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PORTRAIT OF EMPEROR HIROHITO PUBLISHED IN THE LOS ANGELES RAFU SHIMPO NEWSPAPER IN 1936 – FULL COLOR IMAGE OF THE EMPEROR ON HIS FAMOUS WHITE HORSE – HISTORICAL IMAGE WHICH APPEARED IN THE IMMEDIATE PRE-WAR YEARS:  This full color image of Japanese Emperor Hirohito was published in the famous Los Angeles, California Japanese-English newspaper, the Rafu Shimpo in 1936.   

Founded in 1903, Rafu Shimpo was based in the “Little Tokyo” area of Los Angeles, California and served the Japanese community until 1942 when it was closed for the duration of World War Two.  In addition to providing the local Japanese-American population with local news and advertisement, the paper also maintained a cultural and news link with Japan, reporting items of interest and newsworthy events from the other side of the Pacific.   

This impressive image of the Emperor was a standard pose that was fundamental to his carefully cultivated image.  Prior to, and during, World War II, the Emperor was depicted in photos and newsreels riding this striking white stallion while reviewing his troops.  Japanese tradition held the royal family as direct descendants of the Sun God, and images such as this one reinforced the belief that the Emperor was a distant deity to be revered. 

The Japanese Empire’s equestrian links to the United States originated in friendship, when in 1880 President Ulysses Grant was received by the Meiji Emperor during a state visit.  Upon the President's return to the United States, he ordered a magnificent black stallion sent to the Emperor.  This equestrian alliance continued into the 20th century when Shirayuki (White Snow), pictured in this image, was shipped to the Emperor from California.

The images of the mounted Emperor were sufficiently common that the symbolism of the white horse was not lost on the American public once the war broke out.  Early in the war, US Navy Admiral William (Bull) Halsey vowed that one day he would ride Hirohito’s white horse through the streets of Tokyo.  A made to order propaganda coup, Halsey’s bravado became a rallying cry - the United States would win the war and remove Emperor Hirohito from his “high horse”.  Halsey’s promise even served as the theme of one of the War Bond drives, advertised in the broadside shown below.    

At the end of the war, the public was clamoring for Admiral Halsey to ride Emperor Hirohito’s horse as promised, but it wasn’t to be.  A much disappointed public would learn that the white stallion was to remain the private property of the Emperor.  The International News Service reported that Emperor Hirohito made 344 appearances on Shirayuki.  The horse was retired in 1942 and died in 1947 at the age of 27.  

This print of the mounted Emperor is a clear, bright image.  The paper is crazed with some cracking in the face of the image due to age and having been stored in a roll, however the principle features of the image haven’t been significantly harmed.  The detail of the Emperor’s facial features, his uniform, and the saddle cloth are clear and legible.  The image proper measures 12” x 10” and the total dimensions of the sheet of paper, including the white border, is 15 ¼” x 11 ½”. 

The newspaper name and date of publication of the image is printed in the lower center border and there are several banners of Japanese printing around the border.  It is interesting to note that in the lower right hand corner is printed “Made in Japan”, so it is possible these images were printed in Japan and provided to Rafu Shimpo for distribution to their readership.   

This is a very interesting piece of pre-World War Two history, published as the United States and Japan were on the collision course that would lead to war.  This would be a key piece to add to any number of different groupings related to the Japanese Internment Camps, the 442ND Combat Team, War Propaganda, or Japanese military artifacts.  No doubt, this must be a fairly scarce print due to the initial limited distribution and the subsequent anti-Japanese sentiments once the war had begun.  (0228)  $200


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