How Did the Government and Japanese Society React When Japan

Japan’southward Quest for Ability

and World War Ii in Asia

  • The World at War: 1931-1945
  • The Earth at War: Discussion Questions
  • Japan and the United States at State of war: Pearl Harbor, December 1941
  • Pearl Harbor: Word Questions

The Globe at State of war: 1931-1945

Economic Groundwork

While the United States was notwithstanding struggling to emerge from the Cracking Depression at the end of the 1930s, and would practise so partly because of the war, Japan had emerged from its ain menses of depression, which had begun in 1926, by the mid-1930s. Many of the young soldiers mobilized into the Japanese army by the early 1930s came from the rural areas, where the effects of the depression were devastating and poverty was widespread. Their commitment to the armed forces effort to expand Japanese territory to achieve economic security tin can be understood partly in these terms. The depression ended in the mid-1930s in Japan partly because of authorities deficits used to expand greatly both heavy industry and the military machine.

Internationally, this was a fourth dimension when “free trade” was in disrepute. The peachy powers not but jealously protected their special economic rights within their colonies and spheres of influence, simply sought to eternalize their sagging economies through loftier tariffs, dumping of goods, and other merchandise manipulation. The Japanese, with few natural resources, sought to copy this pattern. They used cutthroat merchandise practices to sell textiles and other light industrial goods in the Eastward Asian and U.S. markets, severely undercutting British and European manufacturers. They also developed sources of raw materials and heavy industry in the colonies they established in Korea, Taiwan and Manchuria. Japan used loftier tariffs to limit imports of American and European industrial products.

The Japanese military faced a particular tactical problem in that certain disquisitional raw materials — especially oil and rubber — were not available within the Japanese sphere of influence. Instead, Nippon received well-nigh of its oil from the United states and safe from British Malaya, the very 2 Western nations trying to restrict Japan’due south expansion. U.South. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s embargo of oil exports to Japan pressured the Japanese navy, which had stocks for merely about six months of operations.

The Japanese army, for its office, was originally concerned with fighting the Soviet Union, considering of the army’s preoccupation with Manchuria and Communist china. The Japanese army governed Manchuria indirectly through the “boob” state of Manchukuo and developed heavy manufacture there under its favorite agencies, disliking and distrusting the zaibatsu (big Japanese corporations). Simply the Soviet ground forces’s resistance to Japanese attacks was sufficient to discourage northern expansion.

Meanwhile in 1937, the intensification of Chinese resistance to the pressure level of the Japanese military drew Nippon into a draining war in the vast reaches of Mainland china proper, and in 1940 into operations in French Indochina, far to the south. Thus, when the navy pressed for a “southern” strategy of attacking Dutch Republic of indonesia to get its oil and British Malaya to command its safety, the army agreed.

While it seems that economic factors were important in Japanese expansion in Eastern asia, it would be too much to say that colonialism, trade protection, and the American embargo compelled Nippon to take this course. Domestic politics, ideology and racism also played a role.

Domestic Politics

The political structure of Japan at this fourth dimension was inherited from the Meiji era and was increasingly dominated by the military machine. During the Meiji menstruum, the government was controlled by a minor ruling grouping of elder statesmen who had overthrown the shogun and established the new centralized Japanese state. These men used their position to coordinate the bureaucracy, the military, the parliament, the Imperial Household, and other branches of government. Following their deaths in the early 1920s, no unmarried governmental institution was able to found total control, until the 1931 Manchurian Incident, when Japan took control of Manchuria. This began a procedure in which the military behaved autonomously on the Asian mainland and with increasing authority in politics at dwelling.

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From 1937 on, Nippon was at war with China. Past the time General Hideki Tôjô became prime government minister and the war confronting the United States began in 1941, the nation was in a land of “total war” and the war machine and their supporters were able to force their policies on the authorities and the people. The wartime regime used existing government controls on public stance, including schools and textbooks, the media, and the police, just Japan continued to have more of an authoritarian government than a totalitarian 1 similar Hitler’south Germany. In particular, the regime was never able to gain real command of the economy and the dandy zaibatsu, which were more than interested in the economic opportunities provided by the military’s policies than in submitting loyally to a patriotic mission.

The emperor has been criticized for not taking a more forceful action to restrain his authorities, peculiarly in light of his own known preference for peace, only Japanese emperors after the Meiji Restoration had “reigned but not ruled.” One wonders if a more forceful emperor in fact could take controlled the army and navy at this late date. The doubts are strengthened in light of the difficulty the emperor had in forcing the military to accept surrender after the diminutive bombings. The emperor’due south decision at that point to bring agreement among his advisers was an extraordinary effect in Japanese history.


The emperor-based ideology of Japan during World State of war II was a relatively new creation, dating from the efforts of Meiji oligarchs to unite the nation in response to the Western challenge. Before the Meiji Restoration, the emperor wielded no political ability and was viewed merely as a symbol of the Japanese culture. He was the head of the Shintô religion, Nihon’southward native religion, which holds, amidst other beliefs, that the emperor is descended from gods who created Japan and is therefore semidivine. Westerners of that time knew him but as a shadowy figure somewhat similar a pope.

The Meiji oligarchs brought the emperor and Shintô to national prominence, replacing Buddhism as the national religion, for political and ideological reasons — since Buddhism had originated in Bharat and come to Nihon via Communist china. The people were not allowed to await at the emperor, or fifty-fifty to speak his name; patriotism had been raised to the unassailable level of sacredness.

Information technology is sometimes difficult to encompass the farthermost sacrifices the Japanese made in the proper noun of the emperor. This can perhaps all-time be viewed, yet, equally extreme patriotism — Japanese were taught to give their lives, if necessary, for their emperor. But this was not entirely different from the Americans who gave their lives in the aforementioned war for their state and the “American” way. The kamikaze pilots, who were named for the “divine wind” (kami kaze) that destroyed the Mongol fleet in the thirteenth century and saved Japan from invasion, might be compared to the young Iranian soldiers fighting in suicide squadrons in the Iran-Republic of iraq state of war of the 1980s, or even to fanatical Shiites responsible for the truck bombing of the U.Southward. Lebanese embassy in 1983.


The Japanese were proud of their many accomplishments and resented racial slurs they met with in some Western nations. Their attempt to establish a argument of racial equality in the Covenant of the League of Nations was vetoed by the United states (considering of opposition in California) and Neat Britain (Australian resistance). The Japanese greatly resented this.

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The Japanese military was convinced of the willingness of its people to go to whatsoever sacrifice for their nation, and it was contemptuous of the “softness” of the U.Southward. and European democracies, where loyalty and patriotism were tempered by the rights and well-being of the private. The war machine’s overconfidence in its own abilities and underestimation of the volition of these other nations were thus rooted in its own misleading ethnic and racial stereotypes. While Asians, the Japanese saw themselves as less representatives of Asia than Asia’s champion. They sought to liberate Asian colonies from the Westerners, whom they disdained. Merely although the Japanese were initially welcomed in some Asian colonies by the indigenous populations whom they “liberated” from European domination, the arrogance and racial prejudice displayed by the Japanese military governments in these nations created peachy resentment. This resentment is still evident in some Southeast Asian nations.

The World at State of war: Discussion Questions

  1. What was the economical state of affairs in Nihon around 1930? Why was this?
  2. Who dominated the regime in Japan at this time? What was their ambition?
  3. Describe the international economic state of affairs that fueled military conflict among nations. How did Japan fit into this state of affairs?
  4. Who was General Hideki Tojo?
  5. Explain what an “ideology” is? What ideology was propagated by the Japanese leaders to unite the land behind the war? Explain what role belief in the emperor’south special condition played in the credo. What office did racism play — the belief in the special qualities of Japanese and other Asian peoples?
  6. Requite an example of a situation where the Japanese felt insulted past what they perceived as the racism of Western countries.

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Nihon and the United States at War: Pearl Harbor, Dec 1941

Today Japan and the United States are close allies. But between 1941 and 1945, they fought a bitter and bloody war, which many people recall well today. Why did they fight this war?

The answer on the American side is simple: the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. The Americans were angry at the Japanese for their invasions of first Manchuria (1931), then Prc (1937), and later French Indochina (1940). Afterward the Japanese moved into Indochina, President Roosevelt ordered a trade embargo on American scrap steel and oil, on which the Japanese military depended. Just the American people felt that Asia was far abroad, and a large majority of voters did non want to go to war to stop Japan. The surprise attack on the Pacific armada at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 changed this, outraging the whole U.S. nation and disarming it that it must cease the Japanese army and navy.

Why did Nippon attack the United States? This is a more complicated question. Nippon knew the United States was economically and military powerful, but it was not afraid of any American attack on its islands. Japan did worry however, that the Americans might help the Chinese resist the Japanese invasion of their country. When President Roosevelt stopped U.S. shipments of steel and oil the Japan, he was doing exactly this: the Japanese are dependent on other countries for raw materials, for they have almost none on their own islands. Without imports of steel and oil, the Japanese military could not fight for long. Without oil, the navy would not be able to motility after information technology had exhausted its 6-month reserve. Roosevelt hoped that this economic pressure would forcefulness Japan to cease its military expansion in Eastward Asia.

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The Japanese armed services saw another solution to the problem: if it could chop-chop conquer the British and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia and gain complete control of the oil, rubber, and other raw materials it needed, and then it could defend its interests in Red china and Indochina against those Europeans who were now busy fighting a major war in Europe against the Germans and Italians. The only force that could stop the Japanese was the American Pacific fleet — which was conveniently gathered close to Japan at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. Knowing that many Americans did not want to fight a state of war confronting Japan, the military thought that if it all of a sudden destroyed the U.S. fleet, America would just give upward and allow Japan to consolidate its grasp on East Asia.

Japan was not militarily or economically powerful plenty to fight a long war against the United States, and the Japanese military knew this. Its attack on Pearl Harbor was a tremendous take a chance — and though the short-run take chances was successful, the long-run gamble was lost considering the Japanese were wrong about the American reaction.

But behind this mistake was another, earlier miscalculation. E’er since Commodore Perry’s armada opened Japan in 1853, in an era of great colonial expansion, the Japanese had watched the European powers dominate Eastern asia and establish colonies and trading privileges. China, Japan’s neighbor, was carved up like a melon equally Western powers established their spheres of influence on Chinese territory. After an amazingly brusque fourth dimension, Japan was able to develop the economic and military force to join this contest for dominance of the Asian mainland. Japan defeated China in 1895 and Russian federation in 1905, in battles over who should dominate Korea. Nihon joined the allies against Germany in 1914-18 in a struggle to command a portion of China and then conquered Manchuria in 1931 in an effort to secure a land expanse rich in raw materials. The Japanese nation and its armed services, which controlled the authorities by the 1930s, felt that it then could, and should, control all of East Asia by armed forces force.

Nihon’south military invasions of other Asian countries, notwithstanding, brought resistance from not only the European colonial powers, but also the Asian people themselves, and finally, the United States. The Japanese military tried to convince the Japanese people that complete loyalty and obedience would make Japan invincible. Japan’southward early on victories seemed to prove this, only the U.South. victory at Midway Island in June 1942 led to the steady encirclement of the Japanese islands, cut them off from needed supplies of raw materials. The Japanese navy was destroyed. When this was followed by massive bombardment from the air and the concluding blow of the diminutive bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese invincibility was proven to be a myth. At the finish of the war, the Japanese nation was non just starving and devastated past the bombing, simply bewildered and shocked by the defeat.

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Pearl Harbor: Word Questions

  1. Was Japan the first country to attempt to dominate other countries in Asia? Explain.
  2. Why did it seem logical to the Japanese that they, rather than the European powers, should be dominant in Asia?
  3. Explain the economic reasons for establishing colonies. What in particular did Japan promise to gain from its colonies?
  4. Locate Pearl Harbor on a map.
  5. Why did Nihon attack the United States at Pearl Harbor?
  6. In what ways was the Japanese attack a tactical miscalculation?
  7. In what sense could you say that Japan actually defeated itself? Explain.

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How Did the Government and Japanese Society React When Japan