Thursday, September 10, 2009

Japanese Television Mini-series about Russo-Japanese War Attracts Attention to Portsmouth Peace Treaty Sites

[Received this press release from Stephanie Seacord at Leading Edge Marketing in Newfields, NH.]

Two groups of visitors from Japan have recently focused their attention on Portsmouth and how Portsmouth remembers the Portsmouth Peace Treaty. Thanks to a new mini-series scheduled to air on NHK, Japanese public television starting in November 2009, interest in a historical novel by Ryotaro Shiba - who visited Portsmouth himself in the 1980s - has brought two special delegations to the city this month.

The novel, Saka no Ue no Kumo (Clouds Over the Hill), is an 8-volume fictionalized saga written in 1969 about a two real Japanese officers who fought in the Russo-Japanese War, brothers Saneyuki and Yoshifuru Akiyama and a fictional haiku poet. Saneyuki Akiyama was the Japanese Navy's Alliance Fleet Officer and Yoshifuru an Army officer, now known as "The Father of Japanese Cavalryman." The 1904-05 war, fought between Russia and Japan over control of Korea and Manchuria, is now identified by scholars as "World War Zero" for the modern weapons employed, huge armies and navies engaged and its destabilizing effect on the European balance of power. The War ended with the signing of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on September 5, 1905.

An NHK television crew will be in Portsmouth September 14th and 15th filming the sites that commemorate the Treaty.

They follow a delegation who visited Portsmouth on September 1st from the museum dedicated to the novel's author, Ryotaro Shiba, who died in 1996. The Museum director, Yoko Uemura and assistant director Motoko Uemura of Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum in Osaka with three additional members of the museum curatorial and administrative staff visited Portsmouth along with Phyllis Birnbaum, an American who is editor of the English translation of Clouds Over the Hill which will be published in 2012. The group visited the Portsmouth Athenaeum where they met Peter Randall, author of There Are No Victors Here: A Local Perspective on the Treaty of Portsmouth, who had greeted Mr. Shiba on his Portsmouth visit. They were also met by Charles Doleac, chairman of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum and president of the Japan-America Society of NH, who gave them a personal tour of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty exhibit he authored, currently on loan to the Portsmouth Historical Society. They also visited the Building 86 Museum at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, The Library Restaurant in the former Rockingham Hotel where international media stayed during the Treaty negotiations (also visited by Ryotaro Shiba), walked a portion of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Trail downtown and toured Wentworth By the Sea, which hosted the Russian and Japanese delegations in 1905.

Clouds Over the Hill is a so-called "Taiga drama" (,literally "Big River Drama"), the name NHK gives to the annual, historical fiction television series it broadcasts in Japan. The tradition, similar to American Public Broadcasting's Masterpiece Theater, began in 1963. NHK is dedicating 13 episodes, each 90 minutes long, to the story. A different 45-minute segment will air on the NHK General network every Sunday at 8 pm, with rebroadcasts on Saturday afternoon at 1:05 pm. Satellite, HDTV digital satellite, and NHK World Premium broadcasts are also available. The first 5 episodes will air in 2009, starting on November 29, with four episodes planned for late 2010 and the last four in late 2011.

The commemoration of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty is supported by the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum through the Japan-America Society of NH. The exhibit, "An Uncommon Commitment to Peace: Portsmouth Peace Treaty 1905" was created for the 100th anniversary of the Treaty in 2005. Based on extensive local research that was recognized by the Library of Congress, this exhibit tells the story of how local people made a difference in creating the atmosphere for peace that helped resolve the stalemate between the Russian and Japanese plenipotentiaries. The Treaty exhibit is on loan to the John Paul Jones House Museum of the Portsmouth Historical Society at 43 Middle St. downtown Portsmouth. The museum is open 7 days a week, 11 am to 5 pm. (This exhibit is also displayed in the New Hampshire State Archives in Concord. 71 So. Fruit Street, open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am - 4 pm).

Portsmouth Peace Treaty Trail links iconic sites of the Treaty summer - places that hosted the Russian and Japanese delegates for formal and informal negotiations and for social "citizen diplomacy" events. Free maps for the self-guided walking tour of the Trail are available at the museum, at the Discover Portsmouth Center, at the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce information centers on Market Street and in Market Square and at Wentworth By the Sea.

To learn more about the Treaty, scheduling an exhibit, NH Humanities Council lecture or other programs, visit or contact Charles Doleac,, 603-436-4010.

Media contact: Stephanie Seacord,, 603-772-1835