Pacific Ocean March

(between 1939 and 1941)

IHL Cat. #2669


A color lithograph patriotic fan sample print, likely created between 1939 and 1941 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945).[1] In this print we're presented with, in the left half, Japanese warships on the Pacific Ocean as the sun rises and fighter planes fly overhead and, in the right half, a smiling young boy, binoculars and Japanese flag in hand, beckoning us to look into the distance at the Great Wall of China. The images speak of Japanese expansion to the East and to the West. 

Printed above the planes is the first verse, transcribed and loosely translated below, from the "Pacific Ocean March" (太平洋行進曲 Taiheiyō Kōshinkyoku) another gunka (war song) whose lyrics were penned in response to the Tokubetsu Kōshinkyoku (Special Patriotic Song) Competition sponsored by the Naval Ministry.[2]

海の民なら 男なら
みんな一度は 憧れた
太平洋の 黒潮を
共に勇んで 行ける日が
来たぞ歓喜の 血が燃える[3]

Those who are seafarers, and those who are men,

All have yearned for it at least once,

The day when we can bravely sail,

Through the Kuroshio* of the Pacific together,

That day of joy has come, our blood is ignited.

* a warm northeasterly ocean current off the coast of Japan, also called the Japan Current or the gulf stream of the Pacific. 

As with other gunka, the Japanese brought them to their colonies and conquered lands. In the film documentary "Sensō Daughters" by Noriko Sekiguchi "a middle-aged New Guinean man appears before the camera wearing a T-shirt and what appears to be a battered army-issue helmet. A subtitle identifies him as Joseph Kanaka. Standing at attention, with shoulders back and arms at his sides, he begins to speak in precisely accented Japanese: "My name in Japanese is Mr. Tanaka. This is our village, Musisura. Now I will sing you a Japanese song. It is called 'The Pacific March'.

"[O]ne feels severe cognitive dissonance when the stridently jingoistic 'Pacific March' issues from the mouth of a former colonial 'subject' like Joseph Kanaka. The filmmaker gives no explanation for Kanaka's performance, but in the end an explanation is not really necessary. One imagines the man, who appears to be in his fifties, as a young boy during the war. Most likely Japanese soldiers taught him the song, and perhaps they praised his renditions of it. Perhaps they found it particularly entertaining that he, a true 'ocean person' fully and naturally at home in the seas, would serenade them in their language with renditions of their fantasies of oceanic empire."[4]

The print carries the sample catalog number そ印 参百九拾五 號 (so in sanbyaku kyū jū go gō [395]). These numbered fan prints (uchiwa-e 団扇絵) were gathered into a sample book (uchiwa mihonchō 団扇見本帳, or uchiwa gachō 団扇画帖.) to show wholesale customers the range of available designs.

Note: Transcriptions and translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

[1] The Second Sino-Japanese War is referred to in China as the "War of Resistance Against Japan."

[2] composed by Fuse Hajime 布施元 with lyrics by Yokoyama Masanori 横山正徳.

[3] Transcription from [accessed 11-1-23]

[4] "Maps and Metaphors of the 'Small Eastern Sea' in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868)" by Marcia Yonemoto, appearing in The Geographical Review, April, 1999, Vol. 89, No. 2, Oceans Connect, Taylor & Francis, Ltd. p. 184, 185. Stable URL:

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