How did Japanese imperialism come about?

The writer of the introduction of the book I’m reading at the moment* seems to be hinting that it progressed naturally from the army’s role in suppressing domestic dissent such as supporters of the Tokugawa shogunate. If true, it would have interesting parallels with the Spanish Reconquista and subsequent empire. Another similarity would be a country trying to move from intense regionalism towards some kind of nationalist mission. Quite similar to the US moving from finishing off the Wild West and then moving further west to Hawaii and then the Philippines as well.

*The Sino-Japanese War and the Birth of Japanese Nationalism by Saya Makito, foreword by Mitani Hiroshi

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1 Comment

  1. Richard said,

    May 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    It’s a big question. One answer is that Japan wanted to be like a Western power and they all had empires. If Japan had something of an empire it would be more of a world player (or at least be able to overturn unequal treaties). I think this was a big factor in the Meiji era.

    Later, from what I’ve read, the Japanese constitution was an obstacle to democracy. The Meiji constitution supposedly had the Emperor as ultimately in charge, but in practice the military had a big say in government. I believe the army and navy were guaranteed places in the cabinet, and wielded disproportionate power there. If they didn’t like a civilian dove prime minister they could bring down the cabinet. And assassination was always a threat for non-militaristic PMs too.

    At this point, I think this is probably what your book says anyway!


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