Chapter 1 – Present – After the Russo-Japanese War


The war with Russia is about to start.

What’s… this? When the boy opened his math notebook to quickly finish his homework before dinner, he saw those words scribbled inside. In a handwriting different from his…

Just whose prank can this be?
He attempted to rub it clear with an eraser, but the handwriting remained unperturbed no matter how hard he tried.

<Stop messing around!

The boy started to get annoyed at the stubborn handwriting that didn’t want to go away and, punched the notebook.

<You…! What did you do with my notebook!?

Huh!? What’s going on? My notebook! The boy shrieked seeing more words appearing out of nowhere.

“Kenji? What’s wrong?”

Worried by the sudden shriek, the boy’s – Kenji’s – father, came to the room.

“I was just a bit surprised, Dad. Everything’s fine.”

Kenji reassured his father after taking few deep breaths. Full of relief after taking a look at what was going on in the room, his father went back.

Well, that resolved, back to… this. Let’s write something again. With this thought, the boy took another peek at the notebook.

<I don’t think there’s anything like a war with Russia looming, though?

<What are you saying! The conflict between Japan and Russia is unavoidable and we’re past the point of no return!

I don’t understand what that means! What is this person writing?! Kenji exclaimed in his mind.

<A dispute with Russia? Is it about the Northern Territories1?

Impossible! A war with Russia for the northern territories? Is this person sane?

<Northern Territories? Where is that? The imminent conflict is to settle the problem of Korea.

So, it is about Korea. Is it the North Korean nuclear weapon program? Why would Russia be involved, though? Kenji decided to write some more.

<The Qing Dynasty just withdrew from Korea as a result of the previous Sino-Japanese War2, yet the Korean Dynasty attempted to submit to Russia instead3. The Korean Peninsula is an indispensable element to Japan’s forward defense. We couldn’t afford to give it up.

First Sino-Japanese War? What is this person blabbering about. That… There’s a war with Russia?
Kenji looked up the Sino-Japanese War with his smartphone, in the process he stumbled on, and then looked into the Russo-Japanese War.
Hmm, would it be the Russo-Japanese War that erupted on February 8, 1904? That would place it around a hundred years ago? That’s surprisingly recent.
It was a subject that Kenji struggled with in class and still didn’t know much about. He started to wonder if he should write about it in detail.

<The Russo-Japanese War, from February 8, 1904, to September 5, 1905. Concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth4. The major events of the war――

Kenji who even managed to write down the timeline of major events finished the work feeling satisfied and pleasantly fatigued.
That other person was silent all through that time, not saying a word until the end. But as soon as he put his pen away, there was a reaction.

<You, who are you? Today’s the 5th of February. If what you say is true, then the hostilities will start in three days…?5

After reading the final words, Kenji closed his notebook shut.

“Kenji. Still studying?”

It was his father’s voice, from outside the door. Kenji had taken quite a lot of time writing down the timeline of Russo-Japanese War and it was way past the hour he had agreed with his father before. My father is OK but my younger sister will be a pain.

“Ah, I’m coming.”

“Oh, is that so? I’ll be logging in ahead and will wait with Mikan. We will hunt monkeys today as well.”

Kenji’s family was composed of him, his father and his two siblings. The latter three all liked computer games. Presently the whole family was enthusing over one called Dragon Buster Online.

Over the following days Kenji had completely forgotten about the mysterious notes phenomenon from that afternoon, but four days later, during the math lesson, an incident would occur.
As he was noting down what that the teacher had written on the blackboard, the same mysterious handwriting that had made him shriek appeared in his notebook again. Instantly, all his drowsiness vanished without a trace.

<You, who on earth are you… The war has not deviated at all from what you said…>

Again!? This person’s delusion is out of this world. Once it’s here, it’s impossible to ignore.

<Haha, I’m a prophet.>

<A prophet… Now, I can believe that. So, what will happen to Japan in the future?>

You may end up wishing that all I am about to say is just a dream of a madman, but I am a prophet. Everything I’m going to write will be very accurate.
Kenji, now completely into his prophet impersonation, started writing down an unbroken chain of words.

<As the world war draws to a close, a lot of people die and Japan surrenders unconditionally. Peace reigns from thereafter.>

<…Those things you have just said …Did something go wrong somewhere, Prophet?>

I said too much! Kenji suddenly started to wonder if saying all this was really alright. But then, everything he wrote had already happened and was a historical fact by now, there was nothing that the other person could do to change it.
Perhaps this guy is a military history buff?, he mused. The other party might have simply been the typical “if Japan did this, the world would’ve become like this” kind of guy.
Kinda like his Dad.

<I am but a prophet and this is a question for the Sage. I shall ask him, wait until the evening.>

Just like that, Kenji casually introduced his father as a sage. After all, why not? Even the prophet act was unexpected.

That evening, he showed the notebook to his father to ask what to do.
Though the old man widened his eyes in surprise at first, he quickly got used to this strange phenomenon.
However, it turned out that Kenji would still have to be the one that did the writing.

According to his father’s thoughts, investing in Korea, Manchuria, and other continental areas had eventually proved futile, as it had ended up complicating Japan’s internal affairs.
That being the case, if the focus of the investment were to be narrowed down and concentrated in Japan itself and the continental gains sold off, we would avoid the internal turmoil and the country’s debts from the Russo-Japanese war would be paid off. This would be killing two birds with one stone. Besides, the Continental Policy6 had been misguided, Japan was a nation of islands and a maritime country to begin with.

The end goal of the new policy was to avoid the Pacific War7, as it was just impossible to win against America.
Kenji was certain of that himself. Even if Japan were to fight against the United States in a situation where victory was possible, there would assuredly be a significant cost and an extensive amount of damage. And while ruined buildings could be rebuilt, lost lives couldn’t be brought back.
That was why the avoidance of that war should be the end goal. Peace is good, isn’t it?

Kenji sat next to his father and started writing in his notebook.

<I have received the wisdom of the sage.>

<I’ve been waiting, prophet. It has been a few days since you last wrote, I thought you wouldn’t be writing any more notes.>

It seemed that several days had passed for the other person.

<A peace conference will be held after the Russo-Japanese War, which will change the future of Japan through the Treaty of Portsmouth. To achieve peace, Japan’s interests in Manchuria, Korea, and South Karafuto8 need to be relinquished. Those, Manchuria and Korea especially, will fetch a high price. That money must be used for domestic investment.>

<But prophet, Japan went to war with Russia exactly to gain Korea! To just abandon it now…>

<If the United States, Great Britain, or other great power enters Korea and Manchuria in a major way, Russia, and the Qing wouldn’t dare go against it. As long as the policy of nonintervention into Mainland China matters is adhered to, the trade with Korea and Manchuria will be profitable. The country that will seal the deal will be a good trade partner for Japan.>

<It is as prophet says. The Japanese opposition is advocating that course too…>

All the time while Kenji was writing, his father was at hand offering advice.

“Kenji, do you know why Japan waged a war with Russia?”

“I do. If I recall correctly, it was because Russia expanded their sphere of influence to Manchuria and Korea.”

“Indeed. That’s right.”

His father proceeded to explain the situation back then to Kenji in an easy to understand manner. The Korean peninsula stuck out like a sore thumb in the middle Sea of Japan, and was of key importance for Japan’s defense arrangements, as having an enemy control it would lead to a situation where Japan was caught by the neck and suppressed.
In order to seize this critical location, Japan, through the first Sino-Japanese War, had made the Qing give up all their claims and influence in Korea that they had held as the country’s suzerain, which had resulted in Koreans becoming an independent, but isolated nation. But little had the Japanese government expected that this would cause the royalty of Korea to strengthen their ties with Russia. And given that Russia had already been in complete control over Manchuria and had also gained dominance over the Liaodong Peninsula, located to the west of the Korean Peninsula, Japan had felt a sense of impending crisis.
After all, the other party had been the almighty Russian Empire… Even though there had been attempts to harmonize relations through diplomacy, Russia, due to its size, had continued to act haughtily. This had eventually led to war.

Thus, having started the Russo-Japanese War in such circumstances, it would be unreasonable for the current Japan to just abandon the Korean Peninsula, Liaodong Peninsula, and Manchuria, the exact things the war had been fought over.

“Thanks, Dad. I get the gist of it now. It certainly wouldn’t be acceptable for Japan.”

Kenji thanked his father but did not break out of his pensive mood.

“Kenji, how about saying this — in 1917, a revolution will occur in Russia9. This will destroy any and all good relations established after the Portsmouth Treaty.”

“Oh, sure Dad. I will write that down.”

When playing the prophet the other day, Kenji had roughly outlined the Japanese history of the early 20th century to the person in the notebook, but, he had now recalled that he had not touched on the subject of the revolution in Russia.
In the actual history, after signing the Portsmouth Treaty, Japan, and the Russian Empire had stabilized each other’s sphere of influence and should be on the path to a relatively good relationship. But in fact, all the relationships established by that point had vanished once the Revolution had consumed the Russian Empire.
Until the Postwar Period, nothing good had come from trying to establish a relationship with the Soviet Union — the successor of the Russian Empire. That’s right. This might be good as a material for persuasion. Even the Mainland China was unstable due to the Communist Party, Nationalist Party, Warlords and the likes.
At first glance, the continent was an attractive target… But it was just too vast to be able to achieve anything there and, besides, Kenji thought that trying to expand inland didn’t sit well with being an island country.

<The Russian Empire will fall in 1917… A revolution will topple it in twelve years. Any good relations built with the Tzar10 will be lost once that happens.>

<…What!? Is that true, O Prophet?>

<Yeah. Also, China will continue to be in a turmoil. The Qing Dynasty is going to collapse due to infighting between the Warlords of the Beiyang Army11.>

<So the Mainland China will also undergo a period of upheaval…>

<Finally, Korea is little more than a barren land with no infrastructure. The costs to make the land usable will be huge.>

<But what about our defense plans then?>

<According to the Sage’s calculations, it is impossible for the Korean Peninsula to ever repay the money invested in it. Keep this in mind. The choice is between not really developing its infrastructure and haemorrhaging money into a budget deficit.>

<The Great Sage’s estimations… I think they are very accurate.>

<The Korean Peninsula’s Saishuu Island12 should be kept as a bastion. The natives should be expelled to Korea proper in order to avoid future trouble. Also, given that Karafuto is in contact with Russia, it will have in due time a good chance to obtain the North of that Island.>

<And so the Sage says, “Abandon the Continental Policy, Japan has a future as a maritime country”. Also, while it will bring grief to depopulate it, the Saishuu Island will also weep if the residents are made to do labor instead, won’t it?>

<Yeah, that’s right. Therefore, try selling out of the interests in Manchuria, Liaodong Peninsula, and the Korean Peninsula. It likely won’t be enough to cover the costs of the war, but it will go
a long way.>

<Esteemed Prophet, if the Esteemed Sage judges things to be so, I shall believe it to be truth. However, selling the claims? A ploy of giving up an advantage to come back from behind… Interesting. Let’s try it and see what happens!>

At this point, Kenji ran out of space on the page. This was how far he had gone along with that person’s delusions.
Father’s story, this person’s story, while surprising at first, he found them rather enjoyable.
Kenji took a break from writing and looked in the direction of his father to thank him. And noticed that his father’s eyes were very, very still.

“Dad!”

Kenji called on his father. There was no reply…
Kenji turned pale. He shook his father’s shoulders, but that got no response either. He moved his hand over his father’s heart… And found that it was beating normally. The breathing was fine too. However, his dad was unconscious and his body seemed immovable…
What kind of phenomenon is this?! This is…!

“Dad! Dad! Snap out of it!”

Kenji called out again, but he still didn’t get any response.
He was at a loss as to whether he should call an ambulance or not. He decided to wait and see for a while since his dad’s pulse and breathing was normal. His younger sister, Akane, was about to come home and he thought about consulting her when she arrives.

On the verge of panic and confused as to what he was supposed to do, Kenji, in the meantime, boiled some water, grabbed some tea and carried it to where his father was sitting. At that moment…

“Uuh… Kenji. What happened?”

His father suddenly turned back to normal!

“Dad! I was worried! You froze so suddenly!”

“Is that so? How long have I been ‘frozen’?”

His father asked with a hint of doubt.

“Hmm. I think about ten minutes have passed since that started. You froze entirely, you know!?”

“Ermm. What a mysterious phenomenon. As if I only have been sort of spirited away”

Kenji’s father said he had no memory of the period when he was frozen, and he didn’t feel like anything was off with his body. The presence of tea in front of him, when he had tried to talk to his son once he confirmed Kenji stopped writing, had come as a surprise.

“A very strange phenomenon.”

“Mhm. I agree, dad.”

Even though both of them were very puzzled, they were originally not the kind of people who thought too much about things so, in the end, they just went to bed. They were yet to know that this phenomenon had shaken the past Japanese history due to happen past the notebook’s point of reference.


Footnotes

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuril_Islands_dispute the disputed sovereignty over the island chain referred to as the Northern Islands, northeast of Hokkaido.
2. https://www.thoughtco.com/first-sino-japanese-war-1894-95-195784 referring to the First Sino-Japanese war that erupted in 1894 that saw China and Japan battling over Korea and the waters around it. Much of the conflict was fought at sea, where the Japanese Navy had an advantage over their antiquated Chinese counterpart. Most of the blame for the poor state of Qing’s military falls on Empress Dowager Cixi who was siphoning most of the funds for the construction of the Summer Palace. So the Summer Palace basically lost them their war against Japan. Hue.
3. https://www.thoughtco.com/queen-min-of-joseon-korea-195721 The Joseon Queen at the time was strongly anti-Japanese. She got assassinated in 1895 and her husband ousted in favor of a Japanese puppet government. The Russians intervened on behalf of the exiled king installing him back effectively gaining a puppet monarch instead. This ultimately prompted the war in 1905.
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Japanese_War#Treaty_of_Portsmouth Treaty that concluded the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 where both countries agreed to an immediate ceasefire, recognition of Japan’s claim to Korea, Russian evacuation of all its forces in Manchuria, Russian surrender of all its leases in Southern Manchuria to China, and finally Russian surrender of the Southern Manchuria Railway and all its mining concessions in the region over to Japan. Russia was allowed to retain their ownership over the Northern Manchuria railway.
5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russo-Japanese_War#Declaration_of_war  Japan launched an unannounced attack on the Russian Far East Fleet at Port Arthur and Russia declared war a few days later. Japan, in response then referenced Russia’s unannounced attack on Sweden a century prior to that date. Do note that declaring a war prior to hostilities wasn’t made a requirement by international law until 1907. This attack happened on 1904.
6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continental_Policy_(Japan) The overarching geopolitical strategy of the Japanese Empire in the early XX century.
7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_War The war that launched Japan’s great expansion policy where they conquered most of Asia until they went stupid and aggroed the Yanks. Nuked by the US. Twice. For good measure. Kek.
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sakhalin Widely known as the Sakhalin Island.
9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Revolution The great communist revolution in Russia in which Lenin and his merry band of lunatics rose to grab power and build a working man’s paradise. They had a very odd idea of what constituted a paradise.
10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar Tzar or Tsar. Official title of Emperors of Russian Empire
11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beiyang_Army A first modern military formation of Qing China assembled after their defeat in 1895 along the western standards. It’s leader, Yuan Shikai, was a very ambitious man that eventually ended up overthrowing the imperial court. All future Warlords and military cliques in the post-Qing China came from the splinter groups of Beiyang Army.
12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeju_Island Widely known as the Jeju Island.

And finally, here’s a clear and nicely labeled map of Asia during the Russo-Japanese War.


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