Trace the development of Japan during the late-19th and early- 20th centuries. How did these developments contribute to Japan's involvement in World War ll?

2 Answer

  • Do you need the dates? I am not a pro of historical dates :(.

    Early 19th century: Japan is under a very strict isolationist policy. The country is basically locked down in order to protect the Tokugawa shogunate's supremacy. The Japanese culture is flourishing, but the technology is about the same as when Japan started its isolation, near 1600 (basically, katanas and muskets)

    1866: American Admiral Matthew Perry asks the Shogun to reopen the country by entering Tokyo's harbour with heavy warships. Intimidated by the size of these ships (the Japanese must've felt like if the aliens from Independence day showed up and asked the president to "trade" with them). A year later, the Shogun ended the Japanese isolationism.

    Late 19th century: The influence of International traders and visitors shakes the Japanese social structure. The Samurai class, namely, sees these reforms as a menace to their aristocratic power and privilege. Some of them believe that the Shogun is too keen on adopting the European's reform, and try to re-instate the Emperor, the religious leader of shinto, as the ruler of Japan. A few civil wars later, the Emperor is the new leader of Japan (Meiji Restoration). But the Japanese realizes that, if they wish to still be major players in this more interconnected world, they will need to get their military and technology up to date.

    Even later 19th century: Japan basically absorb 200 years of technological progress in 30 years. Japan quickly adapts to the modern tactics and weapons, and starts building an empire by invading small Pacific Island and Korea. They later invade Manchuria, were they get in a struggle with Russia for the domination of the territory. A war broke out in 1904-1905, and Japans comes out victorious. This is very important, since it shows that Japan has the potential to rival a European power, which is surprising to the colonizing Europeans.

    WW1: Japan profits from WW1 to invade and conquer some Pacific Island belonging to the Germans by joining the Entente. They join the League of Nation, truly defining them as an international player.

    1930's: The Great Depression hits Japan's economy pretty hard. Japan decides to redress it's economy by strengthening their military and trying to build an empire spanning across the Pacific. They leave the League of Nation because of their War Mongering.

    Pre-American WW2: Japan expands its territory by invading China and a lot of Pacific Islands. This War-Mongering starts to stress the American, which holds territories, protectorates and states under their influence in the regions (Guam, Hawaii, the Philippines...) decides to stop sending oil to Japan. Since the US sent almost 80% of Japan's oil, the Japanese war effort is effectively slowed down. In their militaristic thinking inherited by spending a lot of the last 80 years fighting, having a feudal leader as their head of state and being confident on their capacity of defeating an occidental nation, they try to intimidate the US by attacking the base of Pearl Harbour. This mesure did not only failed to intimidate the US, but encouraged them to break from isolationism and join WW2 to exact vengeance. So you could say Pearl Harbour's attack kinda backfired

    TL;DR: Japan turned into a militaristic powerhouse in a very short amount of time while having a feudal leader. This turned them into a very war-like nation during the 20th century.

    I'm sorry if my orthograph/syntax/english in general is not perfect, French is my native language.
  • Answer:

    In the early 19th century, Japan was extremely isolationist. The country had a very rich culture, founded upon art and beauty. But compared to other nations of its size and age, it was rather weak. Because of its isolation, the technology had never really developed. New ideas were never brought in through trade, and neither were actually items. The country’s main weaponry was limited still to swords and the very first muskets. While other countries were experimenting with new, nearly automatic weapons, and cannons that could blast through buildings, Japan was stuck still an entire, if not two centuries behind.  

    In 1866, American Admiral Matthew Perry requested that the country reopen itself, with a show of force from the Americans. Tokyo’s harbour was filled with heavy warships, things that Japan had hardly seen before. After a year of trade negotiations, the country was opened to the outside world. In the late 19th century, the influx of new ideas, cultures and people directly shook the Japanese social structure. The Samurai, protectors of Japan see this as a direct invasion, a menace to their aristocratic power. The Samurai attempt to replace the Shogun, prime minister of Japan. After multiple civil wars, there is a new leader, the Emperor. He realizes that if his country is to flourish, then they will have to vastly advance their weaponry and technology to modern standards.  

    In an extremely short time, Japan advances their military up to the standard of other countries. Modern tactics and weaponry allow them to start a small empire by invading neighboring islands in the Pacific. In 1904, Japan invaded Manchuria, which was being eyed by Russia. The two countries engage in a small-scale war, in which Japan comes out victorious. This war is eye opening for other European powers, as it showed them that tiny Japan could go toe to toe with a major power, and come out on top.  

    In WWI, Japan didn't do much except for invading more small islands that had been controlled by Germany. After the War, Japan joins the League of Nations, solidifying them as a world power. The Great Depression hit Japan very hard, and so much infighting broke out. The general idea for how to pull themselves out of the Depression is to strengthen their military, and continue the conquest of the Pacific island region. All the way up to World War II Japan continues to invade small nations, and even parts of China. This grows their confidence as a warring nation, and so they ally themselves with Germany as the world falls apart for the Second World War. Japan attacks the American base of Pearl harbor, hoping to scare any resistance out of the United States. This does quite the opposite, and gives the United States the kick it needed to join the war effort. The U.S ended its isolationism, and striked back with far more force against all enemies of its allies.