By: Kisaburo Ohara
Date: 1904 (dated) Japan
Original Size: 16.5 x 22.75 inches (42 x 57.8 cm)
This is a fine print reproduction of a scarce and remarkable pictorial map was originally created in 1904, just as the Russo – Japanese War was breaking out.
In creating the map its author Kisaburo Ohara followed the lead of two maps published in the fourth quarter of the 19th century, both done in satirical serio – comic style, with both depicting Russia and its expansionism as a menacing ‘Black Octopus’ with threatening tentacles. Most countries included in the ‘geography’ of the map are depicted by Ohara as personifications of local traditions and governmental norms. While the earlier maps focused on Russia itself Ohara chose to depict Eurasia, including all of Europe and much of Asia.
The tentacles of the Russian ‘Octopus’ are shown as already having a firm grip on many countries, with human skulls embellishing those in their grasp. Finland, Poland, Crimea, and the Balkan nations are marked by skulls, while tentacles grasp Turkey around the foot and waist, Persia about the neck, and Tibet by the arm. The Trans-Siberian Railway and the South Manchuria Railway, represented by the rightmost tentacle, had by this time extended Russian influence into Manchuria as far as the valuable ice-free Russian stronghold of Port Arthur.
Though most of the map’s text is in Japanese, the inclusion of a description of the map’s intent rendered in English strongly suggests that the map was intended for an English audience as much as for the Japanese, and the map was perceived to express a warning to the British to keep to the sidelines. Additionally, Japanese Imperial expansionism is clearly expressed by the map as it suggests advancement by the Japanese as far to the west as St Petersburg. In addition, China’s borders on the map are limited and do not include Chinese claims to Tibet and Turkestan.
Ohara included the following English language text in the upper left quadrant. “Black Octopus is a name newly given to Russia by a certain prominent Englishman. For the black octopus is so avaricious, that he stretches out his eight arms in all directions, and seizes up every thing that comes within his reach. But as it sometimes happens he gets wounded seriously even by a small fish, owing to his too much covetousness. Indeed, a Japanese proverb says: 'Great avarice is like unselfishness.' We Japanese need not to say much on the cause of the present war. Suffice it to say that the further existence of the Black Octopus will depend entirely upon how he comes out of this war. The Japanese fleet has already practically annihilated Russia's naval powers in the Orient. The Japanese army is about to win a signal victory over Russia in Corea and Manchuria. And when ... St. Petersburg? Wait & see! The ugly Black Octopus! Hurrah! Hurrah! for Japan.”