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Imperial Japanese Army uniforms tended to reflect the uniforms of those countries who were the principal advisors to the Imperial Japanese Army at the time.

Early uniforms

1867 version

The initial uniform colour was dark blue, following the contemporary French style and resembling that of the Union Army of the American Civil War.

Meiji 19 1886 version

Parade uniform of Japanese military attaché, Major General Onodera Makoto, 1930s

Resembling the Imperial German Army M1842/M1856 dunkelblau uniform, the Meiji 19 1886 version tunic was the dark blue, single-breasted, had a low standing collar and no pockets. It was worn with matching straight trousers and a kepi (red for Imperial Guard) on which was worn a brass five point star. After the Franco-Prussian War the kepi was replaced with a flat topped peaked cap and the tunic collar became higher. Pockets were added to officers' tunics late in its issue.

Infantry uniforms had red facings on tunic collars, shoulder straps and trouser stripes. Line infantry had yellow bands and piping on their caps while the infantry of the Imperial Guard were distinguished by red. Trouser seams for both branches of the infantry had wide red stripes. Artillery had yellow facings on their dark blue uniforms. The branch colour for engineers was dark brown, green for medical and light blue for transport units. Finance, administration and other support services had white facings.

A dark blue shako (red for Imperial Guard units) with a short white plume was worn for full dress. The ordinary duty and active service headdress was however a form of peaked cap with a narrow crown, somewhat resembling the French kepi of the period.

A lightweight white cotton uniform was used for fatigue duties and tropical wear. In hot weather white trousers and cap covers were worn with the dark blue tunics. White canvas leggings were worn by non-mounted personnel with both white and blue uniforms until 1906.

Prince Kitashirakawa Yoshihisa and Prince Komatsu Akihito in 1886 version senior officers' uniform

Senior officers could wear a longer, double-breasted version of the tunic in full dress. Other features included elaborate Austrian knots (gold braiding on the cuffs according to rank), waist sashes, gold shoulder cords and plumes on the dress kepi. For ordinary duties and active service officers of all ranks wore dark blue dolmans braided in black. In 1904 this was replaced by a dark blue tunic of simpler pattern.

Cavalry regiments wore a short attila jacket with transverse hussar-style braiding in yellow (red for the cavalry of the Imperial Guard). Breeches were red. The cavalry branch colour was green and in 1905 this colour appeared on both collars and breeches stripes. As with the other branches of the Imperial Guard, the cavalry were distinguished by red bands and piping on their service caps. Red trousers were also worn by army bands and by the Military Police (Kenpeitai).

The dark blue uniform adopted under the 1886 Regulations was retained with only minor modifications until 1905. As such it was worn during the early months of the Russo-Japanese War. A khaki summer uniform had been introduced shortly before the outbreak of war and this became general issue for front line infantry during June–August 1904. Cavalry and artillery were subsequently issued with the new khaki uniform but some second line units continued to wear dark blue until the end of the War in September 1905. During the winter of 1904-05 the heavier blue uniforms were again worn but often under the loose fitting summer khaki drill for camouflage. The white canvas leggings continued to be worn without darkening, until after the war.

Following the Russo-Japanese War the Japanese Army adopted khaki for all occasions – the first major army to discard colourful parade dress. Only the cavalry squadrons of the Imperial Guard and officers of all branches were authorized to retain their coloured uniforms for certain ceremonial and social occasions, until 1939.

Khaki uniforms

Different types of Khaki uniforms during World War II (American poster)

1904 enlisted khaki uniform

IJA General Kuroki and his Chief of Staff wearing the 1904 uniform during the Battle of Liaoyang.

This was basically a khaki cotton version of the 1886 uniform with a shorter jacket. First appearing as a fatigue dress in 1900, it was being issued as a hot-weather uniform in 1904 as there was an order to dye their white uniforms khaki. The practical advantages of khaki drill over dark blue became obvious in the opening stages of the Russo-Japanese War and it became general issue for troops on active service as stocks became available. In 1906 a khaki serge cold-weather uniform and greatcoat had also been adopted.

Meiji 38 (1906)

The Meiji 38 was introduced in 1906 as the first fully Khaki uniform for the army. This uniform looks very similar to the future Type 45 uniform however, the Meiji 38’s sleeve was cut with a true cuff while the 45 had a false cuff. In addition, the Meiji 38 was produced with Meiji 19 style buttons while the Type 45 would be produced with a newer type of brass button. The home service uniform was still produced in a blue color.

1911 (45 Shiki-Gun-i)

The 1911 or Type 45 uniform replaced the Meiji 38 uniform as a more refined version of the uniform. The T45 khaki colored version (called khaki in the west the colour was actually a yellowish-brown called Ochre) of the blue uniform. The new flat topped peaked cap had a red band, the tunic collar had red swallow tailed gorget patches and the shoulders had red shoulder bars (see photograph opposite) to indicate rank. The uniform was produced in wool for winter and cotton for summer wear.

Type Kai 45

The Type 45 was further updated in 1918 as the Type Kai 45. The term “Kai” was to denote that it was a modification of the original Type 45 uniform. It was a change in sizing measurements. It was later modified with a change in material and discarding of the red piping on the uniforms. In addition, inserts were added for shoulder ranks so soldiers didn’t have to sew ranks on and just switch out ranks for replacements or promotions. They were still being issued into the 1930s alongside the newer Type 5 uniforms.

Type 5

5 Shiki-Gun-i
1st Lieut. Saburō Suganami and Col. Chōsei Oyadomari in 5 Shiki-Gun-i.

The Showa Type 5, also called the M90 or 2590 or 1930 uniform, was basically the Type 45 uniform but introduced internal breast pockets with scalloped pocket flaps on the tunic for all ranks. It also featured a seam on the back not present in the Type 45 uniform in order to save on material as well as being made to the newly adopted metric measurements rather than in the old system of measurement. Also the straight trousers were later replaced with pantaloons which were worn with woolen spiral wound puttees and tapes.

M98 (98 Shiki-Gun-i)

"Jap Army Uniforms" (American poster 1944)

The M98 (1938) was a further modification of the M90 uniform. The single breasted tunic (98 Shiki-Gun-i) had a stand and fall collar, five buttons which ran down the front and two, or more usually, four internal pockets with scalloped flaps (depending on the manufacturer). Long trousers or pantaloons (Bousyo-ko) were worn as standard along with the puttees (Kya-han) and tapes. All except mounted troops (who wore breeches and high leather boots) wore this uniform with horsehide, pigskin or leather ankle-boots. The boots (amiage-gutu) had either a hobnailed hard leather sole with metal heel J-cleat or a rubber sole with rubber cleats. When off duty, soldiers could wear tabis. A collarless wool or cotton white, grey or light green under shirt (Bousho Jyu-han) was worn under the tunic. This had one or two patch breast pockets with buttoned flaps, most had only a single pocket on the left breast. A khaki cotton shirt with stand and fall collar and two breast pockets could be worn in warm climates, with or without the tunic. The flat-topped peaked cap was replaced by a cloth field cap (Ryaku-bou). Originally produced in khaki it was later produced in various shades of green ranging from grey-green to a dark green. The cap was more of a peaked sidecap and could be worn with a neck flap (Bou-tare), hooked to the bottom for sun protection, made from four cloth rectangles.

Type 3 (3 Shiki-Gun-i)

3 Shiki-Gun-i

The Type 3 was introduced in 1943 and was similar to the Type 98 but was made of cheaper materials. Type 3 uniforms for enlisted men also consisted of only 3 size options compared to the 6 size options for the Type 98. Type 3 trousers were also cut lower down the waist and the fastening hook was replaced with a button top instead. It also reintroduced cuff insignias for officers consisting of 1, 2, or 3 stripes of dark-brown braid on or above the cuff to indicate company, field, or general officers' grades respectively. It was produced in various shades of green. Officers could wear the uniform tunic open over a white or light green shirt with or without a black or green tie.

Officers' uniforms

General Makoto Onodera in officers' uniform.

Officers were not usually issued uniforms so they had to procure their own, thus there was a wide variety in the details, colour and texture of their uniforms, with uniform colours ranging from tan (this case is modified Older Uniform. its started after Showa 13 rules(昭和13年制式) era) to dark green. Collars were taller and stiffer and materials were of a higher quality. Senior officers could procure and wear a double-breasted version of the blue and M90 uniforms. All ranks wore a single breasted version of the M98. Officers could wear straight trousers with their M98 uniforms as a walking out uniform and later they could also wear the tunic with the collar open over a white or grey green shirt.


Service hat

IJA service hat

The service cap was the main cap of the Japanese army from the 1880s all the way into the 1930s. The 1886 or Meiji 19 model was featured the dark blue crown and colored band depending on the branch. Regular infantry received yellow bands and Imperial Guard received red bands. The Type 45 olive service cap is a peaked cap similar in shape to that of the United States Army but with a smaller flatter crown and shorter visor. Red piping runs along the outer edge of the crown and the headband has a 1 1/2 inch wide red felt band. At the front of the red band is a gold star. The Imperial Guard service hat has a semicircular wreath of leaves below the star. The visor and chin strap are of black leather in standard military design.[1]

Field cap

Japanese holdout, Hiroo Onoda, wearing the Sen-bou.

The Ryaku-bou(略帽) is a cloth field cap. Originally produced in khaki it was later produced in various shades of green ranging from grey-green to a dark green. The cap was more of a peaked sidecap and could be worn with a neck flap (Bou-tare), hooked to the bottom for sun protection, made from four cloth rectangles. An adjustment lace is fitted through four grommets at the rear.[2]

Additionally, there was an “Ersatz” cap introduced in the 30’s made of felt and they were mostly seen being used in China. They fell out of use in to the 40’s.

Metal helmets

An IJA soldier wearing Type 90 helmet

Tropical helmets

Type 90 helmet with uniform

The IJA issued various tropical helmets to its troops:

Other items


The IJA issued single-breasted cloaks, over coats, capes and raincoats with hoods in khaki.[3]


See also

О формах обмундирования и структуре японских сухопутных войск в 1904 г. // Битва Гвардий -


  1. ^ "HyperWar: Handbook on Japanese Military Forces [Chapter 11]".
  2. ^
  3. ^ (U.S.) War Department TM-E30-480. Handbook on Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, Chapter XI, Uniforms, Personal Equipment, and Insignia