Why were Japanese so obsessed with WAR and Imperialism??
September 6 2002 at 7:30 AM

Hey all!! havn't been on in a while,, anyway just finished writing an essay if you want to read- (oh and Kris/Kawa/Osc it doesn't fit in the offtopic annex peace

A general western perspective of stereotypical Japanese person today would be a pacifist who is against any type of War, as well as the militarism of their nation. After Japan suffered their devastating loss in the Second World War, the Japanese and American Governments put forth new legislation to limit Japan’s involment in any type of war. However in this essay I will be looking at the period between the Russo-Japanese war and 1945, and how Japanese leaders were able to change the way Japanese citersons viewed their country and what it meant to be Japanese and have pride in being Japanese.

To look at this period of time, and how the elite manipulated Japanese citersons, we must first take a look at one of the most influential times in Japanese history. “Tokugawa”. From early Tokugawa times, Japanese leaders had adopted Confucius style ideas from China, encouraged citersons to study Confucianism and opened up several hundred Confucius schools. One of the main reasons for the adoption of certain Confucius ideas was for the ability of the elite such as the Emperor, leading Bakufu burrukrats and Daimyou to inflict their control over villages and the common people. Confucius thoughts involved the structure of a hierarchical society in which they could control the people, the land as well as the financial benefits. These Confusion ideals taught the Japanese strict class order and rankings, social cohesion, discipline, obedience and submissiveness from below to the top. They were taught that respect and loyalty was extremely necessary towards people above you in the hierarchy. Often there were strict laws facing those who didn’t show enough respect, for example if a Samurai thought that a peasant or a village person did not show enough respect towards him, he was allowed to cut him or her down without penalty. Often in the case of a crime it depended on which social class you belonged to, as to whether you would be punished or not. This social class system undertook some drastic changes during the Meiji restoration. Common people were able to intermarry between classes, as well as being able to wear formal apparel and travel on horseback, and no longer were Samurai allowed to cut villages down for unacceptable behavior. Previously only members of the Samurai class or higher could do this.

The exploitation of the common village people was still happening during the early Twentieth Century, especially in the workplace where employee’s were expected to give loyalty and obedience to the top, and most were forced to work exceptionally long hours with little break and a weak pay. Obviously they weren’t treated to the same extent as to how they were mistreated during the Tokugawa days, as a lot of the Hierarchical system had been abolished.

From the beginning of the Meiji period, when Westernpowers forced Japan’s doors open, The Japanese then realized how far behind they were technologically and Military wise. They had no choice but to begin trade and start adopting Western Culture and ideas. From this period Japanese leaders had always had imperialistic views, not necessarily towards the rest of the world, but towards Asia, especially Korea. Japan had moved in on Korea during the first Sino-Japanese war, and with this forced Korea to sign an unfair treaty which would open up three new ports for trade as well as let Japan exert their Military influence there as well. Even though Japan was the aggressor in this war, the Japanese people didn’t see it that way, as more and more resources were coming there way from Korea. By the early 1900’s Japan was receiving ¾ of all Korean foreign trade. Japan was receiving mass amounts of Rice while importing cotton. Japan also constructed railways throughout Korea, which would enable them to establish a timber industry, which was very important since Japan’s timber supply had always been scarce. Even though Russia was able to team up with other European powerhouse nations such has France and Germany to help force Japan out of China as well has slow their influence on Korea, the Japanese public still thought that they had won and saw the advantages excpecially in commerce. Imports and exports doubled from 1889 to 1903 and would double again over the next decade. This all happened at a crucial time as Japan was involved in several military wars in that period against China and later Russia.

The start of Japanese patriotism was evident during the Japan-Russo war. A lot of the old war generals didn’t believe it was possible that Japan could stand a chance against a Western Powerhouse. But has the war progressed, Japan was able to capture several key positions including a Russian Naval Base at Port Arther on the East coast of China. As victory looked closer there seemed to be overwhelming support from the public to push ahead, and continue the war. However not all of the Japanese society held the same Nationalistic believes, A newspaper called the “Heimin Shimbun” (the common peoples paper) was produced by a group who were strictly against War and militarism and fought for egalitarianism, socialism and pacifism. This group also sent a letter to the Russian Social Democrats at the time of the beginning of the War, asking for friendship

“for socialists, there are no distinctions of race, region, or nationality. You and we are comrades, brothers and sisters. We have no reason to fight each other. Your enemy is not the Japanese people, but it is the so-called patriotism and militarism of today” - This letter was printed in a Social Democrats newspaper with editors agreeing with the statement. The Japanese government had those involved imprisoned, and the paper stopped.

Even though there were some groups fighting against the War, the majority of the Japanese public was overwhelmed with the Japanese advances on Russia in the war, that and the Japanese victory in the Sino war against China injected nationalism and aggressive style thinking in to the Japanese people. The Japanese Elite however did their best to curve the way this war was portrayed to the public by not letting them know that Japan could no longer continue the war. When a peace treaty was finely reached and the Japanese public were aware of the conditions they became angry and hostile. They had been led to believe that Japan could have achieved much greater success and further territorial advancement gains. Riots broke out all across Japan especially in Tokyo, and up to 2,000 rioters were arrested. Although Japan suffered heavy casualties in the war (60,083 people were killed), they believed it was necessary to fight to the end as they were convinced that better days were ahead.

So as you can see most of the Japanese public held strong nationalistic views throughout the Japan-Russo war. Even when they were victorious, they wanted more. The elite had told the people of Japan that the invasion of Manchuria and the war against Russia would be relatively simple and would bring great benefits to the common people. These statements were a mere camouflage so that the Japanese Military leaders could expand its empire and imperialise Asia. The victory of this war gave Japan recognition as an extremely strong force amongst the worlds strongest nations.

Another reason the Japanese public seemed not easily fazed by the expandation and the aggressive movement of the Japanese military overseas, was because Emperor Meiji had approved it. The majority of the Japanese public loved Emporer Meiji, one might say that it was because of his shy but frugal personality, and his concern for the Japanese public. The Emperor had gained a stronger hold on the Nation through the Meiji constitution, which legally gave him the sovereign power of Japan. He was the supreme commander of the Military and the Navy, and all members of those groups had to answer to him. Although the Emperor may have been tricked and manipulated with a lot of the stories he was receiving from the Nationalistic minded Genro armies who had their own views on which way Japan should move as a nation, and persisted that expanding into Asia was necessary. Emperor Meiji’s status really started to fluctuate at the end of the first Sino war, as there was a lot of talk about the “immemorial dynasty” in which the imperial house played a large role. Textbooks in Japanese Schools had taught that the Emperor was the Father of Japan, which led to an edict being issued that built the foundation of moral education in Japan. The Japanese people would show loyalty to the emperor in the sense of filial piety, and the emperor’s portrait was hung on the walls of schools and offices throughout Japan.

Another huge influence, which greatly contributed to the manipulation of the Japanese public into becoming more nationalistic, was the ability of the Japanese Government to control the media and what was being published and presented to the public eye. Which involved the censorship of news articles, editorials and books that portrayed Japans Military and expansion interests in a bad way. Due to this in 1939 there were more than 500 publishers that had gone out of business. Many publishers had to re-word headings of articles to condemn the atrocities that the Japanese military committed in China, using words such as “Glorious” victories of the “righteous” imperial army. The Japanese public relied on the media for accurate reports on the Japanese Armies progress overseas. Military defeats were never reported, and successes were often tremendously over exaggerated. So the public was always left under the impression that Japan was making solid victories after the next, even though Japan was in a struggle to hold on to its battles and allies. Even the younger generation was being secretly controlled through Primary School textbooks, as they were edited in 1933 and 1941, to teach children a more militaristic and nationalistic outlook on life. For example Primary school textbooks in 1933 started off with the words “Forward March, Forward March, Soldiers, Forward March.” They were taught never to question the truth, and to agree, and learn what they were being taught. If any of the students questioned the truth they would often be punished. This style of teaching was exactly what the Elite wanted as it produced Die-hard soldiers who would take pride in dying for their country and the emperor. Eventually the decision to go to War was made in late 1941 by a group of men. It was obviously a big decision, the elite knew that the Japanese public would never accept the peace treaty terms offered by the US where one of the conditions were to withdrawal all troops from China. Japanese leaders had fought to long and lost too many lives invading China and Manchuria to accept those conditions, with the majority of the Japanese public behind the decision to go to war and to expand their nation. War was declared.

In conclusion, it’s obvious to see that the Japanese public was manipulated to become more nationalistic towards their nation, as well as their complete loyalty and obedience shown towards the emperor. This had to do with a combination of reasons; the success of the Japanese Sino war in the late nineteenth century and the overwhelming victory over Russia in the Japan-Russo war. The Japanese public had gone from the total adoption and admiration of western culture, as well as the fear of western nations being more technologically advanced and being a threat to Japan, to finally conquering a western powerhouse and receiving recognition as one of the worlds strongest nations. The Japanese army generals who were invading China relayed over exaggerated victories to the public and never reported the defeats. Japan had pushed to far into the War and had gotten to much Public support for the war, to turn back. The media’s censorship of printed material as well as the edited Primary school textbooks being released took a huge role in the way the Japanese public viewed Japan. This is how the Japanese elite took control of the people which in the end led to the destruction of a nation.


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