– Why did Japan turn to militarism and drift away from democracy in the 1930s and the 1940s? How did US occupation authorities seek to prevent Japan from relapsing into the past system of military expansion? The root of Japan’s militarism started out from the developments of the Meiji era that was established by imperial restoration after Edo period. The idea of the Meiji Revolution, to boost morale and to extricate Japan from the idea of Tokugawa feudalism, had been carried over to turn Japan into militarism.
In 1930s, a lot of external and internal influences such as Western Powers, Japan’s victories of war in Asia, economic depression and Japan’s oversea expansion with the successful Meiji modernization had caused the rise of militarism and repudiation of democracy. Though Japan’s unstoppable and irresistible growth and alliance with fascists and Nazis had pushed Japan to expand its domain to even the territory of the United States, the United States occupation authorities used military force to defeat Japan.
A lot of historians insist that there are several causes that incurred the rise of militarism and that one of the key causes is that Japan had suffered from worldwide economic depression in the late 1920s and Japan sensed vulnerability of industrial success and military vitality. The depression led to a collapse of international trade and it was fatal to Japan’s economy. While Japan was suffering from economic depression, Nazi Germany and fascist Italy practiced colonization by war against foreign countries such as France.
The colonization had allowed access to the raw materials, military supplies, etc. Believing that oversea expansion and colonization are the only effective solutions to the economic problems, Japan followed German military model which was colonization. Therefore, the Asian mainland, particularly China and Korea, became Japan’s primary target for expansion. Japan’s victories in war against China called Sino-Japanese war and war against Russia called Russo-Japanese war brought great benefit to Japan in terms of money, raw materials, territorial gains as well as industrialization and population growth. Benson, 77) Though worldwide economic depression incited the rise of Japan’s militarism, another factor that caused the militarism was that western threat to sign unequal treaties in the 1850s before the Restoration. (Pyle, 82) At the time of the West’s imperialism, Japan had lots of diplomatic disadvantages because of the West’s unequal treaties. These facts taught Japanese the realities of power politics that strong military force is necessary to strengthen the country and to enrich the colonial success.
Therefore, Japan strongly advocated militarism and imperialism and practiced the West’s same imperialistic force to Asian countries such as China, Japan and Russia. Japan’s attempt to overthrow the world with German and Italy grew large and in 1941, Japan attacked United States’ territory. Japan’s aggressive actions and German and Italy’s rage led to World War II that global attention was on Pacific.
Until the United State revenged back with much powerful military force on Japan’s mainland, it seemed to be that Japan’s power and military force is predominant. However, the United State not only incurred massacre of Japanese citizens but also destroyed every buildings, structures, military base, etc. It was the beginning of collapse of imperialism and militarism of Japan which eventually led to demilitarization and disarmament. At the same time, Japan’s colonies such as Korea were emancipated from Japan’s armed force.
After the surrender of Japan, new constitution was established which unlike the Meiji Constitution took short time and Japan’s political system as well became democratized. (Benson, 222) In early 1930s and the 1940s, the rise of militarism of Japan seemed to be successful in colonizing other foreign countries and overthrowing the world, however, militarism of Japan was the eventual reason that led to collapse of Japan’s domination.
Japan’s militarism that rooted from Meiji period where Japanese were under pressure of western powers, economic depression which made Japan to suffer from deficiency of money, raw material, military supplies, etc, Germany and Italy’s influence of idea of colonization which made Japan realize that colonization is the effective solution to the economic problems, was therefore a failure. And the United States’ military intervention in Japan not only led to prevent Japan from relapsing into the past system of military expansion and fascism but also made unable to restore its military power and past political system.