The Attack on the Czarevitch in Japan
Tokio, May 15th, 1891
No modern event in this country has so painfully agitated all classes as the attack on the Russian Prince Imperial which was made at a town called Otsu, near Kioto, four days ago, by a frenzied Japanese police constable.
The Prince, with his cousin and fellow-traveller, Prince George of Greece, reached Japan from China on the 27th ult., attended by a squadron of Russian war-vessels.
Great preparations in honour of this visit had been made by the Japanese Court, Government and people.
The Imperial tour, by sea and land, was to occupy a month, was to extend from Nagasaki, in the far south to Awomori at the northern extremity of this island, and was to include most of the chief cities and places of interest in the length and breadth of the land.
Russia's policy towards this empire has latterly been of a friendly kind; and, glad of the opportunity now afforded of manifesting Japan's own regard for her great northern neighbour, and of cementing the bond between them, the country was preapred to give the Heir Apparent to the Russian Throne a magnificent welcome, marked by all the heartiness, grace, and novelty which the Japanese are so well able to impart to these occasions.
That such a guest, at such a time, should have been the object of a murderous assault at the hands of a Japanese was in itself a fact sufficiently horrible to paralyze the heart of the nation - not to speak of its certain grievous effect on Japan's good name before the world.
It had the further sting that Japan's annals were thus for the first time made to wear the stain of an attack by one of her own people on the person of Royalty.
The incidents of the affair are as follows:-
After a short stay in Nagasaki, followed by a visit to Prince Shimadzu at Kagoshima, the Imperial guest made for Kioto, the city of cities in Japan, arriving there on the 9th inst.
To go to Kioto on pleasure means, for a certainty, a trip to Lake Biwa, a few miles away - one of the historical beauty spots of the empire.
Thither, accordingly, the Crown Prince and party proceeded on the morning of the 11th.
After lunching with the Prefect of Shiga at Otsu, on the lake shore, they set out in jinrikisha to see the sights of the neighbourhood, it being impossible to take carriages on an excursion over the country roads.
The way through the streets of Otsu was lined with police.
Evidently suspecting no danger, and apparently sharing in the belief, established by universal experience, that in no country are travellers safer from molestation than in Japan, the Prince led the way, and was thus in a position especially favourable to the fanatical attack which was presently made upon him.
Among the police on street duty was one Tsuda Sanzo, formerly a sergeant-major in the army, who joined the police force six years ago at the end of his term of military service, wearing a decoration earned by distinguished conduct in the suppression of the Satsuma rebellion in 1877.
Though a man of taciturn and bigoted disposition, he always did his duty thoroughly, and was well thought of in the force.
Suddenly, however, as the Czarevitch passed, Tsuda drew his sword and darted upon him before prevention was possible.
Happily, one imperfect blow only had been delivered when the assailant was seized by one of the Prince's jinrikisha-coolies, and thrown to the ground with such violence that he dropped his sword; whereupon the other coolie, instantly seizing the sword, disabled him with two serious but not fatal blows, just as the guards from behind rushed up to secure him.
The Prince's wounds - two were effected by the one cut - were fortunately very slight.
His hat and hair saved him by so deadening the blow that the sword edge did not harm the bone, merely inflicting on the side of the head two shallow cuts about three inches long, of not at all a serious kind, and producing neither faintness nor suffering.
By 3 o'clock, his wounds having been attended to, the Prince was able to go by jinrikisha to the railway station, and thence return by special train to Kioto, conversing freely with his suite the while.
Intense, however, were the horror and shame which the event gave rise to throughout the Empire.
Even when the slight character of the Prince's injury had become known, there remained the galling fact that a cruel stain had been burnt into Japan's escutcheon.
It was also known to be almost certain that the Czarevitch would at once renounce his tour and leave the country, and that the period which was to have been a gay festival of welcome and rejoicing would now be passed only in national humiliation and mournful regret.
At half-past 2 the distressing news of the outrage reached this capital by telegram.
The Emperor was profoundly affected, while the Empress broke down completely, and has been more or less prostrated ever since.
A Cabinet Council was instantly summoned.
Within two hours the Imperial Prince Kitashirakawa, with Court surgeons and messengers, were on their way to Kioto, and were followed at nightfall by Count Saigo and Viscount Aoki, Ministers of State, and a relay of medical men; while the Emperor himself started at 6 o'clock next morning on the journey of 300 miles to the Western capital, to visit the wounded Czarevitch.
Everything, in short, was done that could be done to make amends for the shocking incident, and the following Imperial rescript apperared in the Official Gazette on the evening of the day of the outrage:-
<It is with the most profound grief and regret that, while we, with our Government and our subjects, have been preparing to welcome his Imperial Highness, our beloved and respected Crown Prince of Russia, with all the honours and hospitalities due to our national guest, we receive the most unexpected and surprising announcement that his Imperial Highness met with a deplorable accident at Otsu whilst on his journey.
It is our will that justice shall take its speedy course on the miscreant offender, to the end that our mind may be relieved and that our friendly and intimate relations with our good neigbour may be secured against disturbance.>
As to Tsuda, the doer of the dastardly deed, one theory alone seems possible.
There is not the least reason to suppose that he was fired by indiscriminate hatred of foreigners generally, or by any of the crazy creeds of the soshi or other reckless political gangs.
Nor is there any ground for believing that he was instigated by others to his crime.
It has been established, however, that madness has prevailed in his family for generations.
Further, there exists a certain class of men in this country who entertain strong and morbid feelings about Russia, who cannot divest themselves of the belief that Russia is the natural enemy of Japan, or forget or forgive the cession of Saghalien to that Power in 1875, in exchange for the Kurile Islands-constituting as this did the first instance in history of alienation of any part of the dominions of the Sons of Heaven.
There are men here, and even some newspapers of no good repute, that have of late spoken freely and strongly on this very visit of the Russain Prince Imperial, as the visit of a secret enemy and an indignity to the Empire.
One such fanatic lately committed deliberate suicide rather than live to see his country so dishonoured.
Others have professed to believe that the Czarevitch only came here to spy out the land, or perhaps to create occasion for some entanglement with Russia.
That the wretched Tsuda was of the above class, or at least in sympathy with it - that he suffered from what may be termed "Russia on the brain," and that this disease created in him a predisposition to evil - seems to be the only reasonable hypothesis by which to approach the interpretation of his crime.
For the rest, we have the fact that the malefactor was of a silent and moody disposition, probably one of those men, to be found all the world over, whose brains can be brought by brooding over a single idea to such a tottering state of equilibrium that any irritating incident, however slight, having relation to the leading idea may upset the mental balance and induce temporary frenzy and delirium.
There can be little doubt that Tsuda was thus constituted, and that the sight of Russia's Heir Apparent and his brilliant retinue extinguished in him all sense of duty, right, and wrong, and turned him for the moment into a madman.
This - for the culprit was apparently in his right mind before the deed - is the one conception by which, to the Japanese themselves and to us who live here and have good means of judging, his atrocity is intelligible.
It is not to be expected, however, that the world at large will judge other than harshly of the matter, or trouble its head with details.
Last Monday's outrage will certainly be construed in a sense unfavourable to Japan and highly injurious to her reputation.
Men will rather remember that Japan's annals have always been more or less disfigured by the stain of blood.
They will say, rightly or wrongly, that this was a case of the old Adam breaking out, and that the embers of feudalism are not yet cold, nor yet dead the instincts of the long era during which, it may almost be said, might was right and the sword the law.
Meantime, the grief of the nation is outspoken and profound.
If the Press be any gauge of public opinion, keen regret on the Prince's account, detestation of the criminal, and deepest shame at the national dishonour are the sentiments that fill all hearts.
Of Tsuda, says the Mainichi Shimbun, "Whether sane or insane, he is the foe of his country's honour, a traitor to his Emperor and his Government."
The Jiji Shimpo writes: "Apart from the shame to Japan and the indelible stain fixed upon her history, no greater calamity has ever befallen her;" and all the leading journals comment in a similar strain on the crime and its author-on "the disgrace that cannot be wiped away in a night and a morning," and the shame that "such a man should be a unit of the Japanese nation."
In private circles the same lament is everywhere heard; every public association in the country has sent its representatives to Kioto with messages of regret and condolence, and the theatres, exchanges, and wine-shops were closed for a time after the receipt of the news.
There can, in short, be no question at all about the depth and genuineness of the national feeling.
The one crumb of comfort in the whole of this sad affair is the Prince's own extraordinary escape.
A Japanese sword is a very ugly weapon, and the police are trained to use it with terrible skill.
It is little wonder, then, that people feared the worst when the nature of the attack reached their ears, and were afterwards as much amazed as relieved when its marvellously slight consequences came to be known.
As a matter of fact, his Imperial Highness has not suffered at all in health or spirits from his wounds, which are doing so well that evil consequences are now out of the question.
At and interview with the Emperor which took place on the 13th, it was arranged that the Czarevitch should rejoin his squadron at Kobe the same day, and his Majesty resolved to accompany him to that port, there for the time, at all events, to bid him farewell.
Whether he will continue his tour in Japan is not yet known, but the probabilities are against his doing so.
The Times - Jun.13
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