Militarism in Japan saw many ups and downs. Empire of Japan followed an ideology for militarism called “Ninon gunkoku shugi” which propagated the theory that the political and social life of the nation should be dominated by militarism. The strength of the military was considered to be the strength of nation. In 1927 Showa Emperor Hirohito was enthroned and it was a revival of Showa and Shintosism. It was a period of enlightened peace and harmony. This period lasted till 1989 but with a few years break during before and during the WWII.

Pre War Period

People found it easy to be obedient as it was in their blood. For years the Japanese were ruled by Emperors who ruled well. They glorified the Emperor and were against western influence. Western ideals were considered greedy, bourgeoisie and individualistic. Self sacrifice was a noble quality. Conflict was not the way to resolve problems; compromise was their way. What happened in 1930 was a sudden reversal of all that Japan stood for. Fanatical nationalism, blatant militarism, anti-democratic, anti-liberal activities were supported by the young navy and army officers.  In the 1930s for almost a decade there was comeback of right-wing patriotism. The democratic forces were weakened and domestic violence increased. There was an attempt to assassinate the Emperor in 1932. Military aggression in foreign countries increased.

Military Aggression

The most important military aggression took place in September 1931 and it was called Manchurian incident.  Guandong Army conspirators sabotaged few meters of railway track near Mukden belonging to South Manchurian Railway Company and called it an attack on Japanese by the Chinese. They did not wait for any intervention of the League and took this opportunity to capture Mukden. The military was so powerful that the press supported them completely . The actual facts of the sabotage were not publicised therefore the rest of Japan did not know what had happened. When China approached the League, they sent a commission to Manchuria but it was too late. The League could not take any stern action on Japan and the militarism grew. Japan had support from Germany as well. Militarism in Japan and Germany contributed for the start of WWII.

Time Line

  • 1931 – The Manchurian incident
  • 1932 – Shelling of Manchukuo and attack on Japanese monks
  • 1933 – Japan leaves League of Nations
  • 1934 – On December 29th Japan withdrew from Washington Naval Treaty
  • 1936 – Failed coup of February 26th. On November 25th Japan signed its first pact with Germany. On December 3rd occupies Tsingtao.
  • 1937 – Battle of Lugou Bridge on July 7th. Beijing is captured on July 13th. Nanjing is occupied on December 13th and is followed by Nanjing massacre.
  • 1938 – Battle of Taierzhuang fought on March 24th. Japan occupies Canton on October 21st.
  • 1940 – Hundred Regiments Offensive from August to September. Japan occupies French Indochina. On September signs Tripartite Pact.

By 1939 the small battles and skirmishes in Europe and Asia grew into big wars and became a war where all the countries took sides and was rightly called World War II. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th in 1941 was the precursor to the world’s first nuclear attack at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.