Russian Soldier Shows White Flag Plainly to Japanese Army: “Oh! Say, Can You See?”


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. This scene depicts a Russian officer and three soldiers surrendering upon hearing the trumpet of the Japanese army. After discovering that their white flag is missing, the officer paints his face, his horse’s face, and the Russian flag white to make clear his intentions.

Last updated: March 2, 2012