Three Crab Soldiers, Two with Picks Chopping up the Ground, and the Third Is Standing on the Wall of a Fort


The Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) was documented in various forms of media, such as woodblock prints, photographs, and illustrations. The victories of the Japanese military in the early stages of the war inspired propaganda prints by Japanese artists. Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847–1915) contributed this farcical single-sheet print to the series, Nihon banzai hyakusen hyakushō (Long live Japan: 100 victories, 100 laughs). Kiyochika, known for producing woodblock prints using Western painting methods, had been under the brief tutelage of Charles Wirgman (1832–91), an English cartoonist for the Illustrated London News. Kiyochika also became a full-time political cartoonist for a Japanese magazine in 1882–93. The satirical writer Honekawa Dojin (pseudonym of Nishimori Takeki, 1862–1913) supplied each illustration with an accompanying humorous description. The series mocked the Russians for their perceived military weakness, conceit, and cowardice. Here the Russian soldiers have become crabs, which can dig holes and run away in any direction with their multiple legs. The commentary compares the shape of the crabs to hairstyles of 12th-century Japanese warriors who had been defeated in the Genpei War, a famous conflict between two powerful clans.

Last updated: March 2, 2012