Between the Wars

1894-1905 After the outbreak of war against China in August 1894, Mori serves in Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan. As a medical officer, he witnesses the fighting in this and the following war against Russia (1904–1905). However, he rarely draws on this experience as a writer. In retrospect, the phase between the two conflicts that established Japan internationally as a major power, seems like a time of retreat and reflection. Mori edits and republishes his writing in literary and art criticism (Tsukikusa, 1896); his medical studies are included in the first Japanese textbook on hygiene (Eisei shinpen, 1897), which he publishes with Koike Masanao. Conflicts with his superiors lead to his transferal to the southern Japanese city of Kokura, which he perceives as an exile. He distances himself from his alter ego Ōgai, delves into eastern and western currents of philosophy and finishes the brilliant translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s novel Improvisatoren. Freshly married to his second wife Shige, he finally returns to the capital in 1902.

Memories and Thoughts

“I continue to quietly believe in myself. As anyone living in this remote corner of Japan knows, not a word of reproach or complaint has issued from my lips. I am of sound mind and body, and apropos the new beginning of the new year, I find I have reached a degree of refinement and equanimity such as I have not experienced heretofore — neither when I studied abroad in Germany nor at any time since my return to Japan.”

Who is Ōgai Gyoshi? (1900). Trans. W. J. Tyler

“I have always endeavored to be sincere in my studies, and industrious in the execution of my official duties, yet I cannot help lamenting the fact that I am not appreciated fairly and squarely for what I really am. Furthermore, this is true whether the misunderstanding arises out of good or bad intentions. My true face has yet to he understood by the world. That is why I chose to distance myself from the name Ogai Gyoshi.”

Who is Ōgai Gyoshi? (1900). Trans. W. J. Tyler

“From the time I moved into the Kyomachi house in Kokura, Ankokujisan had come to see me daily. Every day I would come home from the office to find him waiting and he would stay until dinnertime. During that time I would read and explicate a German introduction to philosophy to him. In return he would instruct me on the Yuishikiron, the Buddhist doctrine that matter is a form of mind. After seeing Ankokuji-san off, I would eat dinner and go to Bashakumachi to study French with the missionary.”

Ōgai - Two Friends / Futari no tomo (1915). Trans. J. M. Vardaman, Jr.

“Ono would be forty that year. His separation from his former wife had taken place a long time before. His grandmother in Tokyo had been extremely anxious about his going off to Kokura alone, and every time she wrote to him it was about considerations for taking a new wife.”

Ōgai - A Bachelor / Dokushin (1910). Trans. J. M. Vardaman, Jr.

Biographical Events


1 August 1894: The Japanese government declares war on Chʼing dynasty China. [“Latest Intelligence. China and Japan”, The Times]
  • August: Mori is appointed as Command Surgeon of the Central Military Logistics Department and sent to Korea.
  • The publication of his literary journal “The Weir” (Shigarami zōshi) ceases.
  • Until his return in October 1895, Mori records his experiences in the “Front diary” (Sosei nikki).
  • October: He is appointed as Command Surgeon of the 2nd Army and serves in the barracks of the 5th artillery regiment in Hiroshima.
  • The publication of his “Journal for Hygiene und Therapy” (Eisei ryōbyō shi) ceases.
  • By the middle of the month, Mori returns to the theater of war.
  • November: He is stationed on the Liaodong Peninsula with the staff of the military logistics department.


January 1895: The publisher Hakubunkan establishes the monthly magazine Taiyō (“The Sun”). It develops into a forum for social debates and new literary publications. At the same time, the publishing house combines its literary journals into the magazine Bungei kurabu (“Club for Literature and the Arts”).
January 1895: The Faculty of Literature of Tokyo Imperial University publishes the first issue of the journal Teikoku bungaku (“Literature of the Empire”).
April 1895: The Treaty of Shimonoseki ends the First Sino-Japanese War. Several territories - including Taiwan - are ceded to Japan.
May 1895: Russia, France and the German Empire intervene against the cession of the Liaodong peninsula to Japan.
End of May 1895: The Japanese government sends troops to Taiwan to claim the territory. After several months of fighting against the Republic of Formosa, the colonial government gains control of the island.
  • February: Mori is transferred to Weihaiwei, where a decisive battle has taken place. Shortly thereafter, he returns to the Liaodong Peninsula.
  • April: He is promoted to the rank of surgeon major general.
  • May: Appointment to the Central Hygiene Association.
  • Mori travels back to Ujina, Japanʼs biggest military harbor in the proximity of Hiroshima.
  • Later in the month, he leaves Ujina and travels to Taiwan, where he will stay until September.
  • June: Upon arrival  in Taipei, he is appointed as sanitation officer of the General Government of Taiwan.
  • August: Mori is entrusted with the command of the Medical Detachment in the Bureau of Army Affairs of the General Government. Therefore, he is discharged from his duties as Command Surgeon of the military logistics unit of the 2nd Army.
  • He is assigned to an investigation committee regarding the equipment of infantry soldiers and the wartime ammunition for the Murata repeating rifle.
  • September: After being discharged of his duties in the General Government of Taiwan, Mori is appointed as Acting Director of the Army Medical College. End of the month, he leaves Taipei.
  • October: Upon his arrival in Tokyo, he is awarded with the Order of the Golden Kite (4th class) and the Order of the Rising Sun (6th class).
  • Later in the month, he is promoted to the office of the Director of the Army Medical College.
  • November: Conferment of the fifth court rank (junior degree).
  • December: Mori is assigned to an investigation committee regarding the clothing, equipment, and provisions of infantry soldiers.


  • January: The first issue of Mezamashi gusa (The Eye-Opening Notes) appears. The new journal features the series “Idle talk among three people” (Sannin jōgo) which Mori authors together with Kōda Rohan und Saitō Ryoku’u.
  • Appointment as lecturer in the Army War College.
  • March: Sasaki Nobutsuna visits the Seaview Villa for the first time. Mori will maintain contact with the poet and philologist from now on.
  • April: Mori’s father passes away.
  • Acquaintance with Natsume Sōseki and Sasaki Nobutsuna.
  • December: His collection of critical essays on art and literature appears under the title “Moon grass” (Tsukikusa).


  • January: The first issue of the new journal “Public health affairs” (Kōshū iji) appears.
  • March: Due to an adjustment of the officersʼ ranks in the Japanese army, Mori is newly classified as Chief Staff Surgeon.
  • June: In collaboration with his superior Koike Masanao, Mori publishes the “New compendium for hygiene” (Eisei shinpen) with Nankōdō [National Diet Library Digital Collections]. The first textbook on hygiene in Japanese language will be revised and enlarged several times. After Koike passes away in 1913, Mori acts as sole editor of the fifth edition published in 1914.


  • August: The first installment of Mori’s adaptation of Über den Umgang mit Menschen (On human relations, 1788) by Adolph Freiherr von Knigge appears as Chie bukuro (A Bag of wisdom).
  • October: In addition to managing the Army Medical College, Mori is appointed as Commander of the Medical Detachment of the Imperial Guard Division.
  • November: Mori’s biography of Nishi Amane, one of the founding figures of Japanese philosophy is published (Nishi Amane den). Nishi had passed away the preceding year.


April 1899: Japan accedes to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
  • June: Promotion to surgeon general (gun’i kan). Shortly thereafter, Mori is transferred to the city of Kokura Kyushu as chief medical officer of the Twelfth Division. The remote city in southern Japan will remain his centre of life until March 1902. Mori begins to keep his “Kokura diary” (Kokura nikki).
  • He is appointed Deputy Head of the Fukuoka Branch of the Japanese Red Cross Society.
  • July: Inspection tour to Saga, Kurume, and Hakata (kyushu).
  • September: Inspection tour to Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kurume, and Dazaifu.
  • December: Mori takes first French lessons with Father Francois Bertrand (Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris, 1866–1940). A lasting friendship develops.
  • Lecture to division officers on Carl von Clausewitzʼs On War.
  • Study of Sanskrit begins.
  • Mori is relieved of his duties as medical advisor of the pension office of the cabinet.
  • He learns of the death of the painter Harada Naojirō, his friend from the time in Munich, and writes an obituary for the Tōkyō Nichinichi.


  • January: “Who is Ōgai Gyoshi” (Ōgai gyoshi to wa tare zo) appears in the Daily Fukuoka newspaper.
  • Moriʼs younger brother Tokujirō publishes the first issue of his journal Kabuki.
  • Akamatsu Toshiko, his first wife, passes away.
  • March: En route to Tokyo, he visits his grandfatherʼs grave in Ōmi Tsuchiyama (Shiga prefecture).
  • April: Supported by Mori, the writer Yosano Hiroshi (Tekkan) publishes the neo-romantic literary magazine Myōjō (Morning Star). It will appear until 1908.
  • May: On the occasion of the wedding of the crown prince, he travels once more to Tokyo.
  • November: The intellectual exchange with Tamamizu Shunko, called Ankokuji-san, begins. He is a monk in the local temple of the Zen Buddhist Sōtō school (Ankoku Temple).


3 February 1901: Fukuzawa Yukichi, the founder of the Japanese Enlightenment movement, dies at the age of 67.
19 May 1901: Japanese socialists around Abe Isoo (1865-1949), Katayama Sen (1859-1933), and Kōtoku Shūsui (1871-1911) found the “Socialist Peopleʼs Party”(Shakai Minshū Tō); a few months later the party is banned.
  • January: The last part of the translation by Hans-Christian Andersen's Improvisatoren, begun in 1892, appears in the journal Mezamashi gusa.
  • June: The partial translation of On War (Carl von Clausewitz) is printed by the Command of the Twelfth Division in Kokura.


30 January 1902: The Japanese ambassador in London, Hayashi Tadasu, signs the Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaty.
June 1902: After teaching at the Medical Faculty of Tokyo Imperial University since 1876, Erwin Baelz gives his farewell lecture.
  • January: Mediated by their families, Mori and Araki Shigeko, who is twenty years younger and has graduated from the Peers School, marry in Tokyo. For the eldest daughter of a judge  at the Supreme Court in the capital, it is also the second marriage. The couple spends the next few weeks in Kokura.
  • February: The journal Mezamashi gusa, which Mori has been publishing since 1896, appears for the last time.
  • March: Appointment as Commander of the Medical Detachment of the First Division in Tokyo.
  • In the lecture “On the Rise and Fall of Western Studies” (Yōgaku no seizui o ronzu) in the veteran officer club in Kokura, Mori emphasizes – in contrast to the contemporary trend – the relevance of studying in Europe and North America.
  • At the end of the month, the couple returns to the capital and lives with the extended family in the Sea View Villa.
  • October: The first issue of the new literary journal Mannen gusa (Eternal Grass) is published. Mori edits it with Ueda Bin (1874–1916) and other confidants.
  • November: In a two-part article for the periodical Kōshū iji (Public Health Affairs), Mori presents recent European research on sexual psychology, including Sigmund Freud’s approach to psychoanalysis. He had discovered Richard v. Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia sexualis already during his time in Berlin.


1903: Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) returns from his studies in England.
27 October 1903: Kōtoku Shūsui (1871-1911) and Sakai Toshihiko (1871-1933) establish the “Society of the Common People” (Heimin Sha). It publishes the weekly “Common People’s Newspaper” (Heimin shinbun).
  • January: The oldest daughter Marie (Mari, 1903–87) is born.
  • June: Lecture “Outline of Racial Philosophy” (Jinshu tetsugaku kōgai) to the “Society for Japanese and Chinese Language” (Kokugo Kanbun Gakkai) at the Tokyo Higher Normal School.
  • November: Lecture at Waseda University – “Outline of the Yellow Peril Debate [in Europe]” (Kōka ron kōgai).


10 February 1904: The imperial government declares war on Russia. The day before, the Japanese navy has attacked the Russian fleet in Port Arthur.
February 1904: In the magazine “Sun” (Taiyō) the writer Tayama Katai (1872-1930) advocates the revival of literary life through naturalistic methods with his essay “Blunt description” (Rokotsu naru byōsha).
  • March: Mori is appointed as commanding officer of the Second Army Medical Corps and heads for Hiroshima where the shipment of his unit is prepared. Work on the “Verse Diary” (Uta nikki, published in 1907) begins.
  • The last issue of the magazine Mannen gusa (Eternal Grass) is published.
  • April: Mori leaves Japan via the port of Ujina and participates with his unit in the war in Manchuria until the end of the year.
  • May: Publication of “Outline of the Yellow Peril Debate [in Europe]” (Kōka ron kōgai) with Shun’yō Dō.


10 March 1905: The Japanese army achieves a decisive victory in the Battle of Mukden. The Times compares the battle with “Austerlitz, Waterloo, and Gravelotte” [“The Battle of Mukden”, The Times]
27 May 1905: In the sea battle of Tsushima the Russian fleet suffers a crushing defeat. [“The Destruction of the Baltic Fleet”, The Times]
5 September 1905: The Peace Treaty of Portsmouth is signed and ends the Russo-Japanese War.
  • March: Moriʼs unit arrives in Mukden.
  • April: He organizes the return of Russian Red Cross employees who had remained in the city.
  • November: His journal “Public Health Affairs” (Kōshū iji) ceases publication.


  • “The Battle of Mukden”, The Times, 25 March 1905: 6. [The Times - Archive]
  • Bowring, Richard John: Mori Ōgai and the Modernization of Japanese Culture, Cambridge et al.: Cambridge University Press 1979.
  • “The Destruction of the Baltic Fleet”, The Times, 30 May 1905: 9. [The Times - Archive]
  • Kobori Kei’ichirō: Mori Ōgai: Nihon wa mada fushinchū da (Mori Ōgai: Japan is still under construction), Minerva Shobō 2013.
  • “Latest Intelligence. China and Japan”, The Times, 2 August 1894: 5. [The Times - Archive]
  • “Nenpu” (Chronicle), Ōgai zenshū, vol. 38, Iwanami Shoten 1975: 545–58.
  • Rimer, J. Thomas: Mori Ōgai, Boston: Twayne Publishers 1975.
  • Schamoni, Wolfgang: Mori Ōgai: Vom Münchener Medizinstudenten zum klassischen Autor der modernen japanischen Literatur, München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek 1987.
  • Yamasaki Kuninori: Hyōden Mori Ōgai (A critical biography of Mori Ōgai), Taishūkan Shoten 2007.