Japanese Militarism

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Japanese Militarism The recent spat between Japan and China is the latest in a series of outbursts between
the two nations. What started as a Chinese
objection to Japanese interpretation of history
especially with reference to the latter’s acts against
China during the fourth quarter of the 19th century
and the first half of the 20th century, has now
snowballed into a major controversy which could
threaten the fragile relationship between them.
The current episode started simmering when the
Chinese began circulating an online petition
protesting against Japan’s bid for a permanent
seat at the UN Security Council. A series of
violent protest rallies were held in many Chinese
cities. The protestors stoned vital Japanese
business units as well as the Japanese embassy
and consulates. Japan demanded an apology from
China for these attacks while China asked Japan
to tender an apology for the wrong interpretation
of history in its textbooks.
The latest spat between Japan and China is related
to the former’s attitude to war-time history. The issue
has brought into sharp focus the policy of Militarism
pursued by Japan in the last quarter of the 19th
century and in the first half of the 20th century.
In this essay, we will analyse as to what exactly
was the policy of Militarism? Why did Japan
pursue it? What were the stimulants and the
consequences of such a policy of Militarism?
Origin of Militarism
One of the most important events that dominated
the last quarter of the 19th century was the rise
of Japan as a great military power. The Meiji Era
or the Period of Transition (1867-1894) is

considered to be the most important period in
the history of modern Japan. This period saw
the emergence of Japanese nationalism and its
attendant Militarism. The Shogunate came to an
end. Now the power, once again, came into the
hands of the Emperor Motsuhito, who became
the progenitor of the Meiji Restoration.
During this period of transition (1867-1894),
Japan experienced some revolutionary changes.
In 1867, a constitution was proclaimed. She had
successfully revised the unequal treaties signed
with foreign powers and as a consequence, she
gained commercial and customs autonomy. Japan
reorganised its educational system based on
foreign methods. If France provided the model
of organisation, America supplied the basic
curriculae. The period saw the rapid development
of the navy, rail network, postal system, banking
system, industry, currency, agriculture, etc. The
army was modernised and its weapons systems
were upgraded. Under the guidance of Yamagata,
the nation’s military strength was divided into
(a) Regular Army, (b) Reserves, and (c) National
Army. It was organised on the model of the
European military system.
In short, the Meiji Era laid the foundation for
the emergence of Militarism. It gave Japan the
required strength, support, security, and above
all, the supreme confidence to unleash her forces
of imperialism and Militarism. There are several
factors that fostered the development of
Japanese nationalism and Militarism.
Factors that fostered the development of
Militarism
Samurai tradition: T he Samurai, the
June 2005 3

MBA Education & Careers

I N D I A A N D T H E W O R L D : E SSAYS O N I MPORTANT I SSUES trigger-happy warrior class of Japan, served the
Shogunate with unconditional loyalty. The long
period of peace did not lessen the martial zeal of
the Samurai. But the Shoguns encouraged the
Samurai to pursue cultural pursuits and learn the
history of the land, which widened their mental
horizon. This actually had a very different effect:
the learning impressed upon them that the
Emperor was the spiritual head of the nation and
the Shoguns were the usurpers. This was
responsible for the end of the Shogunate and the
beginning of the Meiji Era. The Samurai tradition
incited nationalism which, in turn, promoted
Militarism. These two sentiments are...
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