The Factors That Gave Rise to Japanese Militarism

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The Factors that Gave Rise To Japanese Militarism

Japan's political journey from its quasi-democratic government in the 1920's to its radical nationalism of the mid 1930's, the collapse of democratic institutions, and the eventual military state was not an overnight transformation. There was no coup d'etat, no march on Rome, no storming of the Bastille. Instead, it was a political journey that allowed a semi-democratic nation to transform itself into a military dictatorship. The forces that aided in this transformation were the failed promises of the Meiji Restoration that were represented in the stagnation of the Japanese economy, the perceived capitulation of the Japanese parliamentary leaders to the western powers, a compliant public, and an independent military.

The ground work for Japanese militarism was a compliant Japanese public. This pliant public was created through a variety of factors. Beginning in the 1890's the public education system indoctrinated students in the ideas of nationalism, loyalty to the emperor and traditionalist ideas of self-sacrifice and obedience. Thus ideas that were originally propagated to mobilize support for the Meiji government were easily diverted to form broad support for foreign militarism. Japanese society also still held many of the remnants of feudal culture such as strong confusion beliefs that stressed support for social order and lack of emphasis on individualist values. These values taught obedience not to a democratic but to the emperor; so the fact that the militaristic government of the 1930's ruled under the emperor meant that the Japanese were loyal to this government just as they had been to the government of the 1920's. So when Japan's militaristic government implemented programs characteristic of totalitarian governments such as strong media control, a thought police, and community organizations the public did little to protest. Shintoism provided a religious justification for...
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