The Original Camouflage: Khaki Part VI – Khaki’s Use in the Empire of the Rising Sun

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The Japanese army’s advance on Singapore in late 1941/early 1942 – the khaki uniforms were well suited to the climate

While the European powers utilized khaki during the scramble for Africa and in the final decades of the age of imperialism, it was used in the Pacific as well – by both the United States and the Empire of Japan. The former followed British and European patterns beginning towards the end of the 19th century, while the latter adopted it as it went to war with a major European power at the beginning of the 20th century.

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A Japanese officer wears khaki pants and light weight summer shirt

The origins of khaki in the military forces of Empire of Japan go back to the Russo-Japanese War (1905-05). The Japanese had replaced its white cotton summer uniform in 1904 with the new M1904 khaki uniform, which was likely inspired by the colors used by its then-close ally Great Britain.

This uniform was used throughout the First World War, and then modified and modernized in 1930, but retained the same color as the “tropical” or summer uniform throughout the Second World War, by which time the Japanese were outfitted in a uniform close in color to their then-British enemies.

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A junior officer’s summer uniform and sun helmet (collection of the author)

Peter Suciu

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