Modern World History

Rise of Militarism in Japan

The period after the decline of Feudalism saw the creation of modern state with economic development and industry and military domination at home and rapid conquests and expansion with national disaster in Japan. The destruction of Japanese cities, the surrender of armed forces and foreign occupation and Japan’s war with China marked the end of the restoration period and beginning of new age of Japan Militarism. Modernization combined with a sense of national pride, the growth of population, the industrial development contributed to the rise of militarism in Japan. It was in late 1920s and early 1930s that brought this change and took alarming proportions by 1937.This was the creation of right wing political parties and the army. The army that dominated the Japanese politics was keen on war conquest; its officers had little knowledge of international politics advocated expansion of the empire by the force which culminated into a national disaster post World War II.Japanese militarism was anti democratic and authoritarian in nature.

Military warlords who believed that Japan’s interests could be safeguarded only under totalitarian regime dominated it. The power came under the war minister and the Navy minister who dominated the Japanese politics. The totalitarian feature of Japanese militarism also highlighted that it was not a peaceful movement but dominated by ultra nationalism. Ultra nationalists started operating in Japan to reduce the influence of liberal organizations .An ultra nationalist society was started in 1910 followed by the Greater Japan Nationalist Society in 1919.They believed that a glorious future lies in the hands of army. The Japanese militarism was anti communist and pro capitalist. Russia was the natural enemy of Japan as their interests clashed over Manchuria and other parts of Asia. The rise of Bolsheviks further deteriorated the relations between them. Japan was also concerned with the colonial expansion based on capitalist lines that was resented by Russia. This was one feature that made Japan to sign Anti –Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Japanese totalitarianism retained a Japanese pattern shaped by the absence of individualism. The personality cult was absent and emperor was still regarded as a symbol of unity and common rallying point for the whole nation.

The attempts of the militarists to capture power in Japan reached a turning point when Minseito party won the elections in 1936.Four days after the election results, some junior regimental officers revolted in Tokyo to over throw the government. Though this coup ended in failure the power of the militarists increased and moderates conceded to the demand that war minister and the navy minister had to be military officers on active service that marked major triumph of militarists. The Hirota cabinet accepted the seven-point programme called National Political Renovation. By it the government was committed to expand armament, the stock piling of the materials of war giving full support to the Japanese army in Manchuria and control of education. This meant that the government was under the control of the military. With the signing of anti-Comintern pact ended the diplomatic isolation of Japan and increased the influence of right wing in the country. Japan was clearly in the path of military control. The National Mobilization Act of 1938 ended the parliamentary government in Japan.This enabled bureaucracy to take power from legislature. The military now controlled the industry and other wings of the government. Japan saw single party domination by 1941.Imperial Rule Assistance Association party controlled by the army led Japan into the war.

Japan followed aggressive policy towards Manchuria from 1930s onwards. Manchuria was strategically important subjected to Russian and Japanese control. Chinese nationalist party KMT considered Manchuria as the first line of the defense of their country while the Japanese considered it as lifeline. The Lio-tung Peninsula came to Japan after the Russo- Japanese war for a period of 99 years. The south Manchuria railway came to be controlled by Japan followed by Korean presence in Manchuria, attempts to build parallel railroads. China’s refusal to repay loans of 150 million yen and the assassination of a Japanese captain in 1931 led to invasion of Manchuria. The immediate cause was the destruction of a section of south Manchurian Railway in a bomb explosion gave Japan opportunity to seize Mukden. In three months the Japanese extended their authority in Manchuria. Japan extended its control over Inner Mongolia and North China. In 1933 Japan withdrew from League of Nations to continue with its aggression policy. In 1935 Hirota Japanese PM proposed three point programme to settle Sino- Japanese dispute by ending anti Japanese activity, recognize Manchukuo and to accept help in suppressing communism. The Chinese nationalists and the communists joined hands and the Japanese property in China was destroyed. Japan tried to destabilize the KMT government and tried to establish a popular government on the lines of Manchukuo.Japan resorted to economic blockade of China in 1939. Japanese activities were seen suspiciously by Britain, America and other powers.

The relations with Russia were strained over Mongolia. Political isolation pushed Japan towards Nazism and Anti- Comintern Pact in 1936 led to agreement to suppress communism. In 1940 the tripartite countries signed a pact that agreed to mutual cooperation in recognizing Japan and military aid in the wake of war. When World War II broke out Japan exploited the situation thoroughly by extracting an agreement from China and secured the right of sending troops into China. Initially Japan was successful. In 1941 England and Netherlands declared war on Japan.Japan took over Hong Kong in 1941 and conquered Manila, Malaya, Singapore, Dutch Indies and Burma in 1942.Japan was hit by USA embargo which made them declare war against USA and bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. England and USA defeated Japanese near Philippines in 1943.The allies attacked Japan itself and with Yalta Conference; USSR entered the war against Japan and invaded Manchuria. Americans tightened the blockade on Japanese islands and on August 6,USA dropped the first atom bomb on Hiroshima and second on August 9,1945 on Nagasaki, Japan surrendered unconditionally. The defeat of Japan resulted in the loss of all her political power and USA occupied Japan till 1951.She lost all her territories since Meiji Restoration with severe impact on economy and society.

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