Rise Of Japan Militarism Essay

1301 words - 6 pages

Trace the origins for the rise of militarism in Japan in the 1930s.

The rise of militarism in Japan in the 1930s was the outgrowth of a long historical process. In simple terms, the roots of militarism laid with developments of the Meiji era, and the fruits blossomed with the failure of party politics by the end of the 1920s.

Legacies of the Meiji era - the rise of militarism in Japan can be traced back in the century-old military tradition of the samurai. Hundreds of years of rule by men-of-sword had made the people ready to accept the claims of militarists to national leadership. Fundamentally, Japan had a strong tradition of unquestioned obedience to authority. The spirit of Bushido ...view middle of the document...

These institutional loopholes, no doubt, encouraged the growth of military influence and autonomy.

Another factor that strengthened the tradition of militarism was Japan’s victories in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars. These two victories brought great benefits to Japan - in terms of money and territorial gains as well as international status. These gave great prestige to the militarists and taught the Japanese a lesson that war was the best instrument to further national interest and it paid high dividends. In short, victories justified the advocates of militarism and expansion.

Japan’s overseas expansion became necessary with the successful Meiji modernization. Significant economic advances were made, especially in industrialization and population growth. These developments pointed to the search for living space, raw materials, markets and the like from abroad. The Asian mainland, in particular, China and Korea, became Japan’s primary target for expansion.
Meiji leaders, for the sake of national unity, ardently cultivated an emperor-centered nationalism among Japanese minds. It placed the Emperor in an unchallenged position. Thus, whoever acted in the name of the emperor could control the destiny of Japan. In theory, the armed forces were the personal army and navy of the emperor, and therefore were qualified to speak for the emperor. By making use of this absolute obedience to the emperor and the nation, the army started to carry out aggression in the 1930s, believing that this served the will of the emperor and the nation’s interest. A side-effect of this fanatical devotion to the emperor was the growth of ultra-nationalism. A number of extremist societies such as the Black Dragon Society fanned up the sentiment of Japan’s superiority in the world by virtue of its divine origins. They strongly advocated militarism and imperialism.

All the above were underlying factors that enabled the rise of militarism in the 1930s. For the time being, the Meiji oligarchs as a group could hold the militarists at bay. With the fading out of the oligarchs, however, no political group was strong enough to play a similar role. As a matter of fact, party politicians failed disastrously to stop the rise of militarist influence by the early 1930s.

Failure of party government - despite its achievements in the earlier years, the failure of party government became apparent by the late 1920s. This failure of the parties to provide national leadership gave the militarists their chance to rise to power. As we have seen in earlier section, the failure of party governments derived partly from its own weaknesses: internal disunity, corruption, no mass support, and economic failures.

There was another side of the story. In foreign affairs, there was strong reaction among the army officers against the “weak-kneed” diplomacy of the party governments. The military men resented the reduction in size of the armed forces and regarded Foreign Minister...

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