Nissan Seminar: The Siberian Intervention of 1918-1922 From Below: The Pictorial Records of Infantryman Takeuchi Tadao

Convenor(s): Professor Roger Goodman and Dr Giulio Pugliese

Speaker(s): Professor Nadine Willems (University of East Anglia)

The Siberian Intervention of 1918-1922 From Below: The Pictorial Records of Infantryman Takeuchi Tadao


In January 1920, Takeuchi Tadao was dispatched to the Transbaikal region of Siberia as a member of the 13th Division of the Imperial Japanese Army. A farmer from the Nagano mountains in civil life, but also a talented artist, the young conscript recorded his experience in vivid sketches. His battalion was engaged in frontline operations near the city of Chita, where soldiers faced the excruciating Siberian cold, violent entanglements with civilians, uncertain alliances, and impossible logistics. The artwork is a unique example of non-photographic visuals realised on site by a Japanese participant in the conflict and reveals a view of the war from “the ground up” in both the literal and metaphorical senses of the term. Informed by military, social and art history, this talk examines the perception of the Siberian Intervention by a rank-and-file soldier, tracking the contradictions and nuances of the  commitment to war during the Taishō period.

Nadine Willems received a PhD from the University of Oxford in 2015 and is now Associate Professor of History at the University of East Anglia. She is an intellectual and cultural historian of modern Japan who has looked at transnational political activism, ideas in human geography, farmers’ movements, and the literature of dissent. Her first monograph, Ishikawa Sanshirō’s Geographical Imagination: Transnational Anarchism and the Reconfiguration of Everyday Life in Early Twentieth Century Japan, was published by Leiden University Press in 2020. Her current project examines the experience of ordinary soldiers in Japan’s Siberian Intervention of 1918-1922. Prior to returning to academia, she was based in Tokyo where she worked for several years in business and as a foreign correspondent.