The impact of World War 1 on Japanese development in the early 20th century

Topics: World War II, Japan, World War I Pages: 7 (2516 words) Published: January 5, 2010
'Assess the impact of World War 1 on Japanese development in the early 20th century.'"World War 1 and its' aftermath, together with the great Tokyo earthquake of 1923, brought profound changes in social, intellectual, and urban consciousness." (Jansen 496)World War 1 caused many changes in the nation of Japan, both positive and negative. The whole infrastructure of the country altered immensely during the early 20th century, even when compared to the drastic modernisation of the Meiji Restoration. In the first quarter of the 20th century Japan had no less than 3 different emperors, and subsequently experienced 3 different historical eras. July 1912 saw the death of the much exulted Emperor Meiji, his successor (called the Taisho Emperor) was succeeded in turn by his son Hirohito (Showa Emperor) after only 10 years. This was largely due to mental illness. Despite the Taisho era lasting only 14 years in total (Hirohito was only acting as regent from 1922 until his father's death in 1926), due to the First World War a tremendous number of changes came in to place during this time. Not least the impact of the First World War on the Japanese Economy.

Before the war broke out in 1914 Japan was already miles ahead of any of the other Asian nations in the process of modernisation. Between 1900 and 1913 Japan's share of total world manufacturing output grew from 2.0 to 2.7%. (Brown 99) This was a substantial amount considering that the exports were still largely traditional products. This was possible mainly due to trade agreements with the United States and Great Britain. These agreements meant that Japan had more options on how to import the raw materials required for heavy industry. When the war began in 1914 Japanese industry suffered greatly as it's financial and commercial matters (many of which had been settled via London) were sent into disarray. The foreign trade slumped up until early 1915. Soon after this had taken effect it became apparent that the war-forced severance of the trade links could be a blessing in disguise. European and American goods manufactured in modern factories were now difficult to come by in the Asian and African Markets. Japan, with its' modernised industrial processes, was able to step into the breach. "A spate of new firms appeared in rapid succession; stock prices soared; and the whole country rang with the sound of hammers at work on new factory construction." (Nakamura 47) Much of the iron, steel and coal imported was absorbed by the flourishing ship building industry. As the national merchant fleet expanded over the war years up to 87 percent of Japan's exports and imports could be carried by her own ships. This increased invisible income, shipping services to other countries contributed to this. Enhanced profits were ploughed back into development, this meant that overall industrial investment increased 17 fold during the war years. The percentage increase in heavy industry output during the period spanning the war years and beyond is shown in table 1.

Table 1 Japan: shares of real manufacturing output (%)Output products19001920Food Products47.230.6Textiles25.527.8Metals1.47.8Machinery2.913.7Chemicals9.08.9Others14.011.2Source: Franks, P. (1992) Japanese Economic Development, London, Routledge, p.55Despite the decline in industrial output after World War 1 the industrial expansion during the war years had a long term effect on the main areas of manufacture in Japan. The slump in manufacturing output after the war although predicted was greater than expected. The re-opening of trading routes and inter-continental trade between the US and Europe caused near devastation to the previously dominant Japanese trade. The changes in manufacturing that took place during the First World War (factories vs. traditional methods) lended themselves to larger industrial organisation. Many large firms were emerging as leaders in their fields, of these the Zaibatsu (large family controlled conglomerates...

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