Modern Japanese History

Edo period

Also, known as Tokugawa/Edo period dated 1600-1868 marked the end of the traditional system of govt in Japan. It was the end of Japan’s traditional system of govt, culture and society ahead in the making of Meiji. It was believed to be a time for internal contentment and stabilization in the political system. Political orders were feudal, decreasing the pace of change in social and economic conditions of the country. This period experienced urbanization growth, focus on public education and the rise of the merchant class. The leader, the ruling Shogunate didn’t have the power to protect its country from any threats by the West. Commodore Mathew Perry along with the U.S. navy came to Japan and demanded to trade with the west. Japan had to sign ‘unequal’ treaties which stated that Japan owned some economic and legal privileges to the Western Powers. Japan realized that if it wanted modernization and development in every field, they had to destroy the feudal orders.

Early Meiji period

The early Meiji period dated 1868-1912. During this period, more than half of the Japanese people moved from being a country with feudal politics to developing and adopting styles that were similar to the West. This period experienced growth in modernization and changed its political and economic conditions. Models that were being used by the western countries were implied in Japan and as a result growth took place. The leaders during this period studied different laws and policies of the West and adopted some of their policies which was best for their country. A constitutional draft was made for the newly established govt which was answerable to the emperor instead of the people. Japan began using Western technologies which resulted in booming of Industrial growth and diversification. Japan established its own military forces. Public education was made compulsory. Everything that was required for a modern nation were being taught to the citizens of Japan.

Sovereign Japan

Industrialization boomed in Japan under the prevailing ruler. The defense forces of Japan strengthened and as a result Japan became powerful not only in comparison to the Asian countries but the West too. Colonial empires were established. Japan strived for International status and power. Japan fought for imperialism in Asia and finally a war with the United States of America. Lots of social and economic changes occurred during this era. Different branches of the Japanese govt started fighting for power and position. National interests were losing among the govt. Oligarchy was formed. From small scale to industries to large scale industries, Japan grew and boomed. Towns and cities in Japan developed. People who were into farming left their work and started working in factories. Japan relied highly on trade from the west but was in shock when hit by depression in 1929. All the farmers who grew silk, which were exported to the west had lost its market in the west. People in the west started losing their interest and craze towards silk items and as a result the silk markets collapsed. As a result, Japan’s economic growth slowed down. Problems among the Japanese people started happening leading to chaos in the country.

The leaders of sovereign Japan continued their fight for modernization and economic growth. Japan raised their problem of unequal status in the international order. After rigorous forty years Japan finally gloried and gained all its privileges in comparison to the west. Japan came into war with china in 1894. After defeating China, Japan took over the control of Korea and also added Taiwan which was Japan’s first colony ever. Japan agreed to an alliance with Great Britain and as a result Japan gained international status. Japan again came into war, this time it was Russia. Russia was one of the most powerful western country but after defeat against Japan, Japan annexed Korea in 1910. Japan hoped that they would benefit by the Treaty of Versailles but was in shock when they faced strong opposition from the United States.

Japan’s expedition for power and world war 2 in Asia

The inability of field commanders in Manchuria clearly showed in 1931, when they preferred using local provocations as a justification to bring all the Japanese territory in Manchuria under the military control. The move presented Japan's civilian government with an accomplishment that it could not afford to ignore. The military-industrial machine boomed, which helped in pulling Japan out of its depression. Countries like Germany, Holland and France, were trapped in turmoil in Europe as Japan looked to replace them in Asia. In 1937 the Japanese troops invaded China and French Indochina in 1940 Japanese troops invaded China in 1937, and French Indochina in 1940 in order to set up governments to administer areas that were too vast and out of control by the Japanese forces.

With Japan's increasing usurpation of Western privileges in the Far East and disregard for the rights of the local populations the United States delivered an ultimatum to Japan. Steel and oil exports to Japan would be completely halted until and unless Japan break out of China. In light to the worsening relation between Japan and the United States, Japan planned to make a dangerous surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in August 1941, where 90 percent of the U.S. Navy soldiers were deployed. The preemptive strike created havoc and bought Japan time — it took the United States a full year to gain the offensive towards Japan. Japan's list of early successes — the Philippines, Hong Kong, British Malaya and Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies left its navy across the Pacific while armed forces were washed down in China. After the recovery of United States and its forces, lost in Pearl Harbor, its navy and the armed forces to conducted an "island-hopping strategy" by cutting down the Japanese commands one by one from their supply routes.

By the end of 1945, the U.S. forces were ready to launch damaging bombing attacks from nearby islands against Japan itself. It resulted in chaos as the Japanese cities were destroyed by fire bombings. Japan’s economy was barely functioning and people were on the brink of starvation, the Japanese government still hoped that with the assistance of the Russians, Swiss, or Swedes they would be able to negotiate an end to the war. The Japanese were not aware of the secret agreement among Allies at Yalta, Japan was in shock when Russians also entered the war against Japan. Two days ago, the United States had dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, a medium-size industrial city in the chugoku region of western Honshu. The day after the Russians declared war against Japan the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It was chaos all over the country and Japan agreed to surrender unconditionally. The emperor himself went on the radio to make the announcement of surrender to the Japanese people.

Postwar Japan (1945-1989)

The Allied powers occupied Japan for the next seven years. Japan's military forces were demobilized and repatriated as the Occupation, led by General Douglas MacArthur of the U.S. army, turned to the problem of making Japan a democratic country hoping that its people would never again be led to fight a war of aggression. In 1947 a brand-new constitution was adopted with a two-key provision: Japan’s sovereignty was transferred from the emperor to the people sovereignty was transferred from the emperor to the people, and Japan as a nation discarded war and the right to build a military force.

Farmers were given the land they worked hard on and industrial workers were allowed to form trade unions under the land reforms. large business-combines which had been part of the military-industrial machine were partially dismantled. Democracy was popularized through media and in schools. The "moral training" that had fostered extreme nationalism was abolished.

Many of the reforms that were made under the occupation were retained by Japan. Although there were some changes in the liberal provisions which the United States had encouraged earlier with the fear of communism in the cold war. The Americans helped Japan rebuilt many of its wartime industries in order to supply the U.S. forces in the Korean war. Japan entered into a security treaty with the United States which established Japan as an important role in America's Asian defense strategy. The U.S. Occupation of Japan ended in 1952 and by 1955 the Japanese economy had regained its highest prewar production levels. A stabilized political system was established.

Domestic politics were stabilized. The Liberal Democratic Party maintained a strong majority in the parliament and emphasized on building relations with the United States. Japan achieved record economic growth — averaging 10 percent a year until the seventies. Its GDP boosted from one less productive than Italy to the third largest in the world ranking behind the United States and the Soviet Union. Growth was especially strong in heavy industry, such as steel, chemicals and machinery, and in advanced technology. With total dependency on imports for food and energy, Japan began to face increasing protection abroad and major pollution problems at home. Although a lot of actions have been taken in order to fight pollution control, trade frictions continue. It is one of the most advanced postindustrial societies in the world.

References

  • http://www.indiana.edu/~hisdcl/h207_2002/modernjapannotes.htm
  • http://www.historytoday.com/richard-sims/modern-japan
  • http://www.facts-about-japan.com/modern-japan.html
  • http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/japan_modern_timeline.htm