Domestic Relations Taisho Democracy
• During the 1920s, Japan progressed toward a
democratic system of government in a movement
known as 'Taisho Democracy'.
• Parliamentary government was not stable enough to
withstand the economic and political pressures from
the increasingly influential military leaders during the
late 1920s and 1930s.
• There were two main political parties that alternated
in power during this time (until 1932):
• The Rikken-Seiyūkai
• The Rikken Minseitō
Incident Event Cause Effect
May 15 Attemped coup 1930 London Naval Failure to severely punish the
Incident, launched by radical Treaty that limited the plotters proved democracy was
1932 elements of the size of the Japanese weak against the military. Japanese
Imperial Japanese Navy. The rebels system of party government ended
Navy, with the aid of wanted to overthrow due to the assassination of Prime
the Imperial Japanese the government, and Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, who was
Army cadets. replace it with military succeeded by military officials.
February 26 Attempted coup Cause: The rebels Incident strengthened Japanese
Incident, launched by a radical wanted to abolish the militarism.
1936 ultranationalist Taishō democracy and
Kodaha faction of the Shōwa Restoration
Washington Conference: 1921-1922
• December 13, 1921: Four Power Treaty on Insular Possessions
•Japan, US, Britain, and France agreed to recognize the status quo in the Pacific
•Formal termination of 1902 Anglo-Japanese Alliance
•February 6, 1922: The Five Power Naval Disarmament Treaty (Four Powers and
The Americans and the British wanted to stop the escalating naval race among
the world nations and proposed limiting all of the world’s battle fleets
•The Japanese had expected to be allowed a fleet size equal to that of Britain and
the US’s but had to accept a fleet size only 60% the other two nations.
•The Japanese viewed this as a loss of face but accepted the restriction with the
condition that the US and Britain would not strengthen their positions in Pacific.
•The Japanese navy was still unrivaled in the Pacific.
•Treaty terms renewed at 1930 London Naval Treaty
•Japan withdrew from treaties in 1934
•February 6, 1922: Nine-Power Treaty
•US, Belgium, Britain, China, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and Portugal
•Purpose: To adopt a policy to stabilize the conditions in the Far East to
protect the rights and interests of China and promote interactions between
China and other powers based on equality of opportunity
The Washington Treaties were the final rebuke to
Japan who had sought recognition as great power for
over quarter century.
Japan sought a future in Asia because relations with
Americans and Europeans proved not advantageous.
Japan wanted to assure their hegemony in the Pacific.
By forcing out imperialists.
Japanese leaders viewed the world dividing along
racial lines where Asians would never be accepted as
• 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact
•Japan joined fourteen other nations in signing this pact, which denounced
"recourse to war for the solution of international controversies."
Pacific War (1930-1945)
•Manchurian Incident 1931
•Japan went to war with China in 1931 to secure recognition of their claim in Manchuria. Japan’s
reasons for war were largely to improve her failing economy and to gain national prestige.
•By 1932, Japan had firm control of Manchuria as the puppet state of Manchukuo.
•League of Nations involvement
•China appealed to the League of Nations to take collective action against Japan following
Japanese occupation of Manchuria
•In 1932, the League sent out a commission under Lord Lytton to investigate the situation. His
report was adopted by the League Assembly on February 24, 1933.
•The Commission report was generally sympathetic to Japanese position. It recognized and
proposed to safeguard Japan’s economic interest in Manchuria. Lytton also recommended
Japan to be allowed to maintain military forces in Manchuria to prevent attack from either
China or USSR
•However, Lytton named Japan as aggressor in the Manchurian incident, but Japan believed
their actions were provoked by Kuomintang’s attempts to annex Manchuria. Japan
interpreted Lytton’s report as serious loss of face and announced her withdrawal from the
League on March 27, 1933 ending any need of the organization to take collective action.
•Proved inadequacy of League of Nations in solving major problems.
The Withdrawal Letter: http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/policy/pre-war/330327a.html
•1937 China Incident
•Cause: On July 1, a Japanese patrol guard on the Marco Polo Bridge in
Beijing fired upon Nationalist soldiers due to misperception. This escalated
to an exchange of shots.
•Result: This conflict served as pretext for a full-scale invasion and the
Japanese Kwantung army invaded northern China.
•Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)
•Rape of Nanjing
•General Matsui wanted to get Chiang to peace table to exact
agreement on recognition of Manchukuo as part of Japan. Instead,
brutality transformed Chinese resolve into hatred.
•Eventually stalemate was reached and war began to turn into a six-year
undeclared truce. By 1939 Japan in control of most of eastern China but had
not defeated the Chinese Nationalist Kuomintang.
•Japanese planned to cut off final foreign supply links to China in order to
end event. There was a risk of expanding of war but success would mean
Chiang would acknowledge Japanese sovereignty in Manchuria.
•Their attack in the north against USSR and Mongolia both resulted in
failure. Japan concentrated its war efforts on its southward drive in
Southeast Asia, a strategy that helped propel Japan ever closer to war
with the United States and Britain and their allies
•Relations with Germany
•On November 1936 the Anti-Comintern Pact
between Japan and Germany was signed with the
purpose of presenting a united front against
Bolshevism by exchanging information and
collaborating to prevent communist activities
•This would set foundations for Japan’s alliance
with Germany during the Second World War.
•Relations with Great Britain
•During the inter-war years, the Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 was allowed to
lapse because of pressure on Britain from Canada and the US regarding Asian
•The Anglo-Japanese alliance replaced by Four Power Pact
•Britain, USA, France, and Japan agreed to respect each other’s spheres of
influence in Pacific
•Relations with US
•Panay Incident December 12, 1937
•Japanese aircraft bombed and destroyed the US
gunboat Panay and three United States merchant
vessels on the Yangtze River in China.
•US government requested an apology from the
Japanese Government with a guarantee of no
further interference in US possessions in China.
•The Japanese government expressed their
apologies and made full indemnification in
accordance with the request of the United States.
•The Japanese Government expressed the "fervent
hope" that the friendly relations between Japan
and the United States would not be affected by this
•Each perceived the other as a military threat and a trade
rival. The Japanese greatly resented the racial
discrimination perpetuated by United States
immigration laws, and the Americans became
increasingly wary of Japan's interference in the self-
determination of other peoples.
•October 6, 1937
•Assembly of the League of Nations adopted a report stating that the Japanese
action in China violated Japan's treaty obligations.
•November 1937 Brussels Conference
•19 nations attended to consider "peaceable means" for hastening the end of the
conflict between China and Japan
•The conference failed to accomplish any means of peace.
Summary of Domestic and Foreign Policies
• The Japanese government in 1936 wanted to
•Stabilize the domestic government
•Promote better diplomatic and trade relations abroad
•Assure peace in East Asia, thereby ultimately contributing to the
peace and welfare of humanity
•Extend national influence as far as the South Seas
Hirota Cabinet's National and Foreign Policies:
• Since the mid-nineteenth century, Japan has
gone through two periods of economic
• In both periods, the Japanese opened
themselves to Western ideas and influence
and experienced revolutionary social,
political, and economic changes.
• The Japanese aim: to make Japan powerful
and wealthy that its independence would not
• However, Japan lacked many of the natural
resources in its own land
• The Japanese wanted to take lands from
Manchuria and China in order to make up for
• Manchuria’s rich natural resources and sparse population had obvious advantages for a
densely populated and resource-poor Japan.
• To make matters worse, despite these restrictions Japan's population increased rapidly in the
early twentieth century reaching seventy million in 1937.
• Manchuria could provide not only natural resources but also land for its surplus population.
From the Great Depression to Manchuria
• The global depression of the 1930s ushered in a period of protectionism that significantly
affected the Japanese economy.
• Japan’s trade was deeply undercut by tariff barriers from the world’s leading nations
• But in comparison to most of the other industrialized nations, the Japanese economy suffered
less from the Great Depression, still expanding at 5% of GDP per year.
• But Most industrial growth was geared toward expanding the nation's military power.
• As other nations became more protective of trade with their home markets and colonies, Japan
realized that it needed more colonies so it could establish a monopoly position.
• Manchuria was crucial to Japan’s economic prosperity.
• The occupation of Manchuria went smoothly. By 1930s, Manchuria was firmly under
Japanese control as the puppet sate of Manchukuo.
• By 1931 Japan had spent 1.5 billion yen in Manchuria an amount rising to 3.7 billion yen by
1936. This was more than the total Japanese budget for any one year.
• Japan was able to invest in railroads, highways, hydro-electric plants and improve the area's
harbours and navigable rivers. Useful amounts of iron, aluminium and other minerals were
Japan’s Military Expansion
• Japan's thrust to imperial expansion was inflamed by the growing instability of the
geopolitical and international trade regime of the later 1920s and early 1930s.
• Decline in the United Kingdom’s economy – gold standard crisis
» The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic
unit of account is a fixed weight of gold and all currency issuance is to
one degree or another regulated by the gold supply.
• The threat of Germany and the Soviet Union’s industrialization and military expansion on the
Eurasian land mass
• Hostile to the liberal democracy supported by the United Kingdom and the United States.
• It was against this international backdrop that Japan began aggressively staking out its claim
to being the dominant military power in East Asia and the Pacific
• Bringing into conflict with the United States and the United Kingdom in the Asian and Pacific
theaters after the world slipped into global warfare in 1939.
The China Incident
• Japan entered the China Incident in July 1937 with plans for a three month campaign
involving three divisions costing a hundred million yen.
• However, by the spring of 1938 the scale of Japan's miscalculation meant that its entire army
was in for indefinite war
• As a result, twenty new army divisions were created and 2.5 billion yen were appropriated to
continue the war.
• But this large scale of warfare made it impossible for Japan to exploit China's economic
• Japan's new territorial gains were simply unable to finance their own development.
But the Japanese believed their economic problems could
be solved by acquiring ever more parts of China
Consequently instead of achieving economic
independence Japan's occupation and long war in China
created a spiral of self-fulfilling dependency.
The Sino-Japanese War 1937-(1945) and Japan’s
• The Sino-Japanese War started in 1937
• It not only prevented Japan economically exploiting China but was also a major drain on
• Decreased standard of living in Japan
• Financial consequences
• Before World War II, Japan built an extensive empire that included Taiwan, Korea,
Manchuria, and parts of northern China.
• The Japanese regarded this sphere of influence as a political and economic necessity
• But the invasion of China proved to be financially exhausting for Japan and left Japan
militarily susceptible to Soviet attack and economically reliant on the west.
•Contemporary Japanese values of group
affiliation and identity, allegiance and
harmony, and especially democracy, are
based on the rapid social and economic
changes that Japan had experienced at the
end of World War I.
•The end of World War I caused the
population to move to the cities, in search
of employment at factories, which
contributed to the industrialization of the
Cinematography in Japan nation.
•Entering the Interwar period, Japan expanded its capital industries and urbanized to
compete with long-standing Western industrial societies, resulting in the transformation
of the Japanese culture and society. The Western influences, in addition to the
industrialization promoted changes, such as the exploration of modern art in the form of
The New Middle Class
•Caused by the booming industrial
economy and the active international ports
at the end of World War I, a new middle
class was created in the Japanese society.
With its most of its members employed,
the new middle class came to define the
cosmopolitan urban culture of Japan.
•The new middle class had the greatest
effect on Japanese women. Because of the
rapid growth of Japan’s middle class, the
experience of urban women in the interwar
years foreshadowed the postwar lives of
the majority of Japanese women. For the
most part, the new middle class improved
the lives of women, and allowed for the
acceptance of the postwar reforms of Baking bread aboard the catering ship
women’s political and legal status. Mamiya (1934)
•In the 1920s, the main cultural and societal
changes were on the status of women in the
society. Many women graduated from high
school or other higher education institutions
found employment in areas of teaching, typing
and telephone operating in order to help their
economically distressed families, and to be
•Although the fields of profession that were
deemed acceptable for women increased
during the Interwar period, they were often
thought to be not equivalent to their male
coworkers in terms of the credibility of their
Students of Edajima Naval Academy
taking a meal (1934)
“Social Management” of Economy
•Throughout the 20th century, the Japanese state has been committed
to the “social management” of the economy.
•To further its developmental agenda, the government intervened to a
remarkable degree in shaping the thoughts and behaviour of ordinary
•Government officials mounted numerous campaigns to increase
household savings and to decrease consumption. These household
savings developed in line with new perceptions of gender roles, as
the responsibility of household consumption became associated with
women, and women’s groups emerged as key local agents in these
Social Reforms and Western Influence
•The Japanese social reformers
during this time were influenced by
the European and American model of
middle class families and households.
•Individual attempts to define
normative living standards, and
reform programs that were put in
place such as the Seikatsu Kaizen
Undō, also known as the Life Reform
Movement and the Daily Life
Improvement Campaigns in the early
20th century were based on the
•In addition to promoting the Western
model of society and social reform,
Western goods and resources were
Western food domesticated: an advertisement
also promoted. for curry powder (1938)
The Daily Life Improvement Campaigns
•The Daily Life Improvement Campaigns, initiated by
women’s groups, corporations, and government offices,
including the Ministry of Education, dealt with Japan’s
political and societal concerns, including mortality rates,
democratic social relations, public hygiene, with a
particular focus on gender issues, reproduction and the
definition of a housewife.
•The Daily Life Improvement Campaigns are often
considered to be part of the most crucial social and
cultural processes in post World War I history, as it
reinforced the needs of Japanese corporations to be
congruent with the needs of the Japanese people, as well, Concept of “good wife and wise
it adopted a model of gender relations in which women of mother”
all social strata managed the home, while men worked.
•Japanese officials at the time justified that the inequality between men and women, especially
in the political exclusion women were based on traditional Japanese belief of “good wife and
wise mother”, where by joining political associations, women were believed to be no longer able
fulfill their “natural responsibilities” and would destroy the nation’s custom of the husband
commanding and the wife obeying.
Ichiwaka Fusae and Support of Militarism
•The Daily Life Improvement Campaigns
are also associated with the struggle for
women to attain suffrage, with high points
of the movement in 1930 and 1931, when
the Lower House of the Imperial Diet
twice passed bills that would have granted
“civil rights”, including the right to vote
and the right to hold office to women at
the local level.
•Ichikawa Fusae, a well-known suffragist
who led the League for Women’s Suffrage Ichikawa Fusae (1893-1981) with other women’s
as well as most other prominent women’s group leaders
leaders at the time had supported and
collaborated with the militarism and
authoritarian regime of Japan during the •Defenders of women’s group leaders argue
nation’s wars with China and the Western that the collaboration allowed for the further
powers. This increase in the support for advancement of the interests of women
militarism that eventually contributed to amidst material deprivation and authoritarian
World War II. rule.
Women’s Groups and Standard of Living
•In addition to women’s suffrage, the movement during the 1920s
and 1930s pressed for the abolition of licensed prostitution, lower
prices for consumers, and protection of mothers and children.
•In addition to the well-known League for Women’s Suffrage led
by Ichikawa Fusae, other women’s groups, such as the Japanese
Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the Federation of
Women’s Associations of Western Japan in the 1920s were also
active in a wide array of social projects in addition to the suffrage
drive and the abolition of licensed prostitution.
Japanese stamp depicting
a woman casting a ballot •Reflecting the changing gender ideology of middle-class society,
various ministries began mobilizing women in their newly
(made in commemoration
ascribed capacities as savers and consumers, and recognized their
of female suffrage)
roles as guardians of public morality.
•Faced with post World War I recession and persistently high prices in the early 1920s,
government officials aimed at improving the standard of life, as well, encouraged
savings and frugality through the creations of roles for women within the state apparatus,
which included the promotion of the formation of local women’s associations throughout
The Pacific War and Japanese Nationalism
In the 1920s and 1930s, Japan also
experienced an escalation in nationalistic
spirit and an upsurge in power on the world
stage by the aggression against China.
Japan sought for an increase in nationalistic
spirit, as well as the symbolic elevation of
the sacrifice of the dead as a means to secure
the willingness of soldiers and civilians to
fight and die for goals that were proclaimed
by their nation during the Pacific War.
In the post World War I period, the Japanese
military dead through the Pacific War
emerged as a phenomenal manifestation of
state-sponsored war nationalism, linking the
war, emperor, and nation. Simple
Militarism permeates Japanese society: advertisement for goods and resources often
a biscuit advertisement (1938) bore messages supporting militarism and war,
as well as encouraging nationalism.
•Global Forces of the Twentieth Century 2nd Edition
•Managing the Japanese Household: The New Life Movement in Postwar
•Interwar Japan – Journal of Japanese Studies
•Popularizing a Military Diet in Wartime and Postwar Japan