The Imperial Japanese Mission to the United States, 1917



On August 13, when the hills of California were still dim at the horizon, a United States battleship circled the vessel protectingly. The Japanese liner hoisted the Rising Sun flag at her forepeak in honor of her distinguished passengers, and came to a halt outside the Golden Gate to allow a steamer decked with flags to put on board a delegation consisting of Mr. Breckinridge Long, Third Assistant Secretary of State, and representatives of the army and navy sent from Washington to welcome the Imperial Mission on approaching the shores of America.

Passing inside the headlands the members of the Mission were transferred to a steam launch and proceeded at high speed across the beautiful bay to the landing place, where an enormous assemblage awaited their arrival. Masses of troops at salute lined the street while the Japanese anthem was played.

At the City Hall

Lines of troopers rode beside the automobiles which conducted the party to the Grand Municipal Chamber of the City Hall, where prolonged cheers greeted every member as the Mayor, James Rolph, Jr., introduced them to the assembled citizens who crowded the chamber. It was truly a remarkable demonstration of good will, and its effect upon the members of the Mission was marked. After a brief but happy welcome to California and the United States by the Mayor, Viscount Ishii arose, and said:

Mr. Mayor, representatives of the federal, state and municipal governments, and gentlemen of San Francisco:

On the part of my government and my people I thank you for this cordial welcome to the shores of America. The lavish honors which you have seen fit to confer upon this Mission and the generosity of your reception are a guarantee to me and my colleagues that the purposes of our visit are understood and appreciated.

We are here as the representatives of Japan on a mission of friendship and good will. We come to you as allies in a common cause, as comrades in a gigantic struggle which involves the liberties and the most sacred rights of mankind.

An outburst of cheers, prolonged by applause, halted the speaker for some moments. He continued:

This, perhaps, is neither the time nor the place for a detailed exposition of the plans and hopes which inspire us. It is sufficient that you see in our presence here this afternoon Japan's pledge of loyalty to the principles for which America has thrown down the gage of battle. We shall proceed to Washington, carrying to your great President and to the American people a message of fraternity, confidence and cheer. It is our ambition---if that were necessary---to impress once more upon the American people the solemn fact that Japan stands with you, heart and soul, in your lofty purpose to make this world the safe abiding place of liberty, justice and fair play. In this crisis of the world's affairs we are proud to call ourselves the allies of the great American Republic, and we are honored by your trust and good will.

I can only add that this splendid demonstration at the very moment of our arrival on your hospitable shores fills our hearts with gratitude and inspires every member of this Mission with the conviction that the objects of our visit to America are already guaranteed.

I again thank you, Mr. Mayor, and gentlemen of the reception committee and beg that you will convey to the good people of America, and more particularly to those of San Francisco and the great state of California, Japan's appreciation of the honors done her this day. I can only add the very imperfect assurances of my personal gratitude.

Secretary Lansing's Telegram

On August 14 the following telegram was received by Viscount Ishii from Mr. Robert Lansing, Secretary of State, dated from Washington, D. C.:

The President directs me to welcome your high Mission to our country and to assure you of the cordial reception you will have from the American people, who have ever entertained the warmest feelings for your nation and have admired the earnestness with which your people of the Far East have won so honorable a place among nations by devotion to their national development. May the ties that bind our nations ever increase in strength through a fraternal community of national aspirations.

Citizens' Committee Luncheon

The receipt of the Secretary's telegram was the prelude to a busy day. The first important function was a luncheon tendered by the, Mayor and Citizens' Committee of San Francisco at the Cliff House, whither the visiting party were driven in motor cars, enjoying the views of the city and bay of San Francisco and of the Pacific Ocean, with the sealrocks in the foreground peopled by their furry amphibians, and the seas breaking over them in foam and thunder. The occasion was thoroughly enjoyable, formality being as far as possible waived. After Mayor Rolph had heartily welcomed the Viscount and the delegation, Viscount Ishii replied with much feeling:

Mr. Mayor, gentlemen of San Francisco, and friends:

Your courtesy this afternoon is very gratifying to me, and its expression is typical of all I know of San Francisco. Your presence here and the beautiful spot you have chosen for this demonstration of good will, would , if I were an orator, inspire words which I, unfortunately, do not command. It is most fitting, I think, that Americans and Japanese should stand here, almost in the surf of the great ocean which we both love, to pledge our faith in each other and consecrate ourselves anew to the common interests which unite us.

I am grateful because I can interpret your courtesy and your hospitality in but one way, and that is a way which accords with the hopes and the desires of the people whom I have the honor to represent. It means good will. It means that you want kindly relations with Japan just as Japan wants them with you. It means that your minds and hearts are open to friendship and all that friendship implies. It means peace, trade, fellowship and a common interest in a common civilization. For these assurances of spirit and purpose I thank you in the name of my government and people.

My own mission to this country is one of peace and good will. I come to you at a critical time in the affairs of men to consult upon grave matters of common interest. I come to you as an ally in arms, bringing the assurance of the liberty loving people of Japan that they stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in the great struggle which you are now making for justice and human rights. I come to congratulate you on your splendid courage in demonstrating to the whole world that a nation can rise to such moral heights, and put considerations of humanity before love of ease, of wealth, or life itself.

Surely this welcome at the very threshold of the Golden Gate is a happy omen. It not only fills my heart and the hearts of the members of my suite with pride and satisfaction, but it carries the assurance that our Mission is destined to bring a harvest of good things.

Permit me once more, Mr. Mayor, to thank you for your gracious welcome, your unbounded hospitality, and, above all, for this demonstration of good will towards my country. You have done us much honor, but more than this you have placed me and all of us under an obligation which, while great indeed, must be for all time a pleasant burden. It is a debt we will find delight in paying in part whenever and wherever opportunity shall offer. In any event, I assure you San Francisco will remain a happy memory.

Late in the afternoon General Sugano was given his first glimpse of American troops in force when he reviewed six thousand soldiers and sailors with Major General Hunter Liggitt commanding the Western Department of the U. S. Army.

Municipal Banquet

It was, however, a very high and important function that awaited the attention of the Mission for the evening. At the Palace Hotel preparations were being made for five hundred guests for a great banquet. And wonders had been accomplished in the use of lights and colors and flowers in decorations proper for honoring the guests of the Far East. The Stars and Stripes were conspicuously draped with the Rising Sun flag of Japan. The dinner was given under the auspices of the city of San Francisco, and as to cuisine, appointments and service certainly won deserved praise. The speakers' table was dotted with uniforms; high officers of the American army sat in khaki with Major General Hisaichi Sugano and naval officers in blue surrounded Vice Admiral T. Takeshita, the ranking army and navy representatives on the Mission; the State Department delegates were headed by Breckinridge Long, Third Assistant Secretary of State. It was altogether a brilliant and representative gathering. Mr. Gavin McNab acted as toastmaster. In opening the addresses he said in part:

San Francisco has the honor, on behalf of our country, to welcome to America these distinguished representatives of a nation, now our ally--- always our friend---Japan.

The visit of these statesmen, important though it would be at any time, is on this momentous occasion fraught with transcendent consequences, not only to our people but to the world and to the future of the human race.

America and Japan on opposite sides of the Pacific have learned that this mighty ocean unites and does not divide our people. This vast water is nature's greatest commercial gift to man. It is an inspiration---an invitation---to enterprise and adventure, with possibilities capable of marvels. On its broad bosom will, in days to come, float the largest commerce of the world; on its shores will be the theatre in which the future will stage the grandest drama of human events.

America, representing the newest civilization, and Japan, speaking for the newest and oldest civilization, facing each other across these waters, are partners and trustees for the world in the destinies of these shores and these seas. In the tragic events that are remaking the world we stand together.

When our country joined the war to fight for the permanent peace of all the world, our great President, in language as noble as that of the prophets of Israel, voiced the spirit of our people and the heart of humanity in declaring for the freedom and rights of all mankind, and, in words entitled to a place in scripture, declared that the Golden Rule should be international law.

When the sacrifices of a bleeding world have made His words true, man will be worthy of Him who said: "I have made man in my own image." Tonight, with the hands of America and Japan joined across the ocean, we dedicate ourselves to this noble and righteous cause, serenely facing the opinion of posterity, the verdict of history, and the judgment of Almighty God.

In the course of paying special compliment to the Imperial Mission, Governor Stephens said in part:

We are allies. In the most titanic war in the annals of history Japan and America have one aim---the preservation of democracy; one aspiration---the triumph of international justice.

Attempts have been made to promote discord between the two nations, but without success. The recent "Zimmerman note," cunningly designed to stir up strife and resentment between our governments, failed in its purpose and won only the contempt of the Japanese people.

Even if there were no present war to bind together our two nations, our common purpose and our common good would call for a policy of peace and amity. Neither country has anything to achieve, but, on the contrary, everything to lose, by fostering or permitting to exist a spirit of inharmony and distrust. We now are joined in a cause which demands our united energy and strength, our fullest cooperation, and our unswerving loyalty.

We welcome you to America and trust that you will carry back with you assurances of our great respect and high esteem, together with the felicitations of the American government and the American people to the government and to the people of Japan.

Mayor Rolph followed in an address which breathed the spirit of hospitality and good will.

When, in response to the invitation of Toastmaster McNab, Viscount Ishii arose to speak, the applause seemed to know no bounds and was long continued. He said:

Mr. Mayor and gentlemen of San Francisco:

Words fail me when I undertake to acknowledge the full measure of our obligation to your city and yourself. Notwithstanding the lessons of tradition and the generous foretaste of American hospitality we received at Honolulu, we are overwhelmed.

We are very proud because we know that this royal welcome you extend to us springs from the heart of a nation whose every emotion finds response in the pulses that beat in the brawny arm of San Francisco, now flinging wide the Golden Gate, and offering the hand outstretched to greet us. We come to you at the dawning of a new day. As individuals we have no right to expect to find place at this busy time of preparation. But we come as the humble representatives of the gracious sovereign of a. friendly and a loyal nation, and we say that we know well that performance not profession, deeds not words, sacrifice not selfishness, are the requisites of the hour.

Our message is that in this day, through its hours of shadow or of sunshine, your purpose is our purpose, your road our road, and your goal our goal. It is that America and Japan will march together, work together and fight together as comrades until the end has been reached and the victory won in the struggle which involves our rights and our liberties.

We are here to say that in this tremendous struggle for those rights and liberties, America and Japan are bound together; that when the victory of the Allied forces is secure, America and Japan should so live that your sons and our sons will have a certainty of good neighborhood; so live that no word or deed of either can be looked upon with suspicion; that venomous gossip, hired slander, sinister intrigue, and influence of all of which we have both been the victims, can in future only serve to bring us closer together for mutual protection and for the common welfare.

The importance of such cooperation was brought home to us particularly as we voyaged safely and pleasantly across the Pacific Ocean. We must indeed have assurance of good order in our neighborhood. We can not either of us take risks. It becomes the first duty of Japan and America to guard the Pacific and to ensure safe, continuous intercourse between Asia and the United States; to see to it that the ships of the ferocious pirates, whose crimes upon the high seas can never be palliated or atoned for, find no shelter in the waters of our seas. It is for us together to continue to enforce respect for law and humanity upon the Pacific from which the German menace was removed at the commencement of the war. Had this not been so, had the Barbarian of Europe not been rooted from his Oriental bases, the shuddering horrors of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean would today be a grim reality on the Pacific. In the protection of our sea going merchandise and men, in safeguarding the pleasures of intercourse, you may count on us as we must count on you.

Mr. Mayor and gentlemen, in the dawning of this new day of stress and strain let us forget the little molehills that had been exaggerated into mountains to bar our good relations. Let us see together with a clearer vision the pitfalls dug by a cunning enemy in our path. Let us together fix our eyes upon the star of principle which shall lead us together most surely to a participation in the triumph of the right, to a certain victory in the greatest, and, let us hope, the last great war in human history. And when that victory shall have been won, let us together, with the same courage and devotion as has been shown by this magnificent city, help in the upbuilding of a new world which shall rise as San Francisco has risen,, well ordered, strong and beautiful, from the ashes of the old.

Viscount Ishii's Dinner

Various excursions for the members of the Imperial Mission filled the morning hours of the third day in San Francisco, but they assembled in the evening at the St. Francis Hotel, where Viscount Ishii had ordered a feast by way of graciously turning the tables upon his lavish American hosts, headed by Breckinridge Long of the State Department, Governor Stephens, Mayor Rolph, the chairman of the Dinner Committee, and the naval and military officers taking part in the various functions and festivities. It was a large and brilliant party, over which sincerity and good humor presided. Viscount Ishii, addressing the gathering, said:

Gentlemen and friends: My first and most manifest duty this evening is to thank you for the honor of your presence. I do so with deep sincerity, fully realizing the import of your kindness and courtesy.

This is probably my last evening, for the present, in San Francisco, and I am happy to have the opportunity of saying to you, however imperfectly, before proceeding eastward on my mission, how profoundly I have been impressed with the hospitality and the bigness of your people and city. You have placed me and the members of my suite under lasting obligations of gratitude. You have convinced my government, and people that the heart of the great West is all right, and that friendly cooperation from now on is to be the keynote of all relations between America and Japan.

During the past three days I have been making what I believe you call in America a whirlwind campaign. Your kindness has been the whirlwind, and I and my colleagues have been the wind driven leaves. Fortunately, we are most of us young men still in the prime of life, and we are endeavoring to stand up as bravely as possible to the kindly blast. I am fully convinced, however, that the city of San Francisco, headed by its gallant Mayor, has entered into some kind of a conspiracy on this occasion to outdo its own worldwide reputation for hospitality; and when you remember that this conspiracy has been aided and abetted by the federal government of the United States and by the sovereign state of California, you will form some idea of what it means to stand directly in the path of the wind.

But, aside from all pleasantry, gentlemen, I have indeed much occasion for satisfaction tonight. The unstinted honors which you have extended to this Mission are a notice to all the world that America and Japan are standing side by side in the great issues of the day. You have spoken the word here in San Francisco which binds us in harmony of purpose. Your action clears away many a doubt and misunderstanding on the part of the people of both countries as to our mutual aims and aspirations. The hand of friendship which you have extended to me personally will be accepted by the people of Japan as a tender of sincere good will towards the sovereign and the people whom I have the honor to represent. You have made the work of this Mission easier, and it will proceed upon its way to the seat of government in Washington, buoyed up with the assurances of America's friendly spirit. Your generous attitude makes it possible for every fair minded man to believe that there are no pending questions between America and Japan which, approached in this spirit, are not susceptible of honorable and fair adjustment.

I take my leave of you, gentlemen, with a very full and grateful heart, and, in the name of my government and the Japanese people, I again thank you for the welcome extended to my Mission.

When the applause died down on the conclusion 'of the Viscount's speech, Mr. Gavin McNab arose and said:

Ambassador Ishii refers to the warmth of San Francisco's welcome to himself and party. But this reception is founded not on hospitality alone. Long ago California's hospitality passed into a proverb. Perhaps this was due to our origin. California entered civilization under the cross and not by the sword. The year the Liberty Bell on the Atlantic rang the birth of a nation in the throes of war, the mission bells on the shores of the ocean named for Peace rang out the birth of San Francisco.

The gentle padres whose spiritual wanderings sanctified our soil built the quaint mission churches ---a horseback ride apart---and the traveler was cared for without price; the Spanish Don, who measured his land by the league and not the acre, and whose cattle ranged a hundred hills, gave the stranger his house and all; the pioneer, who found the gold whose magic charm assembled here the greatest adventurers from all the world, shared his plenty with all. Thus hospitality became a tradition of the West. But it is with more than hospitality that we greet these great men from over the sea. Our feelings for them are inspired by the loftiest and noblest emotions. They and we stand together as comrades in the greatest crisis that has ever confronted mankind. That the world may be saved for humanity, that civilization shall be preserved, our soldiers and sailors fight as brothers on land and sea.

When our two peoples shed martyr blood in the struggle for the grandest cause and purpose for which the human race ever fought, by that pledge of blood we insure the everlasting peace and friendship of these nations and these peoples. The glorious sacrifice of our heroic dead shall be a bond of peace for those who live.

The effect of the Imperial Mission in arousing public opinion throughout the country was magical. Full reports of the various welcoming functions in San Francisco were printed through the length and breadth of the land, and something manful in the utterances of Viscount Ishii appealed to America. At last Japan's protestations of good faith were believed. Here was an international juncture at which a half-hearted friend might have remained silent; but it was surely a man and a friend who came over the sea to tell us that his country, Japan, was beside ours to the end in the war-an ally able to wear a sword as well as a friend to help us shoulder our load. San Francisco simply outdid itself in its courtly attentions to the Imperial Mission, making every member feel that his presence had contributed largely to the pleasure as well as to the significance of the functions.

Viscount Ishii had to bear in mind that the Mission was really a diplomatic one and that he was called on to present himself to President Wilson at Washington at as early a date as possible. Hence the necessity of bringing the round of festivities to an end, however alluring they might be.

IV. At the National Capital

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