Japanese Imperialism

Imperialism in its most simplistic form can be defined by the dictionary of human geography as “the creation and or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination. ” It is also declared by this work to be primarily a western phenomenon that utilizes “expansionist, mercantilist policies” which was demonstrated during the nineteenth and twentieth century. Japan in the earlier years of the Tokugawa reign isolated itself from the rest of the world.

It was a feudal system in which each citizen was obedient and knew its place in society. However by 1914, Japan had grown to be an imperial power itself following various strategies of the western powers after they themselves had been a colony of a European state. After a period of isolation before the onset of the Meiji restoration and the strong emergence as an imperial power one must examine all the characteristics and strategies that Japan had possessed by 1914 to gain imperial power like that of a north Atlantic power.

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One strategy that served to be important in Japan’s rise as an imperial power was the development of its nationalistic nature. It can be believed that Japan’s early years of exclusion from the outer world was influential of its expansion as an empire. They developed a systematic and rigid system of living which they despised overseas influences and saw that alliances that could possibly be formed against the shogun were forbidden through the use of an “organized hostage system. ” They also developed an attitude of which they were not enthusiastic of foreign intervention and sub-ordination by external powers.

Even during the Meiji restoration and the transformation of all systems the Japanese had a feeling a loss of their culture and this provoked the introduction of Confucianism and Shintoism in the remodeled education systems. This created an ideology that Japan was a conservative state which saw itself as being its own nation. They were able to develop a strong sense of culture and self worth that was unimaginable even as they were eventually forced to accept intervention by the United States. It was admirable as Japan never lost its culture while this larger imperial power set place within its state.

Also unlike other dominated territories of its time, Japan faced its foreign intrusion with bellowing nationalism and unity. The Meiji emperor by the influence of the oligarchs was placed upon a high, celestial standard, ensuring that all forms of reformation was supported. Teachers were trained to promote loyalty to the Meiji emperor, Japanese religion and their culture and respect for their relatives. Additionally, Richie (1992, p56) claims that standard school history texts stressed a moral obligation of loyalty to the emperor and promoted a spirit of unity and national strength.

It was noted that education in this highly literate nation promoted patriotism and the military were taught the virtues of “unquestioning obedience and sacrifice. ” This self worth grew further into a nature of power politics as they desired a role that showed authority and prestige relative to those of other countries. The Japanese were highly influenced by the imperial nations and used a strategy of duplication to successfully achieve the status of an imperial North Atlantic nation. In 1853, foreign intervention began as Japan still continued to exclude itself from the rest of the world.

It was required by the foreign powers that they opened their ports to passing ships. In 1853 Commodore Perry, after sailing to Edo bay, delivered a letter on behalf of the American president Adams stating,” No nation can cut itself off from the rest of the world,” in addition to ships carrying heavy atelier, demanding that they be able to access their harbors. This instigated other powers such as Britain, France and Russia to do the same as the United States actions seemed to be successful.

The heavy intrusions by powerful states as well as the country’s inability to effectively ward off these powers led to the introduction of unequal treaties in the Japanese diplomacy. Theses treaties permitted the access of ports to foreigners and even allowed them to take residence in certain towns in Japan. As a result the Japanese learned the various structures of their western rivals giving them the impression of docile sub-ordination. They observed their culture, their various institutions and showed an interest in “modernizing” their state to that of European standards.

They spent periods each in the United States, England and Europe, and observed everything from the German’s “style military and political institutions,” US’ education, France’ banking program, and England’s “naval expertise and railway systems” “Well over 2,000 people from 23 countries ended up on the Japanese payroll for a period of time. ” In 1871 under the Iwakura mission they brought home “anything which might be useful to Japan, in one form or another. ” They also sent scholars abroad to effectively learn the required technologies, western sciences and languages and promoted oreign intellectuals to teach in Japan. The Japanese successfully westernized their state, flattering the European powers and as such put an end to foreign occupation. Meiji Japan, in order to regain its status as an independent nation state reformed its society by a complete transformation of its various institutions. They needed to become a democratic state offering all social classes in society equal opportunities, introducing human rights and freedom of religious practices which had not been a component of the Tokugawa regime.

Government reformation also required that privileges once granted to the feudal lords of the Tokugawa era, such as the ownership of land had to be ended and retrieved. The first European styled constitution was established in 1889 in which a parliament was formed with the emperor keeping his sovereignty. The education system was also transformed to the French and German models. They borrowed technology, social systems, infrastructure, and educational methods from countries around the world and adapted and fitted those to their own needs and culture. They used what worked and abandoned what did not.

This sudden transformation can be described as a strategy as it gave the Europeans the impression that Japan had become one of them. Japan was no longer a threat or rival but was now a docile prospective colony which in later years lowered the guards of the European powers. The state of Japan after learning of the success of European imperialism, decided to advance itself in a stage of industrialization. Japan after making observations on the European states and their economic development advanced its industries. They moved from a Tokugawan agrarian economy to a modern producer.

Practicing the statement “fukoku kyokei (enrich the country and strengthen the military) Japan developed into an “optimized industrial state” whose mass production became the focus of its culture. (hyhist) After they had opened their borders to the foreign nations, they imported manufactured European and US goods which led to the concentration of foreign goods on the market. The small Japanese producers suffered to a great extent with even some declaring bankruptcy. The Meiji emperor looking for equality among the powers sought to rectify the situation by creating a powerful economy without the faults of the European one.

It occurred upon them that they cultivated a number of products such as raw silk, tea, buttons, gold leaf and cotton textiles which could then be mass produced and exported to other nations with high demands. Despite the financial crisis of the 1880’s in Japan and the reform of the currency system in Japan, the textile industry grew to be the fastest and strongest for Japan until the Second World War. Another important strategy that all north Atlantic imperial powers had that Japan later possessed was a strong military.

After Japan had been bullied by the imperial European powers to open it ports and allow the intrusions of the west, Japan saw it necessary to develop its militaristic skills for their survival and protection as a state. From the onset of the Meiji restoration it was known that in order to compete with the other imperial nations and to conquer territories it was imperative to develop Japanese militarism. “We must exercise the strictest economy so as to provide funds for the building of a navy and the fortification of an army. The Japanese governing system spent a large amount of money on the development of their military which reflected their efforts to establish their empire. Between the years of 1880 and 1912, 30% of government funds were attributed to the program of military expansion. Efforts focused more on this goal and as such the once thriving samurai class was disbanded in 1876 and class equality was established. In 1872 Japanese efforts grew stronger as under a system of conscription peasants were allowed to become part of the modernization process. All men of the various social classes were required to give three years of military service.

By the 1890’s, Japan became militarily capable for territorial expansion and giving herself the power of an imperial state. This can be seen when Britain and Japan formed an alliance to defeat China in the Boxer rebellion. One characteristic that proves the imperial power of a nation is the ability of the state to have territorial acquisitions, which Japan gained. Schumpeter describes this characteristic as the objectless disposition on the part of the state to unlimited forcible expansion. He describes it as a state’s need to prove its power and domination in the international system.

It can also be branched out to be described as nationalistic, as Japan needed to prove itself that it was not inferior but another superior nation among the others. Japan by 1910 had forcibly gained three territories in Asia. Taiwan from the Sino-Japanese war, Korea after annexation and the Kwantung leased territories in southern Manchuria. Korea was of strategic geographical importance to the West. China and Japan went to war due to Chinese influence in Korea’s government affairs and Japan as such aided in Korea independence and then later annexed it for its own purpose.

After their victory in the war, Japan pressed further to secure its region by gaining other territories that were in the interests of the western powers. Lenin advocated a theory of monopoly capital where capitalists wanted to employ surplus capital abroad to achieve higher profits than the domestic market and considered the existence of large-scale firms with great economic power (monopolists) and the merging of bank and industrial capital to be key characteristics of imperialism. In Japan the existence of the business owning class called the Zaibatsu was of great significance to Japan.

They were able to grow financially strong as in the 1880’s the government sold to them several industrial plants and mines which became profitable. Each zaibatsu also owned banks which in later years prior to the world war one made Japan a powerful financial state. By 1914 Japan had definitely gained the status of an imperial power like its western counterparts. It had followed the strategies of any imperial power such as modernization, industrialization, military development and western structured society. They also had characteristics such as market expansion and the nationalistic attitude of its western imperial powers.

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Japanese Imperialism. (2017, Jan 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/japanese-imperialism/