Japan - From Tradition to World War I November 10, 1988 from pages 401 - 433, Focus on Nations
Traditional Japanese society
The first Japanese probably got to the Japanese islands via the land
bridge in between Korea and the islands themselves. They originated from
China, and spread out among the islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and
Kyushu. At first they lived tribally, with many leaders, but eventually
merged under one leader - the Emperor, supposed to have been descended
from the Sun-Goddess Amaterasu. Because of this the Imperial family was
greatly respected and never even challenged, let alone overthrown, by a
There were four main groups in Japanese society. The first was the
daimyo. These were feudal lords, and they controlled territory and the
workers on it. Their territory was called a feif, and within it their word
was law. Traditionally, the strongest daimyo in the land became Shogun -
this is person that carries out the Emperor's wishes. The Emperor himself
had no real political power.
The second group were the sumarai. These were professional warriors,
and they belonged to one specifc daimyo. They behaved in accordance with
the code of behaviour known as bushido, which bound them to be completely
loyal to their daimyo, and be willing to kill themselves instead of
suffering disgrace. When one daimyo went to war against another it was the
sumarais that actually fought.
The third group were the peasants. They paid high taxes to pay for the
extravagances of the daimyo and sumarai. Sometimes they revolted, angered
by the taxes. The fourth and last group were the merchants. Although they
were of the lowest status, they often became quite wealthy - they
increased their social status by marrying into sumarai families.
It was in 1543 that the first Europeans came into contact with the
Japanese. These were some Portugese traders which were blown off course.
Six years later Francis Xavier, a Jesuit missionary, arrived to introduce
Christianity. They made friends with powerful daimyo and this let the
religion prosper - this it did, and at one stage had 300 000 converts.
One of the daimyo who had "taken in" the Jesuits became suspicious of
them, seeing them as the advance guard of an invasion. This feeling he
gave to the Shogun, who thought that they were going to overthrow the
Emperor and the Shogunate. He issued edicts to prevent the practising of
Christianity in 1612 and 1613, but did not enforce them. He died in 1616,
and it was his son that had to do the job. He did not either, that is,
until 1637, when the city of Shimabara rebelled. Many of its inhabitants
were Christians, and the Shogun thought that the Portugese and their
religion were to blame. This resulted all nations except the Dutch being
banned from trading, and then they were only allowed to call once a year.
This had the effect of cutting Japan off from the rest of the world,
and this isolationism was to last for 250 years. The Shogunate were
worried that the Europeans would invade, or that some of their subject
daimyo would get hold of foreign weapons and rebel. The Shogunate also
banned Japanese citizens from leaving the country, and if they got away,
came back, and were caught, then they were put to death. This isolationism
was called the "bamboo curtain".
cut off - only info from Dutch. Called this info "rangaku". Interested
in astronomy, medicine and military science, but did not get much stuff
from Dutch. So when the IR came, the Japs stayed the same.
Increased European Interest
More and more interest, esp. the Russians, English and Americans. A Russian
ship waited months in a port for an invitation - ignored, and left.
Americans wanted to have relations because - useful as a coaling station and
supply depot; large potential trading partner; govt. wanted to protect
its citizens if they were shipwrecked; wide field for Christianity.
The Perry Visit
Fillmore (US president) told Commodore Matt Perry to visit, with 4
gunboats. carried a letter from Fillmore - asked for all in point 2.
Landed at Edo Bay in July 1853, and demanded that the letter be taken to
the Emperor. Japanese were awed by his power and authority - ships whipped
Japanese versions. Realised that refusal was impossible - would provoke a
war. Perry said he would come back in a year or under.
When Perry arrived Shogun had political hassles - was insecure - wanted
to reject Americans, but couldn't cause of war fear - if he didn't his power
would lessen. Tried to share responsibility; asked other daimyo for
advice. Split response, so agreed to Americans but did up coastal defenses.
Parry came back - defenses would have been useless anyway, as was
resistance. Signed after negotiation the treaty of Kanagawa.
The Treaty of Kanagawa
First treaty ever signed by Japanese with a Western nation. Opened two ports
- Shimoda and Hakodate - for trade and refuelling. Agreed to protect
shipwrecks. Accepted American Consul - first diplomat that Japan had had.
Marked the end of isolationism. Granted US most-favoured-nation: if more
rights were given to other countires then the US got them too.
This sparked treaties with Britain (Oct. 1854) and Russia (Feb. 1855).
Townsend Harris first Consul, started August 1856 - found Japanese to be
unfriendly and uncooperative. Could not enforce his position cause Perry
had pissed off. Was not put off and persuaded the Shogun to sign full
commercial treaty with the US - did this by showing Britain and France
to be dangerous, thru the Arrow War with China. Called Treaty of Edo:
opened 5 other ports to Americans, and a Consul at each port. Americans in Japan
could have religious freedom and subject only to American law. Started run
on the same sort of treaty with Russia, Britain, France and Holland.
Troubles for the Shogun
Enemies accused him of weakness, poor judgement and he had humiliated
Japan. Four big clans - Satsuma, Choshu, Hizen and Tosa - came together
and formed Sonno Movement: very anti-Tokugawa (Shogun family) amd anti-
foreigners. Demanded that the Shogun give his power back to the Emperor.
Lots of merchants supported this and gave big money to the movement.
Emperor did not agree with Shogun's decisions and did not sanction
treaties - asked Shogun to palace to explain them and why he had signed
them. Shogun's answers were shit and so the Emperor ordered him to get
rid of all aliens and close all ports. The Shogun did nothing because
this was impossible. Sonno Movement obeyed the Emperor, though, and the
Choshu clan shot at Americans in June 1863. Soon after the French and Dutch
were attacked, and an Englishman was killed. Retaliated by blowing away a town
and pilliaging Choshu fortresses. Japanese surrendered and the Emperor
The fall of the Tokugawas.
The Japanese were very humiliated by the surrender and blamed the blameless
Shogun. Support for the Sonno Movement went up and they built up their
military strength. In 1866 the Shogun died amd a year later so did the
Emperor. The new emperor was called Mutsuhito (soon Meiji - enlightened
rule). Sonno movement bullied Shogun to give power back to the Emperor;
he did so but kept his lands. Sonnos were not satisfied and in 1868
racked his land. battled, but lost - Shogun was lost permanently.
The Meiji Restoration
The Emperor now head of State. Still young - didn't want to make
decisions by himself. Appointed approx 100 men who carried out his will:
most daimyo and sumarai from Sonno Movement. Young and of high ability -
with their help Meiji produced his reforms.
Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters
decided by public discussion.
All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the
administration of affairs of state.
The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall
each be allowed to persue his own calling so that there may be no
Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon
the just laws of nature.
Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the
foundations of imperial rule.
Japan enters the modern world
Last point showed that Japanese ready to get rid of anti-foreign attitudes
and to moderise, westernise and industrialise. Realised that they had to
adopt Western ways or be trampled, like the Chinese.
Early 1870s conscription introduced, regardless of class. Angered many
sumarai - thought military was for the elite. Also worried about their
social position - the new govt. did not expect them, need them, or want
them to be loyal to a daimyo - dismissed with a pension in 1869. Pension
was not enough and was dropped in 1876; a lump sum payment was made. In
the same year the govt. stopped them wearing 2 swords to show rank -
this REALLY pissed them off and they rebelled in 1877. This was put down
by the soldiers from the new army.
New army had foreign, modern weapons and foriegn instructors. Used
French model first, but then switched to the German one.
Based on the British model, with English ships and English officers (at
first). Big bases at Kure, Sasebo and Yokosuka.
Firstly, got foreign economists to give advice - a decimal currency came
into being and many banks too. Heavy industry slow to get going, but
lighter offfffff! - soon import raw materials, refine it and process it,
and export it all over the place.
Shipping took off - export market up, so with shipping. In 1885 the Japanese
got their own company - the Japan Mail Line. Mostly Japanese crews.
Railroads constructed - first in 1872; by 1900 6500 kms of track. in
1871 postal and telegraph services were intorduced.
Many companies were at first controlled by the govt - it only had the
funds to start a company. Economy up - richer citizens. In the 1880s the
govt. privatised very cheaply, and the new companies formed themselves
into Zaibatsu - main feature was "no price wars". The Zaibatsu knew that
that owed a lot to the govt. and so supported it well.
The restructuring of government
Meiji Restoration brought the end of Feudalism - from 1869 the daimyo
started releasing their power and lands to the state, which led to there
being one all-powerful centralised government. As compensation got a
pension and were allowed to stay for a while as governors.
Soon the land was split into "shires" and mayors appointed. Most daimyo
The Japanese constitution
authoritarian for 10 years+; in 1881 a constitution and parliament by
1890. Popular decision. 1882 Ito Hirobumi went os to study constitutions
so he could advise - favoured German one in the end. Delivered in Feb
1889. Handed down personally be Emperor to PM - shows gift to people,
not reaction to action.
Emperor head of state, commander-in-cheif of the military, fully
responsible for foreign affairs. Could veto legislation, or make
legislation of his own. Cabinet responsible to him - all made him centre
of the universe. Thought to be OK because Emperor supposed to be divine.
New parliament - Diet. Could be dissolved and appointed at will by the
Emperor. Two houses - House of Reps and House of Peers. Peers was Upper,
appointed by Emperor for life. Mainly for review, made up mainly of
former daimyo. Reps - more important, 300 elected by 1% of the pop. for
a 4-year term. No power over the budget.
Emperor, when ruling, relied lots on men of the Restoration, called
genro. Big influence, but to official positions.
Education and the state
good students sent os for better tuition and qualifications. When they
came back they entered jobs and taught the new generation how to do it.
1871 - Ministry of Education formed to organise education system. 1872
they said 4 years primary was a right. PS's all over the country, and
soon HS and univerities too - UOT opened 1877.
lots of Western subjects - kids pushed hard. Soon most literary rate in
Asia. Kids taught to admire Emperor and to act in interests of nation.
Individualism discouraged and patriotism, service to the state and a lot
of respect for authority encouraged.
Reform of the law
Felt humiliated at foreigners exempt from Japanese laws - implied that their
own law was inferior. Imporved until foreigners respected it and
persuaded them to take back their priveliges. Started with Judicial
Dept, formed 1871. By 1899 all priveliges taken back.
Foreign policy: Japan's interest in China
Meiji Restoration brought Japanese into contact with many other nations,
including China. China traditionally had superior attitude to Japan -
Japanese decided to change it. China didn't accept Western technonogy - was
beaten by Westerners heaps. Japan didn't want to miss the action.
1871 - made the Treaty of Tientsin - gave trading ports to both and
made tourists legal. Significant cause China saw Japan as an equal for
the first time. Japanese didn't get a "most-favoured" status - this pissed
The Liuchiu Islands
Both countries claimed them - when Liuchiu sailors shipwrecked they were
killed by the Taiwanese and Japan claimed compo. China disagreed, saying
that people from both islands were theirs and it was internal. This is
in 1871. Japanese responded - attacked Taiwan - China backed down and paid.
Japanese withdrew, in 1879 formally annexed Liuchius - renamed the Okinawa
Prefecture of Japan.
Korea under Chinese control for 100's years. Japan wanted it - weak and
backward, ready for development by a expanding nation. Japan worried
that Russia wanted it too - bad because Japan could not have it, and it
would threaten Japan's security. Decided to get in first by taking away
Chinese influence and replacing it with theirs.
Tried to get diplomatic relations in 1868 - failed. Tried again 1875 -
failed. Threatened war - Koreans backed down. Signed Treaty of Kanghwa:
established relations, opened 3 trading ports, Japan recognised Korea as
a separate nation (Korea did not). China pissed off by Japanese.
Japan more and more in Korean affairs - China less and less. Matters to
a head in 1894 - China na Japan sent troops to Korea during rebellion.
Japan tried to force Korea to independence - China angry, and fought.
The Sino-Japanese war, 1894-95
China losers. Japanese shoved Chinese out of Korea, crossed Yalu River into
Manchuria. By Nov. 94 had got Port Arthur. Navy smaller, but more modern
and efficient. Chinese fleet corrupt (little ammunition). Surrendered
Signed treaty April 95 - China acknowledged Korea as a separate country,
gave over Liaotung Peninsula, Pescadores Islands and Taiwan, four more
trading ports, Japan got "most-favoured" nation, 200 million taels.
Japan got much international prestige, only non-western world power.
More involved in Korean politics, miltiary in Japan got to the top of
government - strong military attitude, ensured only generals & admirals
could serve as ministers of the army and navy. China's corruption and
weakness exposed to the world.
The Triple Intervention
Russia, France and Germany asked Japan to give back the Liaotung
Peninsula for 30 million taels. Said that Japanese on Peninsula an obstacle
to future peace.
Japan could not refuse - other powers too strong. Shit off by it -
bitter toward them, esp. the Russians as they knew them to be to blame.
The Boxer Rebellion
8 nations sent troops to help China crush it - Russia and Japan too.
When fighting over, withdrawal began - Russia did not move from
Manchuria. Japan saw motives - wanted it. Formed part of the Trans-
Threat to Japanese - wanted a western ally to be a backup. English wanted an
ally too - needs met and Anglo-British Alliance formed. Signed Jan 1902:
agreed that if the other was attacked by another power then the first
would remain neutral. If either attacjed by 2+, the other would join in.
Term was 5 years - renewed 1905, 1911, ended 1922.
Put back pride taken away by Triple Intervention, also gave Japan free
hand in Korea as the Russians would have to fight Britain as well.
The Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05
Japanese felt confident with new alliance - offered to recognise Russian
interests in Manchuria if Russia recognised Japanese interests in Korea.
Russians rufused - thought themselves to be better. Russia still wanted
Feb 1904, Russian & Japanese forces into Korea. Feb 8 - Japanese ships attacked
Russian ones in Port Arthur. Russians whipped - Feb 10 war declared.
Both sure of winning - Russians bigger, limitless manpower,
but poorly equipped and inadequate lines of supply. War unpopular with
citizens. Japanese small but well equipped and led, good morale, close to
home, war popular with citizens.
Japanese navy won everywhere. Russian Pacific Fleet in trouble - Russians
sent Baltic Fleet to help. Took 8 months to get there and shit on in
under an hour. 38 out of 40 ships sunk; 5000 men dead.
Japanese army just as good - shoved Russians over Yalu River, back into
Manchuria. Seiged Russians for five months, until Russians surrendered.
Whole Russian country surrendered in March 1905.
The Treaty of Portsmouth
Japanese worried about drain on country war was having; same with Russia,
plus political hassles. US President Roosevelt offered peace, they took
it. Signed 5th Sept 1905. Russia recognised Korea, and gave Liaotung
Peninsula to Japan, control of the South Manchurian Railway, and half of
the island of Sakhalin. Japan got international prestige - 1st Asian
power to beat a European one and Russia backed off from Asia and went
for the Balkans instead.
Japs concentrated on Korea fully - pressured govt. into accepting Japanese
diplomatic and financial advisers in 1904. Then persuaded them to give
foreign affairs over to Japan: Ito Hirobum) - Koreans pissed off and gave
1907 - presented new demands to King: Japanese given executive and
legistlative powers. King rejected them and abdicated in protest. His
successor more pliable, and accepted. Koreans could not fight back - no
military strength. Korean patriot murdered Ito in 1909 - Japanese made it
into an outrage and formally annexed Korea. Renamed it "Chosen". Lasted
for 35 years.
The first world war
war declared - Japanese into it cause of Anglo-Japanese alliance. Decided
to go for it - targeted German possessions in China. Germans had
Kiaochow Bay, extensive mining/railway areas. Japanese demanded Germans to
leave - ignored. Attacked 1914 at Kiaochow - Port of Tsingtao.
Japanese vilolated Chinese rights - Chinese protested but were ignored.
Assulted Germans at Port, surrendered Nov. Attacked Tsing-tao-Tsinan
railway - captured it and the mining areas too.
Japanese got 'em all -
promised to give 'em back to China: found it hard.
Germans had Micronesia - made of Marshalls, Marines,
Carolines. Japanese conquested and got em - while Australians got southern
Japanese decided to exploit weak Chia. Europeans too busy with war to
care, protest or intervene, so foreign minister presented demands
(economical/political) on 18 Jan 1915. Five groups.
SHANTUNG: required to agree with Japanese decisions involving
Germans. Was to open new cities 4 trade, allow raiulroad extension to
Chefoo. No foreign power to be able to lease territory in the
SOUTH MONGOLIA AND EASTERN INNER MONGOLIA: Port Authur lease
to go from 25 to 99 years. Japanese mines in the area (with Japanese
workers) and have a monopoly on railroad construction.
YANGTSE VALLEY: Japanese get joint control of powerful Han Yeh Ping
Company, to be able to build railroad system, veto on foreign mining
CESSIONS: no Chinese territory to be leased to another power.
GENERAL: only Japanese financial/political/military advisers could
be employed; China to use Japanese police in vital areas; buy 50% of
weapons from Japanese. Fukien province reserved for Japanese investment; Japanese
could build schools/hospitals/churches throughout China.
Chinese bitter - head of state had no foreign support and was
helpless himself - stalled for long as possible. May 7 - Japanese impatient,
48-hour amnesty. Accepted 9th May 1915. Day called Day of
Humiliation. Held demonstrations, boycotted Japanese goods.