Japan’s road to militarism commenced immediately after the topple of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration during 1868, as well as the Meiji oligarch’s embracing of a policy of fukoku kyohei. Even though,the Meiji oligarchs confirmed restraint in on-look expressions of militarism and imperialism in the early period of the Meiji era from 1868 to 1890, this does not show they disapproved the goals of foreign growth and military development. They initially paid attention to modernization and financial development to get along with Western industrial powers before they advance towards taking vital measures to expand Japan’s impact in foreign matters. The oligarch’s take on Saigo’ Takamori’s advice to attack Korea in 1873 depicts this philosophy. Even though, the Meiji oligarch did not oppose principally with Saigo’s suggestion, they carefully decided against the attack because of its extreme expense. They also considered the need to major on economic modernization, and the anticipated negative response from Western powers. The Meiji’s initial inclination toward militarism and imperialism is despicable by the Conscription Law of 1878, which necessitated male to active roles in the military for at least three years and reserve role for extra four years, and by various territorial possessions in the 1870s, for instance he Ryukyu Islands, and Kurile Islands (Serfati, 2003).
Early Meiji authority regarded Japan as intimidated by western imperialism, and among the major motivations for the Fukoku Kyohei ruling was to enhance Japan’s financial and industrial bases, so that powerful military could be put up to guard Japan against outside threats.
Domestic concerns within premature Meiji Japan also necessitated for a powerful military. The premature Meiji authority exposed to internal uprising, for instance the Saga Rebellion and Satsuma Rebellion, and various upcountry peasant revolts.
Japanese militarism and imperialism gradually advanced for five main reasons. Even though, all five reasons were present from the initial stages of the Meiji era to the start of war in China in 1937, the corresponding significance of these reasons varied owing the time (Serfati, 2003). The top two reasons, Japan’s aspiration to be a Western-style imperialist authority and Japan’s worry for its security and protection, took on important duties in development of militarism until the end of the Russo-Japanese conflict 1905. The subsequent two reasons, Japan’s string faith in its leadership position for Asia and Japan’s recurrent provocations by Western powers, resulted in a growth of militarism and imperialism from 1905 up to 1930s. The last reason, Japan’s wish to safeguard its economic interests, enhanced in significance as Japan encountered the decade of the 1930s (Serfati, “Militarism and imperialism in the 21st century”).
Western imperialism acted a big role in an essential part in Japan’s hostility towards foreign nations. In some instances, Japan pursued the examples of the Western imperialist countries, and in other instances, Japan required frustrating or protecting against the activities of Western authorities. The inflexible and provocative acts of the imperialist Western countries toward Japan offered a good environment for Japan’s proceed toward militarism and imperialism, which eventually led to World War II (Serfati, “Militarism and imperialism in the 21st century”).
Aspiration for Imperialism
The Meiji authorities wanted to make a first-rate country, which encompassed the prestige and power linked with foreign defensive possessions. In the 19th century, the Western authorities of Britain, Germany, America, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, as well as Italy were involved in various territorial possessions, occasionally through military ways. Having knowledge of the long history of Western imperialism, which commenced during the 16th century, the Meiji oligarchs yearned to join the Western authorities in claims for rights and civil liberties in other Asian nations. On the other hand, the oligarchs recognized that the nation ought to modernize and reinforce its military before it tried to assert its quest to the Western authorities (Kelly, “Causes of Cold War”).
Although Japan had been reinforcing its military for many years, Japanese authorities recognized in 1895 that the nation still had not attained the same rank as the imperialist Western authorities. Even though, Japan triumph in the Sino-Japanese War during 1894-95 and consequently got hold of Formosa and obligated China to settle a huge indemnity, Japan could not face other Western authorities when Russia, Germany, and France obligated Japan in the Triple Intervention to surrender the Liaotung Peninsula acquired in the conflict. This exposed Japan to a sharp increase in military spending between 1895 and 1904.
Owing to Japan’s overreliance of external trade, the global depression that commenced in 1929 led to great economic difficulties for the Japanese citizens. This great global depression emerged on the soon after the devastating Kanto earthquake in 1923 and financial stagnation in the 1920s, which targeted affected farmers and laborers in small shops. During the 1930s, financial purposes for Japan’s imperialism got strong in order to guarantee continued external trade (Kelly, “Causes of Cold War”).
Financial growth necessitated high value export markets for Japanese textiles and various commodities. Various Asian nations, specifically China, offered the most excellent market opportunities for Japanese export commodities, therefore, the Japanese authority required to make sure that this trade interference by their acquisition of commercial and transportation rights in China. Japan’s financial system also needed import of raw materials to gather for its manufacturing factories.
Manchuria’s vast land area and enough natural resources for instance iron and coal offered an instance solution to Japan’s overpopulation concerns and its desire for raw materials to supply its huge industries, which specialized on military equipment manufacture. Japan captured Manchuria in 1931 in search for raw materials. Japan then advanced into various in south Asia to guarantee enough raw materials to sustain its self-sufficiency. For instance, Japan required oil from Dutch East Indies to sustain its industry and military supplies.
Japan’s road to imperialism was inevitable. Japanese recognized they would attain an advantageous level to renegotiate the trade agreements, and be less probable to face impositions, if they take on western ways. This is for instance, imperialism, industrialization, militarization, as well as modernization. Japan underwent various changes to cope with the Western powers.
In Meiji restoration, Shogun was obligated to surrender power and officially handed to the Emperor Mutsuhito. His time in power finally called “Meiji.” After Japan was westernized, it quickly started to work on drafting a constitution. It also started government reforms, whereby Japan’s bicameral legislature came in place in 1890 following soon until the end of World War II.
Economic reforms took place to abolish feudalism and currency adopted in 1872. Support for external trade was stimulated. Extension and support for industrialization, this led to development factories. There were also land reforms.
Military reforms: Prior to the Meiji era, Armies were operated by local daimyo and, therefore, submissive to a central authority. During the Meiji era, sophisticated army as well as navy put in place, which were trustworthy to the Japanese authority. It used Prussia as major model. Japan had a strong belief that if it was to be regarded seriously by Western authorities, and was to keep away from China’s fate, Japan would have to contend militarily. Conscription of 1873 required all men to take roles for three years after reaching twenty-one (“Japanese militarism”).
In social reforms, universal obligatory elementary education came in place. Universities built and many laws westernized. Social changes led to the adoption of architecture, fashions, music, as well as literary styles. Variation of intellectual and political ideas was encouraged. In addition, there was enhancement of independence and empowerment of women. All this reforms led to Japan’s imperialism.
Imperialism of Japan was because of lack of fertile land for its agricultural activities. It has also had to establish markets for finished commodities. Japan required raw materials for its vast industries. Population explosion as well response to Western imperialism led Japan to embrace imperialism. Japan too felt that it was the icon of the Asian countries.
Faith in Leadership of Asia
Japan had several leaders who made the country believe that they were the leaders of the Asian region. This leadership believes made Japan resistant. They could not watch their colonization as their fellow countries by the west. Emperor Meiji, alongside with other leaders such as ea-Chofu, Satsuma and Tosa Samurai brought Japan to the idea f imperialism. These leaders brought several changes in japan. They boosted by the fact that the entire nation was civilized as a whole. During the Edo era of 1603 to 1868, Japan had already made several technological advances that were almost matching those of some western countries. It was that Japan was, in fact, the most civilized country before the Edo era. Its slow civilization made it to be surpassed by the western countries (Halevi, n.d).
The militaristic attitude of Japan got a boost when its government felt the need for defense against the entrusted Russians and other western countries. Since western countries such as Russia had more advanced military technology, Japan had fears that an invasion was beckoning. To add on this, Japans neighbor, China was so weak on both the economy and defense. Japan knew that in case of an invasion on the Chinese, and then Japan could be at risk too. The western country could easily extend the invasion to the Japanese. The father of the modern Japan, Yamagat Arimoto, had his ideas in place. He directed that Japan should not only protect sovereignty, but it should also take advantage of acquiring influence and control over its borders. The move led to japans control over Korea and Liaotung Peninsula in the Southern Manchuria after its victory in the Sinno-Japanese war. Finally, the provocations of the west towards Japan began almost immediately (Serfati, 2003).
Provocation by the West
After several theories of Darwin, philosophers such as Herbert Spencer contributed in the overall imperialism that took place in the 20th century. They both agreed on theories that depicted the society as part of the environment. They went further to make people believe that survival could only fit the fittest. The rules and theories of fairness did not reign. This led to a lot of racism by the west towards the Asians. This led to a dire need of protection by the Japanese. Though Japan was more civilized than Asian countries, ignored by the west, Japan got the same treatment that the fellow countries in the Asian region got. Regarding them, as being better was not an option by the west.
The western countries provoked Japan in a series of events that finally led to its imperialism. This happened between 1850 and 1930. Japan signed several treaties that undermined their rights. The treaties signed with the Americans, Russians and Holland placed extreme restrictions on Japanese. Among the worst of the rules was the rule of extraterritoriality. This rule protected foreigners in Japan to be under the jurisdiction of Japan’s law. The treaty of Washington Conference was even worse. It unfavorably ruled a battleships ratio of 5:5:3 for Britain’s, Americans, and the Japanese respectively. The provocations finally felt at a maximum when the Russians tried to enter some Japan’s territory. This led to the Russo-Japanese war that marked the beginning of the imperialism. This was a major element in the imperialism of Japan (“Imperialism: a pathfinder for Ms. Austin's Classes”).
The Russian encroached Japan in the late 19th century. A Russian fleet arrived at Port Arthur in 1897. After three months, the Japanese agreed to lease Port Arthur, Talienwen and wares surrounding it to Russia. On the agreement, extension of the lease was on a mutual understanding. The Japanese anxiety grew when the Russian developments were suspicious. The Russian developments included the railway line to Port Arthur. The railway line ran all the way from Harbin via Mukden. Inroads to Korea also appeared a move by the Russians to consolidate their position on holding onto Port Arthur and its surrounding waters. However, the Japanese did not wait. A strike took place just before the railway became operational.
The Boxer rebellion ensued. Convoys from both the Russians and the Japanese were end to solve the crisis. This led to the Japanese sending an army to the region. Their aim was to protect their railway from the troops send by the Qing emperor and the participants of the Boxer Rebellion. The Qing’s group did not succeed in the war. The Russian army was overwhelming to them. It led to the ejection of the Qing’s troop from Manchuria. The Russian troop settled and strengthened their position. The Japanese did not believe in their strength against the Russians and decided on further negotiations.
Ito Hirobumi, a Japanese spokesperson, was send to do further negotiations. His move was simple. He proposed letting the Russian take control over Monchuria in exchange of control over the northern side of Korea. It is notable that, before this, Japan had entered an agreement with Britain called the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Within the agreement, it was stated that incase any nation joins Russia to fight Japan, and then the British will join the war on the Japanese side. The agreement meant to profit Britain by their full acquisition of the Russian Pacific seaport and Port Arthur. Since the Russians could not count on Germany and France, Japanese self believe grew on this fact. They had someone who could help them. This led to their hostility against the Russian on the same issue.
Japan issued a document that contained several suggestions that could form part of the suggestions. However, the suggestions were none in their favor, and the Russia could agree on everything demanded by the Japanese. Upon Russian response of refusal to take head Japanese baselines of negotiations, further formulas proposed by the Japanese could not succeed. On the 8th day of February in 1904, Japan declared war on Russia.
The war had begun even before the declaration news reached the Russian government. The Russians did not expect this. They could not believe that the Japanese could decide to stake such a stand. This led to five major battles.
The battle of Port Arthur commenced the same day that the war commenced. The Japanese attacked Russian ships badly. The engagements were so intense that the Japanese were ready to cross River Yalu in an attempt to take over Manchuria, just three months later. This prompted the second battle called the battle of river Yalu. The strategy of the Japanese was to gain ground on the control of Manchuria. However, the Russian had a different approach. Their strategy was to delay the war actions. This was a move that will see the Russians have enough time to see their reinforcement, which was travelling via the Siberian railway arrive. The delay came because of the incomplete railway line at Irkutsk. Two months later, the Japanese crossed the Yala River and the war intensified. This led to the blockade of the port in Arthur. This attempt aimed at denying the Russians the use of Port Arthur. As the war intensified, the Anglo-Japanese alliance came into assistance. The British offered intelligence support to the Japanese. Within no time, Port Arthur was under siege by the Japanese. After this siege, the Japanese took a central stage in the war. They harbored at the hilltops that overlooked the harbor. This enabled them to sink two Russian ships in succession. However, the Russian deployed their army and more battles ensued.
The Russian began the battle of Sandepu by a surprise attack on the Japanese near the town of Sandepu. This caught the Japanese unawares and the Russian almost broke into the Japanese territory. The battle of Mukden and the battle of Tsushima followed. By the beginning of 1905, the Russian conceded defeat. Signing of a treaty was the only thing to follow. This was a mark of imperialism.
Treaty of Portsmouth
It was at this time that the treaty of Portsmouth saw its signing. The delegates, Sergei Witte for Russia and Takahira Kogoro of Japan took part in the signing. In the treaty, Japan and Russia agreed to evacuate Manchuria leaving it to be within the sovereignty of the Chinese. Port Arthur and the Russian railway released to strategic resources. Sakhalin Island shared equally between Russia and Japan though the Japanese expected full control of the island.
In conclusion, the victory of Japan over Russia caused numerous political. The war being the first victory of an Asian country over a European country, everyone in the world got a new belief. The prestige and overview of Japan rose greatly. It became part of modern nations. However, the citizens of Japan still felt they had less than what they expected. Failure to acquire the whole island of Sakhalin and its monetary indemnity led to the Hibiya riots. The riots finally led to the collapse of the Katsura Taros cabinet on the 7th day of January 1906. Russia got her effects too. A revolution was waiting.
Citizens of Russia had no belief in their government. In 1917, there was unrest in the country from people who were against the government of Tsar Nicholas II. It all stated as chaotic affairs and military unrest. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyano, also known as, Lenin took advantage of the riots. He returned in Russia amid the chaos. On the arrest of Tsar, Lenin negotiated his return from his home in Switzerland. His return met a lot of support and drove him towards his ambitions of leading the Russians. On October of the same year, Lenin steered his political party and rose to stable popularity. He immediately planned a coup d’état after getting the support of 10 out of 12 the party leaders that were in existence. On October 26, Lenin took power from Tsar with barely a shot fired.