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Facts of Japan – Important History Events Part II

Updated on May 6, 2011

Japan Opens up –End of Japan’s Seclusion

Japan’s policy of seclusion lasted for more than 200 years. And only in 1844, Willium II of Netherlands sent a message to Japan urging it to open itself up for the world. But Japan rejected it. Then on July 8, 1853, Commodore Mathews Perry from United States Navy entered into the bay of Yokohama with four warships and openly displayed the destructive power of his ships and requested Japan to open up. These ships were known as the Black Ships.

In the following year again on March 31, 1854, Perry returned with seven war ships and sternly demanded that Shogun must sign the a Treaty of Peace and open up trade relations with US. And so on July 29, 1858 the Harris Treaty was signed with United States and it entered into similar treaties with other western countries as well.

U.S.S. Powhatan - "black ship" of Commodore Perry.
U.S.S. Powhatan - "black ship" of Commodore Perry.
Emperor Meiji, also known as Mutsuhito.
Emperor Meiji, also known as Mutsuhito.

The Great Empire of Japan

From 1868, Japan undertook economic, political and many cultural reforms. It had emerged as a unified and more centralized state and it was known as the Empire of Japan. This period extended till 1945. In this period Japan truly became an Imperial power. It colonized Korea and Taiwan in this period.

The Meiji Restoration 

Japan’s renewed contact with the western powers brought in a lot of changes in Japan’s internal politics, society and culture. The signing of the treaties with the western powers was considered to be a humiliation and a national shame by many. This actually was the cause of Japan’s successive military aggression with many neighbors. To start with, the Tokugawa shogun, that was in power, was forced to resign. The Boshin war happened in 1868. After this war, the Emperor was again restored to power. A fierce nationalism and very intensive social restructuring followed. This was called as the Meiji Restoration.

Then the Tokugawa governing system was totally abolished. A new Meiji Constitution was restored. This was modeled more on the constitution of the German Empire.

In 1875, due to heavy Russian pressure, Japan yielded Sakhalin in exchange for the Kuril Islands. Only in 1898, the humiliating treaties with western powers were removed and Japan now truly regarded as a state of power with a new status.

Within a few decades, Japan aggressively reformed its social, economic, educational, political, military and Industrial systems and became the world power.

"The image of Our Army occupying Ryuko" Kobayashi Kiyochika, March 1985
"The image of Our Army occupying Ryuko" Kobayashi Kiyochika, March 1985
"The Chinese and Japanese troops: Picture of the Battle of Gaiping" Nakagawa, February 1895.
"The Chinese and Japanese troops: Picture of the Battle of Gaiping" Nakagawa, February 1895.
Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya (1914).
Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya (1914).
Japanese lithograph depicting the capture of Blagoveschensk.
Japanese lithograph depicting the capture of Blagoveschensk.

The wars with Russia and China

Japan always feared that it is vulnerable to destructive and aggressive western imperialism unless Japan extended a line of greater advantage beyond its borders. The Korean Peninsula, described as ‘ dagger pointed at the heart of Japan’ was the emphasis this time. This led to the war with China in 1894-1895 and then again another war with Russia in 1904-1905.

These wars actually proved the power of an Eastern State to Russia and to the other western powers. While Japan tried to establish its international standing, Russia was tensed and always intruded Japan’s line of advantage.

World War I

And Japan has entered into a treaty with UK in 1902. This military alliance between these two countries threatened Russia as well as Germany. Because of this alliance Japan entered in World War I on Great Britain’s side. The war extended from 1914 to 1918 and Japan attacked German bases mostly.

Japan then went to the peace conference of Versailles in 1919 and was promptly recognized as the ‘Big Five’ in the new international order.

After its allied incursions into Russia, Japan withdrew from Russia around 1925. After the war, the period that followed brought such an unprecedented prosperity to Japan.

The Fascism Movement in Japan

It is between 1919 and 1920 Japan tried to move towards democracy. It was known as Taisho Democracy. But the Parliament was not deeply rooted to withstand the political and economic pressures, especially, during the period of depression. And so the state became more militarized because of the powers on military leaders. This actually led to the World War II later. The ambiguity of Meiji Constitution that stressed that the legislative body is only answerable to Emperor and not to the people.

This was the period that party politics came under more increasing fire because they were believed to be divisive. The result was that major parties voted themselves to be dissolved. A single part absorbed them. It is called IRAA but it eventually dissolved due to the economic crisis of 1930.

Japanese troops entering Shenyang during the Mukden Incident.
Japanese troops entering Shenyang during the Mukden Incident.
Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off  to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of 7 December 1941.
Japanese naval aircraft prepare to take off to attack Pearl Harbor during the morning of 7 December 1941.
The atomic bomb forced the Japanese to surrender.
The atomic bomb forced the Japanese to surrender.

The Second Sino-Japanese war and the World War II

Japan used the Manchurian incident as a pretext and invaded Inner Manchuria in 1931. And it created a puppet state called Manchukuo under the final Chinese Emperor Pu Yi. The international community condemned this and Japan ultimately, in 1933, resigned from the League of Nations. Similar incidents fuelled the tension and the second war between China and Japan broke out in 1937.

Though Japan signed the Axis Pact with Italy and Germany in 1940, most of the Japanese politicians believed that war with the western imperialism really inevitable and so in 1941, the Japan emperor was convinced to sanction an attack on US, Netherlands and Great Britain. There were many who opposed this decision as well.

In fact, the Americans were clearly expecting an attack in Philippines and had their troops ready for this event. But Japan surprisingly attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 which the Americans expected least. The Japanese won this battle but it was proved to be a disaster for Japan later. At the same time Japan attacked Hong Kong and ruled it for almost four years.

Japan started a great invasion strategy and captured coastal Chinese cities, conquered French Indochina, British Malaya, Dutch Eastern Cities. Thailand entered into a significantly loose agreement with Japan. So Japan marched again and reached the borders on India and Australia too.

A more determined Americans attacked Japan’s navy and the Navy was crippled in due course. After a prolonged war, finally, in 1945, the Bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened. The Soviet Union also declared war against Japan just one day before the second atomic bombing. Japan finally signed an instrument of Surrender in 1945 on USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor.

Rebuilding Tokyo after World War II.
Rebuilding Tokyo after World War II.
Tokyo after earthquake on March 11, 2011.
Tokyo after earthquake on March 11, 2011.

The State of Japan- Present Day

Japan changed into a democratic state after the collapse of its empire. As a result of the World War II Japan retained only its home islands and lost all the possessions overseas. In 1972 only United States returned the control of the islands like Ryukyu, Volcano Islands and Bonin. Japan became an economic power quickly after the war.

In fact Japan became an important ally of the United States. Japan reformed itself in social, economic and political systems. On May 3, 1947 Japan’s Constitution took the effect. In September 1951, the United States and as many as 45 allied countries signed the Treaty of Peace with Japan. In fact, Japan retained its fullest sovereignty on April 28, 1052 only.

In 1955 the conservative Liberal Democratic Party and the Leftist Social Democratic Party were formed.  Japan reestablished it good relations with China and Russia. Japan’s economy boomed in this period. Japan acted as the greatest supplier to the United Force in Korean war.

And sadly Japan suffered the strongest earth quake on March 11, 2011.


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    • loonyBG profile image

      loonyBG 6 years ago

      Thank You Eiddwen, I'm appreciate that You liked it.

      Japan is in My top of interests. You should see soon more hubs about this magnificent country.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub andthanks for sharing.

      I now look forward to reading more of your hubs.

      Take care