After this slightly bloody interlude, we turn to the strategic map. We need to plan our overall strategy.
Note that the Marianas now proudly fly the Rising Sun. Also note that the Germans still have holdings in Tsingtaou, North Korea, the Caroline Islands (i.e. Truk) and the Bismarck Archipelago. This is where we should be focusing our efforts, to completely kick them out of our sphere of influence. Also also
note that our intelligence officers have tracked the movement of another
battleship to Tsingtaou, where it met the Hertha. The Germans have two heavy hitters on our doorstep. Thankfully, both Fuso
are standing by to engage their battle-line if it should poke out and the Admiralty is confident in their superiority over the German analogues.
Our intelligence officers have also been keeping a close eye on the French and Russians, just in case the war spills over. With a honeypot scheme, one of our best female operatives manages to acquire the complete blueprints of their new battleships.
Which is completely
inferior to the Fusos
in every aspect but its guns. So, no worries there.
Vague happy noises come from our R & D department. Apparently, they have an experimental submersible vehicle and they've been sailing it around (and under) Kuro harbour. It is interesting in its implications, but whether it will turn out to be a toy or a revolution in naval warfare remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the German raiders continue to make a nuisance of themselves. Izumi
's crews are eager to hunt them down, but the Admiralty comes down on them like a ton of bricks. These are armoured cruisers (possibly Herthas
) and we cannot risk our scouts against them. Wait
Then, agents in Tsingtaou report that the German fleet has set sail, with the intention of bombarding coastal defenses. The Admiralty deploys scouting elements to find them and guide the Fusos
on an interception.
The operation is a partial succes. Naniwa
tracks them down near Sasebo and the Fusos arrive mid-bombardment. The Germans disengage under cover of nightfall. The damage to the coastal installations is minimal and there are no casualties among the merchant shipping.
Then, the Germans plead for peace. A council is held, in which the Admiralty pushes for the continuation of the war; but the Army is exhausted and the Emperor is concerned that, if Germany continues her raiding campaigns, there might be a turnaround. Right now, they're offering satisfactory reparations; it would be in Nippon's best interest to accept and grant them their peace.
Peace is signed, on the 14th of June, 1902, on board the battleship Fuso
, in Tsingtaou harbour. The terms are hugely favourable to Japan; Geermany acknowledges its occupation of the Marianas and also offers Truk and Tsingtaou itself, the jewel of northern China, as reparations. Week-long celebrations are held throughout Japan.
This is a peace that shakes the world. For the first time, an Oriental power has claimed victory over and dictated terms to a European colonialist nation. The foundations of the world tremble. The British observe with a raised eyebrow and cackle that their ships, even on the hands of the Japanese, can outperform the Kaiser's floating junk, ignoring that not a single battleship engagement was fought. The French and Russians, the old kids in the block who have just seen an uppity newcomer beat down their neighbour are very
worried but limit themselves to vaguely condemnative statements and subtle economic warfare.
The Emperor and his cabinet institute a rather loose colonial system in the occupied areas. There are long-standing grievances between the Japanes and the Chinese and it is thought that attempting to enforce the Emperor's rule by force will only be met with open rebellion. Instead, local governors are appointed and the European Gaijin are kicked out of any position of authority over the following years. Similar systems are put in place in the other Pacific holdings, with indigenous persons of note being placed in positions of authority and recognised as high officials of the Empire. Interestingly, the systems seems to be working. The local populations were not particularly fond of the Europeans and the gentle hand (and it is
a gentle hand) of the Empire seems to be infinitely preferrable.
Of course, these social and political developments require the Empire to dig deep into its pockets and the naval budget is the first to suffer in peacetime.
Nevertheless, the upcoming months are productive. First, an overview of the construction techniques in the Tsingtaou yards shows that the Chinese workers have developed interesting variations on riveting techniques. They are encouraged (with high wages and high-ranking positions) to oversee their application in the naval yards.
With the immediate threat of war over, the fleet dials down its training regimen. It becomes possible to economise almost half a million monthly, a very respectable amount.
That money flows into R & D and infrastructure. New docks are completed; it is finally
possible to drydock our Fusos
withour making them travel halfway around the world, to Britain. Our scientists present us with improved AP shells and, perhaps more significantly, wheel out their submarine prototype. It's slow and has limited range, but it packs a good punch with the weapon that most appeals to the soul of the Japanes sailor: Torpedoes!
Of course, we can only afford four, for now.
Our 11'' guns are now up to international standards. Not particularly helpful, as we're not fielding any 11'' ships, nor are we planning to, but lessons learned might help with other calibers.
And then, November 1902 hits us with the worst recession in recent years; apparently, Japan has bitten off more than it can chew and, as the winter approaches, there are people sleeping in the streets. This is the winter that will make or break the delicate alliance that Japan is trying to build in East Asia; and Nippon responds beautifully, with an extended campaing of charity and social reforms. What is notable to the naval historian is the massive donations by the Imperial Family to private charity organisations throughout the Empire's holdings; and the usage of ships in foreign stations as accommodation for the homeless and unemployed. Hatsuse
becomes known as the 'Mother of Sasebo', for packing more than a thousand mothers and children into her holds throughout the winter.
Of course, the navy budget suffers another
blow, although things could be worse.
As winter passes, the youngest of the Izumi
sisters rolls off the yards and starts her training cruise. Say hello to Takachiho
And our designers implement new safety measures to keep our engines un-exploded, a valued characteristic, from what our officers are given to understand.
With funds from Takachiho
freed up, the first Asanagis
are laid down; a small flotilla of four ships for a start, just to test the design. They should hit the water in less than a year.
And, after their rough treatment during the crisis, it is thought the two Fusos
have earned a period in drydock, for essential maintenance. Thankfully, the R & D department vetoes the project. They're tantilizingly close to unlocking critical improvements in firing control technologies and they insist that any repairs should wait until the new system can be implemented. The Admiralty agrees, and Fuso and Hatsuse keep their keels wet for a few more months.
The Brits are quite interested in our progress and offer to sell us improved rangefinders; the R & D people jump at the opportunity and funds are allocated.
However, this leads to a cock-up with the handling of finances. The Navy has to default on a month's salary payments for some of its personnel; the budget is back in the black in the next month, but the scandal remains a tarnish on the Admiralty's record and an embarrassment for a good while. A quiet decision is made, behind the scenes: Never again.
The Navy finds the opportunity to redeem itself in May, when a minor colonial crisis erupts in Sumatra, over territorial waters with the Vietamese. It is not hard to see France pulling the strings from behind the scene. Izumi
are on the spot and their captains are instructed to provide all the necessary support to the Sumatran administration - unconditionally. Their uncompromising stance greatly enhances the image of the Navy among the locals; so does the fact that a large part of the Izumo
's crew are natives, including First Lieutenant Bambang, one of the first wartime graduates of the Kaigun Heigakkō
Then, later in the year, during the celebrations for the anniversary of King Edward VII's coronation, a Russian destroyer rams Fuso
(who was hosting the Japanese diplomatic delegation) in Spithead. The event incenses the Admiralty who see in it an act of attempted sabotage and an 'accidental' sinking of the pride of their navy; the British stand behind the Japanese, harshly critisizing Russian seamanship. Fuso
suffers minimal damage; the Russian destroyer spends four months in drydock. Tensions with Russia rise; Albion, on the other hand, seems firmly on the side of the Japanese.
In November, a committee of Chinese and Japanese naval engineers present the Admiralty with the design of a fully functional 'wing' turret, capable of bearing up to 10'' guns. They also present theoretical designs of 'enhanced' battleships, with a 12'' main battery (similar to that borne by the Fusos) complemented by massive secondary turrets of 10'' guns. The ship would have a theoretical broadside of 4 12 inchers and 4 10 inchers, a formidable armament. The design is benched, however, as neither the navy's budget nor its drydocks can support such a behemoth of a ship.
New developments in AP projectiles, on the other hand, are always welcome.
And then our first submarines are commissioned. The Navy is eager to experiment with these 'boats'. They quickly become quite prestigious postings and enjoy a 'ninja' mystique; their crews are some of the most egalitarian in the fleet. Command posts are given to a Japanese , two Manchu and a Polynesian officer and their crews are a multi-ethnic melting pot.
And then, FINALLY, with a ten-month delay, our scientists and engineers present us with a working design to centrally coordinate not just the rangefinder information, but all firing calculations. Time to truly bring our ships into the 20th century.