Meiji Era & Modern Japan (1868-1912)

With the fall of Shogunates, the imperial restoration of Meiji Govt. came into power. The centuries old class division and Feudal System came to an end. Japan opened trade relations with USA and other Europeans powers.

Meiji Govt. has credit to enrich the country by promoting industry following industrial West, strengthen military, political institutions, and encouraging western culture in Japan. A constitutional Monarchy was established, recognizing the rights of people to own property etc. Japan entered in war with Chinese Empire in 1894-95 and with Russia in 1904-05 over Japan’s dominant interest in Korea. Victory of Sino-Japanese war, which secured Japanese control over Taiwan, South Manchuria and Korea, and Russo-Japanese War, gaining southern half of the Sakhalin moved Japan on the international forefront. It was the first victory of its kind over western country by Asian country in the World History.

Emperor Meiji, whose rule helped to guide the nation through dynamic decades of transformation, died in 1912 before the outbreak of world war I. Emperor Taisho who succeeded Emperor Meiji was in turn succeeded by Emperor Hirohito in 1926, marked the Showa era. The Showa Period (1926-1989) marked with growth of the nation’s industry and politically, the formation of a deeply rooted govt., but the worldwide depression unsettled the nation’s economic life. The influence in political parties declined. This quickly descended Japan into military aggression in China and resigning from League of Nations.

Nationalism and political oppression led Japan entered into war with US and allied powers in Asia and the pacific. Japan entered World War II and attacked on US (Pearl Harbor) in December 1941 and British bases in the pacific. Japan lost 3 millions people in war. A hundred and fifty cities were devastated by Allied bombing Tokyo being the worst effected. Japanese had to surrender under the clouds of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki dropped by US. Japan was placed under the allied control commission – military occupation by Allied troops chiefly USA. After Japan’s defeat, Korea made independent, Manchuria and Taiwan was returned to China. Japanese people renounced the war and pledged to uphold democracy and peace forever. In this period, various political and social reforms were carried out including renunciation of divine right of the emperor, freedom of speech and religion and right to vote without discrimination of sex, caste or creed. Agricultural land was redistributed to former tenants. Major Zaibatsu was dissolved. After 6 yrs of allied occupation, Japan regains full sovereignty and its domestic and political stability. With the support of USA and other nations, Japan was admitted to various international organizations, which enabled the country to participate in free multilateral international trade. Tokyo Olympics held in 1968 brought Japan renewed its recognition.

After a decade of postwar rehabilitation, Japanese economy surged ahead till mid of 1970; Japan became the second largest economy. IN 1985 Japan had the largest net external assets in the world. Japan became the leading manufacturer of cars and dominant producer of electronic products. The excess of the so called bubble economy in the late 1980 ended in the worst economic recession with other problems of falling birth rate, rapid increase in aging problems.

Despite a major stock market crash in 1990, from which the country has not yet fully recovered, Japan remains a global economic power and has recently begun to re-emerge as a strategic power, lending non-combat support to the Gulf War, the UN efforts to rebuild Cambodia, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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