History of Japan Research Paper

899 words | 3 page(s)

A Sharp Break in Japanese History 1920-1930
There was a sharp break in Japanese history between the “liberal” period of Taisho democracy from 1912-1926 ruled by the Diet, and the fascist militarism of the Showa period. The Taisho period introduced less autocratic rule in Japan, one without the Genro, for the first time. This political orientation was not, however, well rooted in the culture or the institutions. Over time, as national debts, political pressures and open criticism of the Japanese Diet dampened respect for Japanese authority, external influences like the growing power of communist states and America in Asia began to pose a threat to Japanese autonomy and economic importance. The importance of unity became a slogan. As a result of this, the military influence on the national agenda quickly grew.

The Taisho period represents an anomaly in the timeline of Japan, and was discontinuous with the chaos of the Meiji period before it as well as the war time period that followed. There are continuities threaded through the period, particularly the rise of external influences of other nations, but from a governance perspective there is little to link these two phases of history.

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There is little agreement among scholars regarding the period between 1920-1930, particularly with regard to the end of the Taisho period and the political take over by the military. Scholars have approached the period between the Taisho and Showa periods with little common consensus regarding this part of Japanese history. Depending on whether the study is externally or internally focused and which part of the rapid evolution of Japan in this time it prioritizes, it can seem continuous or discontinuous.

Comparison of Settler Communities of Korea and Manchukuo
In comparing the settler communities of the expanded Japanese empire in Korea and Manchukuo, it is important to understand how they were supported within Japan, how they were perceived by ordinary Japanese and how this benefited state expansionist dreams.

Young (1999) describes the “metropolitan effects” of empire building preceding the wartime period in terms of how non-settlers in Japan perceived Manchukuo, Japanese imperialism and therefore the Japanese identity (Young 1999). The idea of colonial empire excited the Japanese, and gave them a feeling of worldliness. There was a broad base of support across all of Japanese society with regard to overseas expansion; media, business and special interest groups all helped to make the dream of Manchukuo a reality. Manchukuo was a dreamlike symbol of a future for the Japanese still in Japan, with images of a strong defensive ability, a growing economy and plenty of land for farming (Young 1999).

The settlements in Korea, on the other hand, had longer to establish themselves, and were positioned very much in terms of the state’s interest in expanding the glory of imperialist Japan. It did not hurt that significant opportunities for individuals in this expansionist exercise provided support for the national interest. Business opportunities abounded. Uchida (2011) refers to “pioneers” in the pre-war period who mediated the colony of Korea politically and socially. These leaders worked to build consensus and better linkages between the Koreans and their institutions and those of the Japanese bureaucracy. By brokering culture and building new ways of working together the colonists advanced the national interest of expansion.

As the Manchukuo settlement engaged diverse organizations within Japan, the settlement in Korea was supported by Japanese in Korea who mediated the settler community and Japanese culture and authority.

Role of the State in Constructing a New Consensus of Japan as Nation
The role of state in constructing a new consensus of nation among the Japanese in the Meiji and early Taisho periods was to make inspiration by emperor and respect for a cultural value of consensus part of self-identification in the culture.

In terms of Japan’s overarching project of nation building, Japanese modernity has been unusually shaped by the state. Fujitani (1998) argues only a little more than one hundred years ago, there was no concept of the centrality of the imperial family and the ceremony that goes with it unlike today. Additionally, there was little ideological leadership by the emperor. Gluck (1987) argues that diversity of opinion was the normal mode in the late Meiji period. The ideology of consensus evolved after that time period as concepts of nation building and leader as inspiration to the people evolved as a new national value.

Colonial expansion in the late 19th century and early 20th century was also heavily influenced by state messages intended to construct a consensus about Japan’s place in the world, and global importance. The state furthered collective importance of the colonial expansion by further marketing business opportunities and personal gain in the colonies, reinforced by the idea that it would also build Japan.

Ultimately, the positioning of Japanese royalty and the role of ideological leadership and the value of consensus and the identification with Japanese identity was invented during this time. The state was therefore successful in forming a national understanding that served unity, as they had desired to.

  • Fujitani, T. Splendid monarchy: power and pageantry in modern Japan. California: University of California Press, 1998. Print.
  • Gluck, Carol. Japan’s Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1987. Print.
  • Uchida, Jun. Brokers of Empire: Japanese Settler Colonialism in Korea, 1876–1945. Boston: Harvard University Press, 2011. Print.
  • Young, Louise. Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. California: University of California Press. 1999. Print.

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