abandonment of the larger original Heian Palace that was located to the west of the current palace during the Heian period. The Palace lost much of its function at the time of the Meiji Restoration, when the capital functions were moved to Tokyo in 1869. However, Emperor Taishō and Shōwa still had their enthronement ceremonies at the palace.

Here's an article about the enthronement ceremony, which may shed some light on the proceedings. Very likely that the "tent" in the upper right card is actually the Takamikura, Chrysanthemum Throne, which strengthens my suspicion of the events being depicted, along with the distinct uniforms of the imperial guard. I'm not too familiar with the fashion and hair styles, but I would guess that the people in that card are not samurai and geisha, but members of the royal court or family.

Modern photo of the Takamikura:

close-ups of the captions on the other postcards may provide more information.
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Taisho ascension ceremony... Kume dance? OK I had never heard of kumemai but it's an old form of kabuki. You can translate this page to learn more or search for 久米舞: 久米舞 - Wikipedia

Taisho ascension ceremony Takamikura (Imperial throne)

Departing the imperial palace (this term 宮城, kyūjō, was used from 1888 to 1946 to refer to the imperial palace. It's also the name of Miyagi prefecture). The character 輦 refers to a palanquin (like that carrying the emperor) but the kanji on this postcard seems like a different or older, deprecated kanji that I haven't seen and doesn't come up in the dictionary.

Holy smokes, I don't mean to pat myself on the back too hard, but I think I nailed it!
Thank you 'nice gaijin.' You have earned the privilege of patting yourself on the back and if for some reason you can't reach it, I'll do it for you. Thank you for all your help. This Site is the best. (insert thunderous applause here)
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