BECK index

Imperial Japan 1894-1937

by Sanderson Beck

Japan's Growing Military 1894-1903
Japan's Victory over Russia 1904-05
Japan Between Wars 1906-14
Japan in the World War 1914-19
Japanese Progress 1920-30
Japan Takes Manchuria 1931-33
Japan's Militarism 1933-37

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
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Japan's Growing Military 1894-1903

Japan's Modernization 1800-1894

On March 28, 1894 two Korean agents assassinated the exiled Kim Ok-kyun in Shanghai. His body was taken back to Korea and cut into several pieces for display. Members of his family were also executed. Fukuzawa Yukichi blamed the Chinese for turning over his body and violating the Treaty of Tianjin. On June 2 the Japanese cabinet learned that Korea had asked Yuan Shikai to send Chinese reinforcements to help their government suppress the Tonghak rebellion. The Chinese sent 1,200 troops, but Japan’s General Kawakami Soroku reported that the number was 5,000. Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi approved a brigade, which was 2,000 men, but Kawakami sent a “combined brigade” of at least 7,000.

Ito proposed that after the rebellion was suppressed, Japan should send commissioners to help Korea reform their administration. Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu added that Japan should act unilaterally if necessary. The Chinese minister reported on June 12 their rejection of the plan because 1) Korea had quelled the rebellion, and China and Japanese forces were not needed; 2) Korea should reform themselves; and 3) the Treaty of Tianjin called for Japan and China to withdraw their troops after the disturbance was ended. On June 26 Japan’s ambassador Otori Keisuke told King Kojong that the government of Korea must be reformed. The next day the Japanese cabinet decided to demand that Chinese troops withdraw from Korea, ending Chinese sovereignty there, and they drew up a list of reforms for Korea. On July 3 Otori was assured that Korea was independent, and he proposed reforms in an audience with Kojong. On July 16 Japan made a treaty with Britain that ended the extraterritoriality of the unequal treaties in 1899; but the tariff restrictions did not end until the United States agreed in 1911.

On July 23, 1894 Japanese troops entered the palace in Seoul and forced King Kojong to sign an order expelling the Chinese and installing a reform cabinet selected by his father, the former regent. Captain Togo Nakagori defeated two Chinese ships and then sank the Gaosheng (Kowshing), which the Chinese had chartered from the British; more than a thousand lives were lost as the Japanese even shot those in two lifeboats. Japan declared war on China on August 1, and the Diet unanimously approved a special War Budget of 150 million yen. Yamagata Aritomo took command of the First Army, and on September 16 the Japanese infantry assaulted and captured P’yongyang, killing 2,000 Chinese soldiers and taking 600 prisoners while 180 Japanese died. Private Harada Jukichi was proclaimed a hero for opening the Gembu Gate, and a play about his exploit was later performed by the Kabuki Theater. The next day the Imperial Navy destroyed half of China’s twelve warships off the mouth of the Yalu River. The First Army drove the Chinese out of Korea on October 9 and crossed the Yalu fifteen days later; Yamagata set up civil administrations in Manchuria. General Oyama Iwao led the Second Army in an invasion of the Liaodong peninsula, capturing Dairen on November 6. Fifteen days later Port Arthur was attacked. James Creelman cabled to the New York World that for three days the Japanese troops had massacred the inhabitants. On November 22 Japan and the United States signed a treaty on commerce and navigation.

In February 1895 the Japanese Second Army crossed the strait and took over Weihaiwei on the Shandong peninsula, destroying the Chinese fleet. That month the Diet passed 100 million yen in supplementary military spending. Japan recorded that in the war against China 1,000 of their men were killed, and 5,000 were wounded; but they lost nearly 17,000 men to disease, most in Manchuria because of the cold weather. The military censored the Japanese press, and Reuters and the Washington Post were paid to publish pro-Japanese articles. The Japanese people generally favored the war, but the Christian Uchimura Kanzo, who founded the non-church movement, commented that what he thought was a justified war turned out to be “piratical.” The former general Tani Kanjo had argued for a limited military and thought the territorial gains were counterproductive.

On January 8, 1895 Minister Inoue Kaoru compelled King Kojong to proclaim that Korea had become independent of China. In the next two years more than 5,000 Japanese settled in Seoul. The Japanese cabinet refused to negotiate with anyone except Li Hongzhang. After a Japanese fanatic shot him under the eye at Shimonoseki on March 24, the Meiji emperor apologized. Japan agreed to a cease-fire but only after they occupied the Pescadores Islands; they signed a treaty with Li on April 17. China agreed to recognize Korea’s independence; to cede Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and the Liaodong peninsula to Japan; to open seven ports to Japanese trade; and to let Japan occupy Weihaiwei until China paid an indemnity of 360 million yen. Six days later notes from Russia, France, and Germany advised Japan to relinquish the Liaodong Peninsula, and Russia put its fleet on alert. Japan agreed on May 5. Meiji decreed in June that Japan would not interfere in Korea. The Diet approved a military build-up, and in the next five years annual military spending increased from 21 million yen to 133 million yen.

When Taiwan declared its independence in May 1895, Japan landed troops to disperse the Chinese. During a guerrilla war that lasted more than a year with 60,000 Japanese troops only 396 were killed in combat; but 10,236 Japanese died of malaria and other diseases, and more than 20,000 were sent home ill. Uncounted thousands of indigenous people were killed. In 1898 Kodama Gentaro became governor-general of Taiwan, and he appointed Goto Shimpei as civil administrator. Goto reformed land tenure, health, and sanitation while establishing railroads, a postal system, telegraph, and public services. Improvements in rice and sugar production helped the economy to prosper.

After Korea’s Queen Min expelled Pak Yong-hyo, General Miura Goro planned her assassination. On October 8 about thirty Japanese swordsmen, some wearing Korean uniforms, abducted the Regent (Taewon’gun) and then entered the palace where they killed Queen Min along with at least two others mistaken for her. King Kojong was detained in his quarters as the Regent regained control. Miura and others were recalled to Japan for a trial, but they were acquitted. Foreign Minister Saionji refused to let Komura Jutaro prevent the King from taking refuge in the Russian legation in February 1896. Kojong asked Russia to protect Korea in May, and Yamagata visited St. Petersburg for the coronation of Czar Nicholas II. Japan and Russia agreed to guarantee the independence of Korea with an equal number of troops.

Kanai Noburu pioneered the field of industrial economics, and he suggested that protective tariffs could prevent unions and socialism. His disciples led by Kuwata Kumazo founded the Organization for the Study of Social Policy in 1896. These economists opposed not only unbridled competition that increased differences between rich and poor but also socialism that obliterated capitalists; they wanted to maintain the current social harmony. Kuwata noted that the 19th century had accomplished political revolutions, and he predicted that the 20th century would accomplish economic revolutions. He lectured at Tokyo University and recommended regulating working hours, conditions, and female and child labor; protecting the interests of tenants; enacting poor relief laws; requiring workers’ insurance; using credit cooperatives to help small farmers; and enacting progressive taxes to reduce the burden on those with low incomes.

Kitasato Shibasaburo (1853-1931) studied under Robert Koch in Germany from 1885 to 1891. He prepared an anti-toxin for diphtheria and worked on one for anthrax. When he returned to Japan, Fukuzawa Yukichi helped him found the Institute for the Study of Infectious Disease. In 1894 Kitasato went to Hong Kong during an epidemic of bubonic plague. He discovered the bacilli for that as well as for dysentery and tetanus. When the Institute was incorporated into Tokyo Imperial University in 1914, Kitasato resigned and founded the Kitasato Institute.

Shibusawa Eiichi used steam power in his Osaka Spinning Mill plants, and in 1896 the Spinners’ Association he led persuaded the Government to abolish the import duties on raw cotton and the export duties on cotton cloth. These exports helped Japan import rice from Korea for its growing population. The Treaty of Shimonoseki enabled Japan to get iron and other ores from China, and the indemnity helped the Government subsidize the Yawata Iron and Steel Works which were started in 1897 and began production in 1901.

By 1896 the Ashio Copper Mine had caused so much deforestation that waters it polluted flooded villages and contaminated fields of 13,000 households, provoking a protest movement. Flood damage was estimated at 14 million yen, and three hundred people had died. The Furukawa Mining Company made many private settlements, and in May 1897 the Government ordered them to make changes to reduce the pollution. More flooding led to more mass marches, and on February 13, 1900 at Kawamata fifty marchers and six police were seriously injured as more than a hundred farmers were arrested. The trial found 29 people guilty of resisting officials; but the Tokyo Court of Appeals examined the pollution problems and found all the protestors innocent but three. Finally in 1974 the Government mediated a settlement in which Furukawa agreed to pay the pollution victims 1.5 billion yen.

Ito rewarded Itagaki Taisuke by making him Home minister in April 1896, and Hoshi Toru was sent to the United States as ambassador. The Progressives formed a larger coalition called Shimpoto as Okuma Shigenobu cooperated with Matsukata Masayoshi. Ito tried to bring these two men into his cabinet; but Itagaki objected, and Ito resigned on August 31. Matsukata became prime minister and made Okuma the Foreign minister. After a while the Progressives complained that Matsukata did not keep his promises, and Okuma resigned in November 1897. Matsukata could not win Liberal support and dissolved the Diet. Ito became premier again on January 12, 1898, but he could not get support from the Progressives or the Liberals either. Those elected on March 15 voted 247-25 against his land taxes and budget with a 35-million-yen deficit. Ito dissolved the Diet again in June and resigned. Ito and Saionji formed a new commission that compiled the Meiji civil code that was enacted in 1898. Their goal was to merge Japanese institutions with the best legislative theories from European laws, thus reassuring those nations giving up their extraterritorial courts in 1899.

Okuma and Itagaki merged their opposition parties into the Constitutional (Kenseito) party. On June 30, 1898 Okuma became prime minister with Itagaki as Foreign minister in the first party cabinet, and they won 260 House seats in the August election. However, the Army minister Katsura Taro and the Navy minister Saigo Tsugumichi caused the downfall of the cabinet. Education minister Ozaki Yukio was fired for warning that the influence of big business could result in a republic led by the companies Mitsui and Mitsubishi. The fall of the cabinet caused the Constitutional party to split with Itagaki’s Liberals and become the New Constitutional party while the Progressives called themselves the Real Constitutional (Kenseihonto) party.

Yamagata became prime minister in November. In 1899 the Nationalist Association (Kokumin Kyokai) was transformed into the Imperial Party (Teikokuto). Yamagata and Katsura formed an alliance with the former Liberals but did not give them any cabinet positions. In 1900 they expanded the House of Representatives to 369 members by adding more representatives from urban areas. Lowering the voting requirement from 15 yen to 10 yen increased the number of eligible voters from 502,000 in 1898 to 982,000 in 1900, and the secret ballot was adopted. They agreed to raise the land tax from 2.5% to 3.3%. Okuma organized the Anti-Land Tax Increase League, but Yamagata banned the organization and forbade discussion of the issue. Yamagata obtained 980,000 yen secretly from the Imperial Household and used it to buy votes to get his budgets and increased taxes passed. He also decreed imperial ordinances while the Diet was not in session. Politicians were excluded from civil service examinations, and the power of the Privy Council was expanded. By requiring that the Army and Navy ministers be in active service as well as from the top two ranks the military gained a powerful veto over the cabinet.

The Police Regulation of 1900 criminalized efforts to organize a union. The first recorded strike in Japan had been in 1886 when a hundred women walked out of a cotton mill in Yamanashi prefecture. In 1897 Takano Fusataro and Katayama Sen organized the Society for the Protection of Trade Unions. This movement led to the Association of Ironworkers, the Society to Reform the Railroads, and the Printers’ Association. Katayama and others responded to the new police law by forming the Social Democratic party, but within hours the Home Ministry closed it down. The party’s manifesto recognized a general trend in the world “to abolish the gap between rich and poor” and to secure peace in the world by means of “socialism and democracy.” In 1900 the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce commissioned a study of the conditions in factories and industrial slums that Kuwata worked on, and some regulations of mines and factories were eventually passed. Kotoku Shusui was a journalist and published Imperialism, the Monster of the Twentieth Century in 1901 and The Essence of Socialism in 1903. That year a comprehensive study of the conditions among factory workers described abuses.

Emilio Aguinaldo persuaded Chief of Staff Kawakami to ship 10,000 rifles, 6 million rounds of ammunition, and ten field guns to his Filipino independence movement, but the ship sank in a storm on July 26, 1899. During the Boxer Uprising in China the Japanese sent 8,000 troops to Tianjin while Taiwan’s Governor-General Kodama Gentaro planned to invade China at Amoy. When Japan’s cabinet believed that the Russians were going to withdraw their forces from Manchuria, they cancelled Kodama’s expedition. However, the Russians consolidated their position in Manchuria, and Yamagata resigned on September 11. Without Japanese aid Sun Yat-sen decided to disband his army of 20,000 in Guangdong. His friend Miyazaki Torazo was so disillusioned that he became a traveling minstrel and wrote the popular autobiography My Thirty-Three Years’ Dream.

After Uchida Ryohei reported on the Russians in Manchuria, Prince Konoe sponsored the People’s League to support imperialism and urge the cabinet to send troops to Korea, but ironically they were also restricted by Yamagata’s Peace Preservation Ordinance against political associations. Uchida became president of the secret Kokuryukai known in the West as the Black Dragon Society. The Japanese name refers to the Amur River as the border north of Manchuria they wanted with Russia. They circulated the pamphlet “On the Relative Merits of War and Peace Based on the Estimated War Potential of Japan and Russia.”

In September 1900 Ito formed the Seiyukai party (Friends of Constitutional Government) with the old Liberals and his bureaucrats, and the Emperor contributed 100,000 yen. Yamagata resigned the next month, and Ito became premier for the fourth time. The Seiyukai had a majority in the House of Representatives, but the House of Peers voted against Ito’s taxes. After he persuaded the Emperor to instruct them, they passed the tax bill unanimously. Hoshi was accused of financial scandals and was forced to resign from the cabinet in December, and a fanatic murdered him the next year. After financial disputes Ito resigned again in May 1901. A new era began as General Katsura became prime minister in June 1901, but Ito’s party would not pass the land tax increase to pay for naval expansion.

As early as 1895 Hayashi Tadasu had written in Jiji Shimpo that England had made alliances with Turkey and China to oppose Russia, and he suggested they would cooperate with Japan too. In May 1896 Russia and China made an alliance in case Japan attacked Russia, and they agreed to build a railroad across northern Manchuria. Japan and Russia agreed to give Korea financial aid and limit their troops there. In April 1898 the Russians and Japanese agreed to the Rosen-Nishi Convention, promising to preserve Korea’s independence. That year China leased the Liaodong peninsula and Port Arthur to Russia for 25 years. In November 1900 the secret Alexeieff-Zeng Agreement permitted Russia to keep troops in Manchuria and place a resident in Mukden, but it was reported by the London Times in January 1901.

Ito traveled to St. Petersburg hoping for reconciliation, but this only accelerated the negotiation with England. On January 30, 1902 Japan’s ambassador Hayashi signed an agreement in London to form an important alliance with the British. The treaty had six main points and was designed to make sure that no nation would join with Russia in a war against either of them. The open door to China was to be maintained, and no more acquisitions of Chinese territory were to be permitted. England recognized Japan’s freedom to act in Korea. The Anglo-German agreement on China remained, and the alliance was limited to the Far East. On April 8, 1902 Russia made a treaty promising China they would withdraw their troops from Manchuria in three stages over eighteen months.

Ito and Okuma opposed an increase in the land tax to pay for expanded naval construction. For the first time the House went four years without being dissolved and had an election in August 1902. Seiyukai won a large majority, and Katsura dissolved the Diet in December. Seiyukai won 384 of 476 seats in March 1903, but they agreed to let Katsura use loans for his navy build-up. Yamagata persuaded the Emperor to make Ito resign his party position and go back to being president of the Privy Council. Yamagata and Matsukata also joined the Privy Council, increasing their influence. The noble Saionji Kimmochi, who was president 1900-03, had studied in France for ten years and had taken up journalism with the Oriental Free Press in 1881. He succeeded Ito as party leader and was even more committed to parliamentary government. Katsura remained premier for four and a half years as the government united during the war with Russia. Konoe Atsumaro was president of the House of Peers from 1895 to 1904, and he sponsored the Common Culture Association to encourage study and contact with China. Konoe favored small military budgets and Korean independence, and he led a People’s Alliance that demanded the Russians withdraw from Manchuria.

In 1900 four years of primary schooling became compulsory and free for all children. Enrollment grew gradually until it became universal by 1905. Many of the textbooks were written by Fukuzawa. In the early 1890s more than eighty texts on ethics had been written, and in 1903 the Education Ministry published an official set of ethics textbooks.

Japan's Victory over Russia 1904-05

On April 8, 1903 Russia violated its agreement with China to withdraw troops in the second stage of evacuating Manchuria by transferring them instead to Port Arthur and the Chinese Eastern Railway. The British consul at Mukden reported that 30,000 Russian troops had become “railway guards” along the tracks. The Japanese also observed that Russian troops entered Korea to cut lumber and build barracks. In Tokyo the People’s League led by Prince Konoe and godfather Toyama Mitsuru changed its name to the Comrades Society for a Strong Foreign Policy. They urged Prime Minister Katsura to declare war, and the secret was leaked to the press. Chief of Staff Oyama put the armed forces on alert.

Foreign minister Komura Jutaro sent five proposals to St. Petersburg on August 12, but on October 3 the Russians replied that they objected to Japan using any part of Korea for strategic purposes or being in Manchuria at all. The Comrades Society became the Anti-Russia Comrades Society. They were joined by the opposition leaders Itagaki and Okuma, and at a mass meeting on October 5 they passed a resolution calling for the “last resort.” On October 30 Japan offered to recognize Russia’s interest in Manchuria in exchange for their acknowledging Japan’s interest in Korea, but Russia rejected this. On December 10 Kono Hironaka, president of the House of Representatives, replaced the Emperor’s message with his own speech censuring the cabinet, and it passed. The Government dissolved the Diet, but Kono won popular acclaim. On December 21 Katsura ordered Yamagata to prepare for war. Ito still wanted to negotiate a settlement, but he realized he was isolated. A Supreme War Council was set up on December 28.

Japan had an active military of 180,000 with about 850,000 men trained. Their navy had 7 battleships and 31 cruisers. Russia had 135,000 troops east of Lake Baikal; but because the Trans-Siberian Railroad was not completed, they could only transport 7,000 men per month to Manchuria. Japan sent an ultimatum to Russia on January 13, 1904. By the end of January the Japanese navy was prepared, and Chief of Staff Oyama urged the Emperor to strike first. On February 6 Japan broke off negotiations with Russia, warning they might take independent action to defend their threatened position.

Two days later Admiral Togo Nakagori launched a torpedo attack against the seven battleships and six cruisers of the Russian Pacific fleet anchored at Port Arthur. Russia declared war against Japan on February 10, one day before Japan’s official declaration of war against Russia. Japan’s First Army led by General Kuroki Tametomo landed at Chemulp’o and occupied Seoul. On February 23 Korea and Japan agreed to a protocol for a Japanese protectorate. Emperor Meiji moved to Hiroshima to be closer to the war as he had during the war against China ten years earlier. Japan won naval victories, and the Russian flagship hit a Japanese mine and sank on April 13. Japan’s First Army marched north and defeated the Russians guarding the Manchurian border, crossing the Yalu River on May 1. The Second, Third, and Fourth Japanese armies landed on the Liaodong peninsula and advanced toward Port Arthur, which was besieged on May 5. The Second Army suffered 3,500 casualties on May 26 when they encountered Russian machine-guns around Jinzhou, but they captured Dairen. Japan would not have machine-guns until the last months of the war.

Russia’s General A. N. Kuropatkin tried to fight defensively while waiting for reinforcements, though his 140,000 troops outnumbered the Japanese on Liaodong. On August 25 Oyama launched an offensive with 125,000 men that took ten days to drive about 158,000 Russians out of Liaoyang; but the Japanese had 5,500 killed and 18,000 wounded while the Russians suffered 16,000 casualties. The Japanese continued to attack the besieged fortress at Port Arthur for 242 days until General Anatoly Stoessel surrendered on January 2, 1905. During this long siege the Japanese suffered 57,780 casualties while the Russians lost 11,500 killed and 17,500 wounded. Kuropatkin retreated to Mukden, where the largest battle in history so far was fought in March 1905 with about 300,000 Japanese forces against 310,000 Russian troops. The Japanese took ten days to capture the city after losing 16,000 killed and 54,000 wounded compared to 89,000 Russian casualties.

The British would not let the Russian navy use the Suez Canal, and after many delays the Baltic fleet led by Admiral Rozhdestvensky arrived in the Tsushima Straits on May 27, 1905. Togo was waiting, and in 24 hours the Japanese navy sank or captured all eight Russian battleships; only three Russian ships reached Vladivostok. In this critical naval victory Japan lost only three torpedo boats and 116 lives while more than 5,000 Russian sailors were killed with 8,862 captured. This was the world’s first major sea battle with steamships and the last major naval encounter without submarines or air forces. Japan had won the war but had 60,083 men killed in battle, and 21,879 died from disease. The Russians also had about 60,000 killed. The total number of wounded has been estimated at 265,000. In this war most of the wounded survived. During the first five months not one of the wounded soldiers evacuated to Tokyo died.

Near the end of a long era with relatively few big wars, the lessons of this war were carefully studied. The torpedo-boats and battleships were found to be effective, but the destroyers had failed to make hits. The Japanese showed that team-work was important for the armies, and, contrary to some predictions, short-range fighting was still used. Hand grenades, machine-guns, and floating mines were also effective. Modern fortifications were nearly impregnable, and overcoming them depended on engineers and miners.

The defeated Russians agreed to accept the mediation offer by US President Theodore Roosevelt. The Japanese had increased their debt from 600 million yen to 2.4 billion yen, and their human and industrial resources were running behind their war needs. American bankers told the Japanese ambassador in Washington they could not support any more bond issues. Yamagata visited the front in Manchuria and found that the reinforced Russians outnumbered them three to one. At an imperial conference in Tokyo on August 28 Japan decided to withdraw its demand for an indemnity and accepted Russia’s offer to cede the southern half of Sakhalin Island. The Treaty of Portsmouth (New Hampshire) was signed on September 5. Both sides agreed to withdraw troops from Manchuria, and the railroad line was leased to Japan as far as Changchun. Japan gained the Liaodong peninsula including Port Arthur and Dairen. Russia pledged not to interfere with Japan in Korea.

The socialists Kotoku Shusui and Sakai Toshihiko had opposed the war and in 1903 had organized the Commoners’ Society and started the Commoner’s Daily (Heimin Shimbun). They were joined by activist women, and their open letter of friendship to the Russian Social Democrats was published in the Iskra newspaper. Kotoku and Sakai were imprisoned, and the Commoner’s Daily was suspended for publishing the Communist Manifesto.

Pro-war patriots had expected an indemnity and more territorial concessions. On August 31 Godfather Toyama and the Joint Council of Fellow Activists formed the Anti-Peace Society and sent a memorial to the Imperial Palace urging that they fight on. They planned a massive protest rally at Hibiya Park in Tokyo for the day of the treaty signing. The pro-government Kokumin Shimbun gave out free copies of its issue approving the treaty, but the newspaper was boycotted. The Streetcar Workers Association threatened to destroy the fleet if any car was decorated with a Japanese flag. The Government banned the rally and had the police barricade the entrances to the park. In the morning on September 5 a crowd of 30,000 gathered four hours before the speeches were to begin. The police ordered them to disperse, and fighting broke out. People stormed the offices of Kokumin Shimbun and smashed the presses. After the house of the Home Affairs minister was burned to the ground, three companies of Imperial Guards were deployed. The angry mob destroyed 250 public buildings and burned nine police stations and hundreds of police boxes. In the riot 17 demonstrators were killed, and a thousand were injured. Martial law was imposed; 2,000 people were arrested, and complaining newspapers were suppressed.

US Secretary of War William Taft had visited Tokyo in late July and persuaded Prime Minister Katsura Taro to renounce any design on the Philippines in exchange for American recognition of their control over Korea. This Taft-Katsura agreement was announced on September 21, but the details were kept secret and did not become public until 1924. On August 12 the Anglo-Japanese alliance had been extended to cover any attack by a third party, and it was renewed for ten years. An Imperial Rescript ratified the peace treaty on October 16. Imperial approval calmed down the opposition, and martial law was lifted on November 29, restoring freedom of the press. Katsura sent Komura to Beijing to obtain China’s acceptance of the treaty, and in a secret clause China promised not to build a railroad near the Port Arthur-Changchun line until Japan’s lease had expired. Japan also gained a 15-year lease on the Mukden-Andong railway line to Korea. The majority Seiyukai party had secretly agreed to support the Government’s war policy in exchange for a promise that Saionji would succeed Katsura as prime minister after the war when they expected discontent.

Japan’s military victory over Russia astounded the world and had a great psychological impact for years to come. Europeans were startled that an Asian nation could defeat a European power, and independence movements in Asian countries suffering under Western imperialism were greatly encouraged.

Japan Between Wars 1906-14

Saionji became prime minister on January 6, 1906 and kept his promise to Katsura by putting only two party men in his cabinet. The Government issued scrip and nationalized the railways to gain revenue. The Government had been investing in more than forty percent of the economy since the constitutional government of 1890 and would continue to do so for a half century. This stimulated an economic boom that faded and resulted in a recession that lasted until the European War began. The Government had begun monopolies on tobacco in 1898 and on salt in 1904. Saionji’s government allowed the Socialist party led by Katayama to organize, and the Commoner’s Daily was revived. In March a meeting protested a proposed increase in the streetcar fare, and violence led to the arrest of many socialists. In 1906 more than a thousand miners protested the low wages and abuses by the Ashio copper company, and it became a riot and was followed by troubles at other mines. Workers in shipyards and arsenals also rioted for higher wages. In February 1907 Kotoku Shusui and the radicals persuaded those at the Second Japan Socialist Party Congress to take action, and the Government ordered the Socialist party dissolved. The movement split with Katayama’s faction favoring democratic methods. In 1907 compulsory education was extended from four years to six years, and in 1908 the school attendance rate was 98%.

Hayashi Tadasu had been recalled from London and became Foreign minister. When the military opposed enforcing the evacuation of Manchuria, Hayashi submitted his resignation; but the Emperor made him stay on. The Emperor commanded the army to withdraw, leaving 13,000 men as railway guards on the South Manchuria Railway. Yet the evacuation deadline of April 15, 1907 was not fully met. China in November offered a British private firm railway rights, but the Liberal Foreign secretary Edward Grey did not support the deal. Hayashi aimed to secure trade in China by making agreements with various powers. On June 10, 1907 Japan signed an agreement in Paris proclaiming the Open Door policy in China but recognizing France’s sphere of influence in Indochina and southern China while France acknowledged Japan’s presence in southern Manchuria. Three days later Russia agreed to link its railway to Japan’s at Harbin. In July 1907 Japan and Russia agreed to a line dividing Manchuria into a northern sphere for Russia and a southern one for Japan, and three years later they affirmed this status quo. Japan’s military budget was increased from 37 million yen in 1906 to 65 million yen in 1908. New regulations in 1909 drew from the Bushido code to enhance the military spirit.

The realistic novel led to naturalistic novels that were influenced by the works of Emile Zola. In 1904 Shimazaki Toson published The Broken Commandment about the outcaste Eta class. Ushimatsu’s father leaves society to be a herdsman, and his son takes a vow never to reveal his heritage. Toson had read about two teachers who had lost their positions because of their Eta origins. In 1907 Tayama Katai wrote The Quilt (Futon), and this naturalistic novel began the Japanese trend in confessional “I novels” that became especially popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

On November 17, 1904 Korea had agreed to let Japan control its foreign policy and maintain a resident in Seoul. Ito was appointed Japan’s first resident-general, but the Black Dragon boss Uchida Ryohei was put on his staff. Uchida organized the Unite Japan and Korea Society (Ilchinhoe) to promote a campaign for annexation. Ito made Uchida dissociate himself from it publicly, but Uchida arranged for the Army to contribute 100,000 yen to fund the Society’s projects. After King Kojong sent delegates to the International Peace Conference at The Hague in July 1907 to complain about Japanese imperialism, he was forced to abdicate. The Japanese Resident-General gained more authority, and the Korean army was disbanded. An Englishman observed Japanese troops burning villages in search of rebels. The rebellion grew to 70,000 in 1908, and in one year 11,962 Koreans were killed.

On October 16, 1906 Yamagata presented the Emperor with The Plan of National Defense for the Empire that proposed driving the Russians out of northern Manchuria and conquering southern China. In July 1908 by having War minister Terauchi resign, Yamagata got Saionji and Hayashi replaced by Katsura and Komura. They merged with small parties and formed the Constitutional Nationalist party.

In April 1909 Ito made a speech accusing Uchida of disloyalty. Katsura wrote to Yamagata complaining, and Ito resigned in June in order to return as president of the Privy Council, a position opened for him by Yamagata’s resignation. While traveling Ito was assassinated by a Korean at a railway station in Harbin on October 26. The assistant Sone Aresuke became the resident-general in Korea; but pressure from Katsura and Yamagata led to his nervous breakdown, and he was replaced by Terauchi on May 25, 1910. Japan sent 600 more gendarmes to Korea, and the annexation treaty was arranged. Japan gave in to Britain’s demand that the tariffs with Korea remain the same for the next ten years. The cabinet and Emperor Meiji approved the treaty, and Terauchi and the Korean prime minister signed it in Seoul on August 29. Korea had become a colony in the Japanese empire and would remain so for 35 years. Japan’s population increased from 41 million in 1891 to 52 million in 1913, and after 1900 Japan was a net importer of food, trading cotton goods for rice from Korea.

In June 1908 the Socialists met under red flags with the words “Anarchism” and “Anarchic Communism,” which resulted in many arrests. Miyashita Takichi was a factory worker who read a book on anarchism and decided to assassinate the Emperor. He asked Katayama Sen to help him, but Katayama was working for universal suffrage by legitimate means and declined. Kotoku had been studying in California, but he returned to Japan and became a syndicalist who believed in using general strikes rather than terrorism. Miyashita persuaded three of Kotoku’s followers to join his plot. In 1910 they and a total of 26 radicals were arrested between May and October. Two were sentenced to prison; twelve had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment; and twelve, including Kotoku, were hanged on January 9, 1911. These harsh sentences for those who were remotely connected to a plot that was only in the planning stage caused protests in the literary community and abroad. The Government banned the Association for Universal Suffrage and arrested anyone advocating universal voting. These policies made Prime Minister Katsura unpopular with those favoring democracy.

After Japan’s victory over Russia, thousands of Chinese students came to Japan, and Sun Yat-sen continued his efforts to solicit support for a revolution against the Manchu dynasty. When Beijing complained in 1907, Sun was expelled; but Uchida persuaded the Japanese government to limit his banishment to four years and to contribute 60,000 yen to his cause. In February 1908 a Chinese warship intercepted a shipment of arms from Japan off Amoy that was going to the revolutionary Huang Xing. Japan stopped shipping arms to rebels, but in southern China people began boycotting Japanese goods.

Japan and Britain signed a third treaty of alliance on July 13, 1911, but the Anglo-American Arbitration Treaty initialed in Washington on August 3 was not ratified by the United States Senate. After becoming prime minister for a second time on August 30, 1911 Saionji resisted pressure by the Army and Navy for additional military expenditures. The Factory Law set safety standards for factories with twelve or more workers.

Hiratsuka Raicho started the Seiko (Blue Stocking) Society as a literary organization for women in 1911. That year the first women’s college was founded. The philosopher Nishida Kitaro taught at Kyoto University, and in 1911 he published his most popular book, Study of the Good. He was a friend of Suzuki Daisetsu and was influenced by Zen Buddhism as well as by German philosophy. Nishida emphasized pure experience and transcending the self to experience God. His idea of the good was more related to spiritual reality than to ethics, which he considered the problems of the self. He hoped that by perfecting individuality, all humanity would improve.

During the Chinese Revolution in October 1911 Saionji’s cabinet decided to ship 2.7 million yen worth of arms to the Manchu government in Beijing, which agreed to respect Japan’s interest in Manchuria. Also by private dealers Japan sent 3 million yen in arms to the Chinese rebels. Yamagata wanted to send two divisions to southern Manchuria, but the Saionji cabinet refused. In January 1912 Uchida with help from Mitsui was able to raise 3 million yen to loan to China’s new republican government. The Hanyehping Iron Company was reorganized under joint Chinese and Japanese management, and its assets were mortgaged to Japan for more loans to the new Republic. Japan and Russia began negotiating the division of Inner Mongolia, and a secret agreement was signed on July 8, 1912.

Sun Yat-sen accepted an offer of 20 million yen and promised to cede Manchuria to Japan; but his second revolution failed, and he went back to Japan on a Mitsubishi collier. After three Japanese hawkers were killed by soldiers in Nanjing, a protest rally in Hibiya Park and a hara-kiri by a Japanese official that spilled his blood on a map of Manchuria and Mongolia aroused the issue. Sun’s supporters persuaded the Japanese government to negotiate a secret agreement with the Chinese government that allowed Japan to construct five more railway lines in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. Sun appealed to Japan for funds to fight the Yuan regime and was promised a loan of 1.5 million yen to buy 100,000 rifles in exchange for bonds in occupied territory. However, China’s President Yuan Shikai suppressed the deal by ordering anyone using notes circulated by Sun Yat-sen to be executed. Kita Ikki criticized Sun for selling out his socialist principles to Japanese capitalists.

Emperor Meiji died on July 30, 1912 after no physician was allowed to touch his body. General Nogi Maresuke had led the capture of Port Arthur in 1894 and again in 1905. He had wanted to commit hara-kiri because 56,000 Japanese soldiers had died; but Emperor Meiji dissuaded him. As head of the Peers’ School he was Prince Hirohito’s most influential mentor. Yet he did not recommend that he should be crown prince. On the day of Meiji’s funeral Nogi and his wife committed seppuku. Prince Yoshihito, who was born before his mother’s wedding, was 33 years old when he became Emperor of the Taisho era. He had suffered from meningitis as an infant, leaving him debilitated physically and perhaps mentally. Thus the ministers who were directly responsible to the Emperor tended to run the government themselves.

The resignation of Army minister Uehara caused Saionji’s cabinet to fall, and he refused to form another cabinet. Journalists, party politicians, and business leaders opposed increasing the military budget. Several leading figures declined to be prime minister, and finally on December 17, 1912 Katsura Taro offered to resign his court offices to become prime minister for the third time. Ozaki Yukio accused him of hiding behind the Emperor and using imperial rescripts as missiles. That month the League for the Protection of the Constitution was formed, and at their first meeting they called for a “Taisho restoration” to make Japan more democratic. Most newspapers and massive rallies supported the movement.

The Navy demanded new battleships and threatened to withhold their minister. Katsura showed independence from Yamagata by issuing an imperial rescript directing the Navy to provide a minister. Katsura prorogued the Diet for fifteen days in January 1913 and formed a new political party called the Constitutional Association of Friends (Rikken Doshikai). He appointed Kato Komei as Foreign minister, and Mitsubishi provided funds to try to win over followers from the other parties; but they gained only 83 members and none of the Seiyukai because Satsuma admirals used 150,000 yen from Navy funds to retain their loyalty. Admiral Yamamoto Gonnohyoe urged Katsura to resign, and crowds turned into angry mobs and destroyed the offices of pro-government newspapers and burned police boxes. Katsura prorogued the Diet a third time to save face by avoiding a vote of no confidence and resigned; he died later in the year.

Admiral Yamamoto became prime minister and proceeded to fund the Navy’s plan to build eight battleships and eight cruisers. He reduced the number of government employees by 10,000 and the 1913 budget by 11%. The ministers of the Army and Navy no longer had to be in active service. However, scandals involving Navy officers accepting bribes from the Siemens Munitions Firm of Germany and Vickers Aircraft in England led to a court martial and an order that two officers repay 410,000 yen. The House of Peers was dominated by the Army and cut the Navy budget in half; but the House of Representatives passed a motion of no confidence. Riots resulted, and Yamamoto resigned on March 23, 1914. Yamagata selected Okuma, who for the past fifteen years had been doing social work and was the founding president of Waseda University. He gained support from Doshikai leader Kato Komei and Ozaki Yukio, but the Nationalist leader Inukai Tsuyoshi declined.

Japan in the World War 1914-19

Germany began moving their reservists from all over China to Qingdao in early August 1914, and Winston Churchill sent a note asking the Japanese Navy to destroy German ships. Foreign Minister Kato persuaded Prime Minister Okuma, his cabinet, the elder statesmen (genro), and the Emperor to enter the war. On August 15 the Imperial Council demanded that Germany surrender Qingdao by September 15. The ultimatum expired on August 23, and on that day an Imperial Rescript declared war on Germany. The Army was mobilized to attack Qingdao, and the Navy blockaded the harbor. Japanese troops landed at Longzhou on September 2. China protested this violation of neutrality and declared the Shandong peninsula a war zone. A British contingent arrived on September 24 and was put under Japanese command. The garrison of 4,000 Germans surrendered on November 7. Only 199 Germans had been killed compared to 415 Japanese and only 13 British, who were accused of being slow to advance. The Japanese also took over the German railway that ran 240 miles from Qingdao to Jinan. Meanwhile the Japanese fleet was pursuing German cruisers and occupying the Caroline, Marshall, and Mariana islands even though this area had been assigned to the Australian Navy. Kato announced that Japan would retain all the islands north of the equator in perpetuity.

On January 7, 1915 China cancelled the Shandong war zone and asked that the Japanese troops be withdrawn. One week later Ambassador Hioko Eki presented Japan’s infamous 21 Demands to China’s President Yuan Shikai with the warning that they be kept secret, but within a few days the American ambassador Paul Reinsch made them known. They included Japan taking over Germany’s rights in Shandong and being given the right to construct a railroad there, recognizing Japan’s position in eastern Inner Mongolia and extending its lease in southern Manchuria to 99 years, giving a Sino-Japanese company a mining monopoly in the Yangzi River Valley, and preventing any coastal area of China from being ceded or leased to any other power. Group Five was a wish list for the imperialists that included the Chinese government employing Japanese advisors, joint Chinese and Japanese police forces, China purchasing half its arms from Japan or establishing joint Chinese-Japanese arsenals using Japanese engineers and materials, and granting Japan the right to construct railroads in southern China. In responding to diplomatic inquiries, Japan summarized the first four groups and denied the fifth existed. After seven weeks Japan sent 7,000 more troops to Manchuria and Shandong.

After the Seiyukai majority refused to pass the budget, Okuma dissolved the Diet and called for new elections. In March 1915 he became the first prime minister to campaign actively in an election. The Doshikai spent money buying votes and increased their representation from 99 seats to 150 while Seiyukai fell from 185 to 104 seats. For the first time campaign expenditures were reported, and the total was nearly 5 million yen. The number of bribery cases reported increased from 1,338 in 1908 to 3,329 in 1912 and to 7,278 in 1915 before jumping to a peak of 22,932 in 1917. After the 1915 election the Diet approved the two new divisions for the Army. Yamagata, who wanted to support Yuan Shikai, called a meeting of the cabinet and elder statesmen in early May to complain that Japan’s 21 Demands were offending China and were not honorable. They removed most of Group Five and gave Yuan a 48-hour ultimatum on the rest. Under the threat of invasion he was forced to accept, and an agreement was signed on May 25. Japan returned Qingdao on the conditions that it be an open port with a Japanese settlement. China declared May 25 National Humiliation Day and began a national boycott of Japanese goods.

Inoue and the elder statesmen demanded that Kato resign. When it was learned in July that the Home minister Oura Kanetake had bribed officials to rig the March election, Okuma had both Oura and Kato resign. Okuma publicly refused to send German arms captured at Qingdao to the Chinese rebels, but secretly he ordered the Army to do so. Mitsui provided the ships to smuggle the arms to Manchuria. The cabinet continued to support covertly the effort to overthrow the Yuan regime. Japanese officers trained a thousand men in Qingdao and used the railway to transport them to Jinan while refusing permission for Chinese government troops to go the other way. Japan and Russia signed a fourth agreement recognizing each other’s interests on July 3, 1916. In the secret portion Japan promised to supply Russia with 300 million yen worth of weapons, including 700,000 rifles; but this was exposed after the Soviets took power and revealed all of Russia’s secret treaties.

Okuma, who had already lost a leg, was the target of another terrorist attack, and in October 1916 Yamagata and the House of Peers persuaded him to resign. Okuma wanted Kato as his successor; but Yamagata managed to select General Terauchi Masatake, who had been governing Korea. Yamagata and Terauchi believed the Germans would win the war, and they had their ambassadors talking in Stockholm since 1915. In February 1917 the intercepted Zimmerman telegram made known a shocking German-Japanese-Mexican plot to help Mexico recover the territory it had lost to the United States if the latter entered the war.

Nishihara Kamezo ran a textile importing company, and in January 1917 Terauchi sent him to Beijing, where he began by arranging to loan China three million yen for secret consideration in gaining contracts for telegraph service. Copper coins served as collateral and were shipped to Japan, where they were melted down and sold for twice their monetary value. Eventually Japan extended eight loans of 145 million yen to the warlord Duan Qirui to pay for his civil war. All this was done without informing the Foreign Ministry, and Japan was paid back only five million yen. Ishii Kikujiro was sent to Washington and on November 4 signed an agreement with US Secretary of State Robert Lansing that recognized that “Japan has special interests in China.” Also in 1917 Giichi Tanaka spent two months in China and Manchuria and wrote a report on “The Exploitation of China’s Resources.”

The Doshikai party had joined with two minor parties to become the Constitutional Association (Kenseikai), and after a no-confidence vote Terauchi dissolved the Diet. In the April 1917 election Seiyukai gained about fifty seats while the Kenseikai lost eighty seats. After the price of rice doubled between January 1917 and July 1918, rice riots began in northern Honshu and spread across Japan. The disturbances that summer involved 700,000 people. Police could not stop the rioting, and the Army arrested 25,000 people. About a thousand were injured or killed. Of the 700 who were prosecuted 71 were sentenced to ten years or more. The Government tried to suppress the newspapers.

In September 1918 Premier Terauchi was forced to resign, and the commoner Hara Kei became prime minister. For the first time the prime minister and a majority of the ministers in the cabinet were from the same party, and the era of real party government in Japan had begun. Hara promoted the military, education, industry, and communications. He reduced the voting qualification from ten yen to three yen.

Yoshino Sakuzo was a Christian who taught at Tokyo University. He developed a theory of democracy that called for “government for the people” (mimponshugi) rather than “government by the people” (minshushugi). In December 1918 Yoshino inspired students to organize the New Man Society (Shinjinkai) to work for universal male suffrage and national reforms to help the people. He gave speeches to rallies and formed the Reimeikai (Dawn) party that combined socialism with Christian and Confucian morality; but after the suffrage bill was blocked in 1920, his party collapsed. The conservative law professor Uesugi Shinkichi opposed the ideas of Yoshino and advocated imperial power. Also in 1918 the eight Special Higher Schools multiplied by four, and the University Law gave more specialty schools university status.

Japan’s economy boomed while exporting during the Great War. Japan’s national debt was 1.5 billion yen when the war began, and by the time of the armistice four years later Japan had built up a surplus of 2 billion yen. Japan’s real gross national product rose 40%, and by 1919 its manufacturing output had risen by 72%. Japan’s exports jumped to 708 million yen in 1915, and in 1918 they were 1.96 billion yen. The Japanese emphasized quantity more than quality, and their products got a reputation for being shoddy. Prices increased by 130%, but wages actually went down by 32%. Although strikes and unions were illegal, sixteen trade unions were formed in 1919 which led to 497 strikes by 63,000 workers in shipyards, railways, mines, and other industries for more pay and better working conditions. The Christian social worker Suzuki Bunji had founded the Fraternal Association (Yuaikai) in 1912, and it grew into the All Japan Federation of Labor. In 1919 they used work slow-downs to win the eight-hour workday at the Kawasaki shipyards in Kobe.

The number of Japanese in Manchuria increased from 3,800 in 1900 to 26,600 in 1910 and to 133,930 by 1920. Yamagata urged Prime Minister Terauchi to back the warlord Zhang Zuolin to govern northern China, but six princes who advised Taisho plotted against Zhang. In 1916 Prince Babojab of Mongolia invaded western Manchuria with Tatars advised by Japanese officers. They attacked the railroad between Beijing and Mukden and kept Zhang busy and unable to invade China. Prince Kanin visited Mukden on October 15. After a terrorist bomb killed five bodyguards, Zhang escaped by fleeing on a horse.

After the Russian revolution the Japanese government sent weapons and 49 Japanese advisors to the anti-Bolshevik resistance led by the Cossack Grigory Semenov in Siberia. Admiral Kato Kanji reached Vladivostok on January 12, 1918, two days before the HMS Suffolk and a month before the USS Brooklyn. Tanaka set up a secret Siberian Planning Committee on February 28 to coordinate the military expedition, and Nishihara held up loans until China agreed to let Japan deploy forces in northern China to fight the Bolsheviks. After three Japanese clerks were killed during a robbery in a Vladivostok store, the Japanese navy landed marines. Yamagata wanted them withdrawn, and on April 23 Emperor Taisho ordered them back to their ships. Two days later Vladivostok formed a Soviet government. Foreign minister Motono Ichiro resigned, and Yamagata made sure that Goto Shimpei was appointed. Nishihara forced China to accept military and naval agreements on May 19, giving Japan a free hand in Manchuria.

An army of 50,000 Czechs was stranded when Russia withdrew from the war, and they traveled east along the Trans-Siberian Railroad. A third of the Czechs reached Vladivostok by May, and Allied ships took them to Europe. England and France asked Japan to help the others. In July 1918 the United States sent 7,000 men into Siberia to help the Czechs and secure the 300,000 German, Austrian, Turkish, and Bulgarian prisoners of war. Japan sent 30,000 troops in August and eventually deployed 72,000 soldiers there. By the spring of 1919 the Japanese controlled both the railways east of Irkutsk. About a third of the 300,000 war prisoners died of starvation and disease. By 1920 the zaibatsu (conglomerates) Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Suzuki had moved into Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Harbin, Chita, and Nikolaevsk with about 50,000 settlers. The Japanese installed White Russian regimes in the larger towns. In May 1920 a Japanese community of 700 in Nikolaevsk was wiped out when Soviet troops raped, tortured, and murdered them. The Japanese reacted by occupying Vladivostok and invading northern Sakhalin to grab coal, oil, and timber. The Japanese troops stayed in Siberia until June 1922 when international and domestic pressure forced their withdrawal by October except from Sakhalin. The Siberian adventure had cost Japan 700 million yen.

At the Versailles peace conference the Japanese demanded racial equality, but Australian prime minister Hughes blocked a vote from being unanimous. Japan also restricted immigration, and what they really wanted was to keep Shandong. They argued that the 21 Demands had been accepted and that China signed the loan agreements. Britain and France had promised their support in the secret treaties of 1917. Italy had gained Fiume by threatening to stay out of the League of Nations, and Japan used the same tactic to persuade US President Woodrow Wilson. As a result Japan was allowed to keep its lease on Qingdao and received mandates on the Pacific islands north of the equator, and they promised to withdraw from the territories they occupied on the Shandong peninsula and in Siberia.

On March 1, 1919 an independence movement erupted in Korea, and it took the Japanese two months to suppress the revolt. Japanese officials reported only 1,962 Korean casualties and 12,000 arrests, but scholars estimate that more than 7,000 Koreans were killed and about 46,000 were arrested in 1,500 demonstrations that involved two million people. Hara appointed Admiral Saito Makoto to be governor-general. Officials and teachers no longer wore swords, but the number of police in Korea was greatly increased. Japan’s economic exploitation of its Korean colony continued with large rice imports arriving to feed Japan’s rapidly growing population.

Japanese Progress 1920-30

In 1920 the population of Japan reached 56 million. Although parties gained more political power in the 1920s, they were still dominated by the aristocrats, upper bureaucrats, conservative politicians, big business, rural landlords, and the military. The tenant farmers, industrial workers, white-collar workers, journalists, educators, and other intellectuals were generally in opposition. By 1920 about 40% of agricultural land was under tenancy, and rents were about half the yield. Many farmers depended on producing raw silk, and that year the price dropped from 4,000 yen per hundred pounds to 1,000 yen. Student demonstrations in 1919 had raised the issue of universal suffrage, which was supported by workers. In February 1920 the Kenseikai (Constitutional) and Kokuminto (Nationalist) parties submitted a bill for universal suffrage; but Premier Hara refused to allow a vote, and the Diet was dissolved. In the election the Seiyukai party won 279 seats to 108 for the Kenseikai and 29 for the Kokuminto. This enabled Hara to add funding for the navy, railroads, telephone, telegraph, and roads.

Nitobe Inazo had studied in the United States, and in 1900 he wrote in English Bushido: The Soul of Japan on samurai ethics. He was a law professor at Kyoto Imperial University and then at Tokyo Imperial University. When the League of Nations was established in 1920, Japan was one of the four nations given a permanent seat on the Council, and Nitobe was an Under-Secretary General and the first director of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation, which later became UNESCO. After attending the 13th World Congress of Esperanto in August 1921, he made a report to the General Assembly of the League; but a proposal for the League to use Esperanto as its working language was vetoed by the French delegate.

In 1920 Hiratsuka Raicho and Ichikawa Fusae organized the New Women’s Association to work for equal rights for women and to protect mothers and children. Their efforts led in 1922 to women being permitted to sponsor and listen to political speeches, but they still could not join a political party. Hiratsuka also advocated banning men with venereal disease from getting married. Ichikawa traveled to the United States, where she met Alice Paul. In 1924 Ichikawa founded the Women’s Suffrage League of Japan. The number of middle schools for girls rose from only 52 in 1920 to 576 in 1924.

The postwar depression put labor on the defensive. May Day demonstrations began in 1920 and called for a minimum wage law, an eight-hour workday, solving unemployment, and repealing the Police Regulation Law. The Japan Socialist Federation was formed in December, but the Government banned the organization in May 1921. At Kobe 35,000 dockyard workers went on strike in 1921. Several hundred people were arrested, but after six weeks the strike was suppressed. In September 1921 Asahi Heigo in order to encourage revolution assassinated Yasuda Zenjiro, who had founded the Yasuda conglomerate. Peasants joined the Japan Farmers Union organized by Kagawa Toyohiko and other Christians in 1922; they renounced violence and promoted mutual aid, growing to 150,000 members by 1926. The untouchable Eta class that was condemned to doing menial work formed the Equality Society. The Japan General Federation of Labor favored Bolshevist action over the strikes of the syndicalists, who failed to form an alliance in September 1922. The first Japanese Communist party was founded that year by Tokuda Kyuichi, Osugi Sakae, and Arahata Kanson; but in 1923 the police used a membership list they got from an informer to arrest the leaders.

The Government reacted by setting up the Capital-Labor Harmonization Society under a textile magnate with an endowment of ten million yen. Members of Toyama’s Ex-Ronin Society joined the ultranationalist Japan National Essence Society that Kita Ikki and Okawa Shumei had founded in 1919. Okawa had written the 8-volume Fundamental Principles for the Reconstruction of the Nation that recommended martial law, restricting capital, profit sharing between employers and employees, friendship with the Americans to develop China, and hostility to Russia and Britain. They used violent tactics to help the police crush rallies and strikes.

A young right-winger assassinated Prime Minister Hara on November 4, 1921, and Finance minister Takahashi Korekiyo succeeded him as the Seiyukai party leader. He was unpopular and resigned in June 1922. Yamagata had died, and so Saionji chose as premier the nonpartisan Admiral Kato Tomosaburo, who selected most of his cabinet from the House of Peers. Japan was represented at the Washington Naval Conference by its ambassador Shidehara Kijuro and Kato in late 1921 and early 1922, and the Seiyukai managed to push through the naval restrictions agreed upon. Japan was limited to warships with 60% of the tonnage that British and American ships were allowed. Japan shifted naval spending to submarines, naval aircraft, and torpedo boats that were not covered by the treaty, and budget cuts included the Army. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was expanded to include France and the United States, and the Nine-Power Treaty agreed on the Open Door Policy for China. Japan promised to withdraw its troops from Shandong but retained its economic privileges. Japan also insisted on no foreign fortifications within 2,000 miles of Japan in the Pacific. No new bases were to be built in the Pacific Ocean except in Japan, Singapore, and Hawaii.

California had passed the Alien Land Law in 1920, and fifteen other states followed their lead. In 1922 the United States Supreme Court ruled the Japanese were ineligible for citizenship. Ambassador Hanihara Masanao warned the US Congress not to exclude Japanese in the Immigration Act of 1924 because there would be “grave consequences.” Senator Henry Cabot Lodge called this a “veiled threat,” and it passed easily, offending the Japanese.

On September 1, 1923 the great Kanto earthquake in Tokyo and Yokohama caused extensive fires and killed about 140,000 people while destroying more than 576,000 homes. Property damage was estimated at about five billion yen, and a quarter million people lost their jobs. Some blamed Koreans, and the immigrants were hunted down and slaughtered; the police reported that 231 Koreans were killed, but Yoshino Sakuzo calculated it was 2,613. About 1,300 socialists were arrested. Captain Amakasu Masahiko strangled the anarchist Osugi Sakae and his wife and nephew, and he was paroled after three years. Kato Tomosaburo had died on August 24, and during the three days of fires Admiral Yamamoto became premier with only the support of Inukai’s Kakushin Kurabu party. On December 27 the anarchist Namba Taisuke tried to avenge Osugi’s death and shot at Regent Hirohito; but he missed and after a trial was executed. Yamamoto took responsibility and resigned. Kiyoura Keigo was selected and also formed his cabinet from the House of Peers, making him disliked by both parties. The Diet was dissolved, and in June 1924 the opposition parties united to win the election, causing Kiyoura to resign.

Kenseikai’s Kato Komei (Takaaki) formed a coalition with Inukai’s Nationalists and became prime minister, beginning eight years of party government. He chose his cabinet from the three parties as well as experienced nonparty men such as Shidehara Kijuro for Foreign minister and General Ugaki Kazushige for War (Army) minister. The budget was cut, and they imposed tariffs on imported luxuries. On January 20, 1925 Japan agreed to withdraw from Sakhalin in exchange for oil and mineral concessions, and Shidehara established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union despite objections by the Privy Council. After the conservatives in the House of Peers were mollified by the Peace Preservation bill that outlawed “dangerous thoughts” that advocated such things as changing the government or abolishing private property, they passed a bill granting the vote to all males over the age of 25 who were not indigent, increasing the electorate from 3.3 million to 12.5 million.

When General Tanaka Giichi became president of the Seiyukai party, the coalition broke up. Seiyukai merged with the Nationalists and challenged Kato’s cabinet. Kato cut back the Army from 21 divisions to 17 to reduce the Chosu influence. Many of the military officers moved into the schools which expanded military training, and others were transferred into a tank corps, machine-gun squads, research into new weapons, intelligence, air and anti-aircraft regiments, and military academies. Japan refused to sign the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons, and they established the Narashino School of Chemical Warfare on the small Okuma-Jima island, which was left off maps. Military spending, which had been 42% of the budget in 1922, was reduced to 29% in 1925 and to 28% in 1927. The Kato ministry also passed the Factory Law, the Labor Disputes Mediation Law, and the National Health Insurance Law, and the provision used against unions was abolished. Rebuilding after the earthquake had weakened the yen and caused inflation as new bonds were issued. In December 1925 students at leading universities were arrested for “dangerous thoughts;” 37 were jailed for ten months before being tried and expelled from school.

Kato Komei died on January 30, 1926 and was succeeded by Wakatsuki Reijiro. After the conglomerate Suzuki became insolvent, its creditor, the Bank of Taiwan, was given an emergency loan of 200 million yen by the Government without the Privy Council’s approval. Bank panics ensued, and many smaller banks went out of business. The Government sponsored low-interest loans so that qualified tenants could buy land. Farmers and industrial workers tried to get together by forming the Labor-Farmer party, but Tanaka’s government banned the party in 1928. Tenant unions increased from 1,530 in 1923 to 4,582 unions with 365,322 members in 1927.

The Taisho Era ended when the Emperor died on December 25, 1926, and the Showa Era of “Enlightened Peace” was proclaimed as the regent Hirohito became emperor. After a year of mourning the enthronement ceremonies began in January 1928 and culminated in December, promoting Hirohito’s imperial image and divinity, encouraging morality, and propagandizing that the national essence of Japan (kokutai) is compatible with modern science. Newspaper editorials suggested that Japan had a global mission to command and lead the world. In the name of the Emperor the Government granted amnesty to 16,878 prisoners, commuted the sentences of 26,684, and reduced those of 32,968 criminals.

Wakatsuki’s government had to resign in April 1927. The Seiyukai party regained power, and Tanaka Giichi became prime minister. Tanaka had diverted 3 million yen from secret Army funds to his party. Takahashi Korekiyo was appointed Finance minister, and he declared a twenty-day bank moratorium. The Government issued a billion yen in currency to prop up the economy; they set higher standards for deposit reserves, and bank mergers were encouraged. Tanaka’s regime supported cartels and protected Japanese industry and agriculture by restricting imports.

Jiang Jieshi (Kai-shek) visited Japan in the fall of 1927 and renewed the deal that Sun Yat-sen had offered which promised Japan control of Manchuria north of the great wall. Prince Konoe began the Tuesday Club clique which promoted an alliance with Jiang for a united Asia under the Japanese empire. The Kenseikai party changed its name to the Democratic Constitutionalists (Rikken Minseito) party in June 1927, and 12,409,078 men voted on February 20, 1928 . The Seiyukai won 218 seats to 217 for the Minseito while the other thirty seats were divided between the splinter parties and independents. Japan agreed to the Kellogg-Briand Pact that outlawed war in August 1928, though the Privy Council president Ito Miyoji insisted that their ratification declare that Japan had not renounced its right of self defense and that they objected to the phrase “in the names of their respective peoples.” Also that year Tanaka refused to endorse an international protocol that banned chemical and biological warfare.

Tanaka’s imperialist rhetoric provoked resistance in China. To counter Jiang and the Guomindang, Tanaka offered the Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin a loan for building railways. When Zhang was losing, Tanaka sent troops to Shandong with the rationale of protecting the 2,000 Japanese residents in Jinan and to keep Jiang from marching north to Beijing. On May 7 the Japanese opened fire on Chinese troops, and in the next week they massacred about 7,000 Chinese while destroying much of Jinan. After 2,200 Japanese troops landed at Qingdao on May 30, both Zhang in Beijing and Jiang in Nanjing protested. The Japanese imposed martial law and did not withdraw until 1929.

Zhang Zuolin was warned to withdraw from Beijing and disarm or be caught between Jiang and the Japanese army in Manchuria, but American diplomatic pressure persuaded the Japanese to cancel the enforced disarmament. Colonel Komoto Daisaku sent a team that blew up a train, killing Zhang Zuolin, Governor Wu, and seventeen retainers on June 4, 1928. The story put out was that rogue Chinese soldiers were the assassins, but soon Minseito leaders learned the truth. Tanaka also learned the cause of Zhang’s death and made a report to the Emperor on December 24. Five days later Zhang’s son, Zhang Xueliang, the new ruler of Manchuria, united his territory with Jiang’s Nationalist government. On January 10, 1929 Zhang Xueliang murdered two officers he suspected of plotting with Tokyo. One week later Emperor Hirohito urged an investigation of the late Zhang’s assassination; but in February the Prime Minister refused to accept responsibility, and the cabinet decided to let the Army cover it up. Finally Hirohito insisted that Tanaka resign in July, and in doing so he aroused resentment in the Seiyukai party. Meanwhile Jiang’s victorious Nationalists had entered Beijing, and he announced that he would not renew their trade treaty with Japan.

In 1925 unions led by Communists broke away from the Japan Federation of Labor and formed the Labor Council. In 1926 a second Communist party called for abolishing the imperial system and the Diet, redistributing wealth, and following a Soviet foreign policy. Tanaka tried to keep Communists from winning elections, but eight socialists were elected in February 1928. He reacted by having suspected Communists and anarchists arrested. On March 15 the police conducted midnight raids and arrested 1,568 suspected radicals, including five professors from the imperial universities. In June an Imperial ordinance was promulgated that made penalties heavier, even authorizing capital punishment, for plotting against the Government. Mass arrests of Communists continued into the 1930s until most had renounced their ideology or kept quiet.

Minseito had accused Seiyukai of being a “Mitsui cabinet,” and the Seiyukai called them a “Mitsubishi cabinet.” Minseito leader Hamaguchi Osachi became premier in July 1929 and aimed to improve the economy and international cooperation. He reduced the budget but could not get approved 10% pay cuts for the military and bureaucrats. He put Japan back on the gold standard; but effects of the American stock market crash reduced Japanese exports fifty percent by 1931, and Japan’s gold reserves fell by even more. The international market for silk was devastated. In twenty years the number of Japanese factories with power machinery had increased from 9,155 to 48,555 in 1929 as the number of factory workers had more than doubled to 1,484,000. In 1930 an especially large crop caused the price of rice to fall to 10 yen per 5 bushels even though the price of production was 17 yen. By 1930 Japan had thirty universities that were graduating 15,000 students a year. Periodicals had to register under the Newspaper Law, but the number that did so rose from 3,123 in 1918 to 11,118 in 1932. The daily circulation of the Osaka Mainichi grew from 260,000 in 1912 to 1,500,000 in 1930. Most newspapers could not afford to be shut down and so were very cautious. In 1930 Japan recognized Jiang’s Nationalist government in China.

Wakatsuki persuaded the London Naval Conference in 1930 to let Japan have 69.75% of what Britain and America were allowed on heavy cruisers and 100% of their allowance on submarines. Captain Yamamoto Isoroku made sure there were no limits on naval aircraft. Japan already had four experimental aircraft carriers. Hamaguchi managed to limit the Navy budget to 374 million yen. He was severely criticized, and eighty Army officers led by Col. Hashimoto Kingoro formed the Cherry Blossom Society (Sakurakai). On November 14 Sagoya Tomeo, who objected to the treaty on Navy limits, shot the Prime Minister near the same place in the Tokyo railway station where Hara had been killed. Hamaguchi was hospitalized, and Shidehara filled in as prime minister. After several difficult surgeries Hamaguchi died on August 26, 1931. Sagoya was not kept in jail until a trial condemned him to death three years later; but three months after that, Emperor Hirohito gave him amnesty, and he was a popular speaker at right-wing gatherings.

In the 1920s Kuroshima Denji (1898-1943) wrote anti-war stories set in Siberia, and his novel Armed Streets (Buso seru Shigai) came out in 1930. Authorities immediately seized the books. Even when it was published in 1945, scenes critical of the Europeans and Americans in China had to be expurgated. Armed Streets did not become well known until it was published in its original form in 1970, but it has been recognized as an outstanding example of the proletarian literature movement of the 1920s. The Japanese force Chinese children to work in a match factory in Jinan and withhold their wages so they will not run away. The hero Kantaro feels sympathy for the Chinese workers and is hated by the other Japanese. He sells drugs to the Chinese and is addicted to heroin. When Jiang’s Nationalist forces take the city, the Japanese commanding officer has the Japanese who sympathize with the Chinese killed.

A more famous example of the proletarian literature is The Factory Ship (Kani Kosen), which young Kobayashi Takiji wrote in 1928 and published in Battle Flag the next year. He had read a news story about workers who had been brutalized on a cannery ship and then sued the captain. Kobayashi portrayed a group of workers as a collective hero. The book was banned but only after it had sold 15,000 copies. Kobayashi also wrote the autobiographical Life as a Party Member (To Seikatsusha); but he did not complete it because he was arrested by a police agent on February 20, 1933 and was tortured to death.

Japan Takes Manchuria 1931-33

Most of Japan’s million subjects in Manchuria were Korean, and Manchuria provided 40% of Japan’s trade with China. In April 1931 Hamaguchi tried to return to work as prime minister, but he was replaced by Wakatsuki Reijiro. Like Shidehara, he favored peaceful diplomacy and international trade. Emperor Hirohito and his advisor Saionji were also cautious about Manchuria while small patriotic groups were pressuring for military action. The One Evening Society (Issekikai) had been formed in 1929 and included the military officers Komoto Daisaku, Nagata Tetsuzan, Tojo Hideki, Yamashita Tomoyuki, Doihara Kenji, Itagaki Seishiro, and Ishiwara Kanji. Mori Kaku planned a coup d’état with Army activists and Okawa’s patriotic societies for March 20, 1931. They plotted to seize the Diet and appoint a new cabinet led by General Ugaki; but after a disappointing rally in early March drew only 4,000 people, Ugaki refused to approve the plan. Ugaki was sent to govern Korea. The new War minister Minami Jiro called a conference in June that produced A General Outline of a Solution of the Manchurian Problem. Godfather Toyama merged his Society for the Ultimate Solution of the Manchurian Question with others to form the Japan Production Society with Black Dragon leader Uchida as president.

In the late spring a conflict over water rights between Koreans and the Chinese led to clashes around the Manchurian border, killing 109 people. In July anti-Chinese riots in Korea resulted in 127 Chinese being killed. The Chinese reacted by starting a boycott of Japanese goods. The Tokyo General Staff sent Captain Nakamura Shintaro with an assistant and two interpreters to spy in northwestern Manchuria. In late June they were arrested carrying opium and 100,000 yen. The Chinese executed them, and the Japanese learned of it on July 20. Zhang Xueliang promised an investigation while Foreign minister Shidehara imposed a press embargo. The story leaked, and those promoting action in Manchuria called it an “outrageous provocation.”

Guandong Army chief Honjo Shigeru called a commanders conference in early August, and they planned military action in Manchuria without informing the Emperor or Chief of Staff Kanaya Kenzo or War minister Minami. On September 4 Minami told the press that the Army would act “in accordance with the wishes of the people,” whom Mori and Okawa had clamoring for action in Manchuria. That day Shidehara cabled Mukden consul-general Hayashi Kyujiro “to control these adventurers.” Hirohito asked for special precautions regarding the Guandong Army in Manchuria. The Chinese delegate in the League of Nations called for sanctions against Japan. The Guandong Army conspirators sent Amakasu Musahiko to Harbin with 30,000 yen to sponsor incidents that could provide pretexts for intervention. Zhang’s investigator arrested the commander responsible for Nakamura’s death.

War minister Minami sent Gen. Tatekawa Yoshitsugu with a letter to restrain the Guandong Army commanders; but Tatekawa told Col. Hashimoto, who sent a telegram to warn Col. Itagaki to act quickly. On September 18, 1931 at 10:20 p.m. part of the Japanese 2nd Railway Battalion blew up a yard of track north of Mukden one mile from where Zhang Zuolin had been killed. The Japanese quickly repaired the track, and an express train passed by at 10:40. They blamed it on the Chinese, and at 11 Col. Itagaki, the Guandong chief of intelligence, ordered the 2nd Battalion to attack Chinese barracks and Mukden’s fortifications. Consul-General Hayashi called and demanded the fighting be stopped, but Itagaki ignored him. Lt. Col. Ishiwara passed the false report on to Commander Honjo, who faced with unanimity among his staff, approved the action at 11:30 but in Mukden only. Using a 9.5-inch cannon, they attacked the airfield. By the next morning the Japanese had taken over towns from Port Arthur 500 miles north along the railway. The Japanese had killed 400 Chinese while losing only two men.

Hayashi Senjuro commanded the troops in Korea and sent Tokyo a telegram that he was going to move them across the border; but Chief of Staff Kanaya ordered him to wait for an Imperial order. Japanese troops were greatly outnumbered by the Chinese forces in Manchuria, but Hirohito agreed with the cabinet’s decision to limit the conflict. Although Prime Minister Wakatsuki considered it an “outrage,” the Korean Army crossed the Yalu River into Manchuria on September 21. The Chinese delegate demanded that the League of Nations take immediate action, and its Council asked the Chinese and Japanese “to withdraw troops immediately.” Foreign minister Shidehara and Finance minister Inoue Junnosuki protested Hayashi’s unauthorized action, but on September 23 the cabinet approved the necessary funds for the soldiers. The next day the Japanese government announced that its action was taken in self-defense.

The army conspirators planned to create an “autonomous” state with the four provinces of Manchuria and Jehol from Mongolia under the last Manchu emperor Puyi, and they set up “independence” leaders in each province. Doihara Kenji, who was called “Lawrence of Manchuria,” was appointed mayor of Mukden. Japanese diplomats told the League of Nations that Japan had no territorial designs on Manchuria; the Assembly was mollified by that and adjourned until October 13. On October 8 the Guandong Army dropped 75 bombs and leaflets on Jinzhou, where Zhang had his headquarters. The Chinese army fired on the planes and were bombed also. On October 13 the League Council called on Japan to withdraw its troops by November 16. Doihara managed to transport Puyi from Tianjin to Port Arthur and Mukden before that deadline. Another plot to overthrow the government by Hashimoto’s Cherry Blossom Society was discovered, and eleven young officers were arrested on October 18. Hashimoto and Cho Isamu were held under house arrest for twenty days, but the other nine conspirators were only lectured and released.

In the north the man the conspirators selected to govern Heilongjiang led an expedition on October 15, and the Chinese army led by Ma Zhanshan burned two bridges of a railway the Japanese had built. On October 30 General Honjo ordered the invasion of north Manchuria as far as the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER). On November 17 Lt. Col. Ishiwara Kanji led an attack on Ma’s army that captured Qiqihar north of the CER two days later. When the Japanese attacked Jinzhou again on November 23, United States Secretary of State Henry Stimson issued a warning. The next day Hayashi moved the Korean Army in to aid the air attack, and on the 26th the Japanese turned the town over to the puppet Manchurian army.

Prime Minister Wakatsuki had offered his resignation after Mukden was taken, but Hirohito persuaded him to stay in office until the League of Nations made a decision. Japan had proposed a Commission of Inquiry, and after Chinese acceptance the League of Nations appointed five commissioners under Lord Lytton on December 10. The entire cabinet resigned the next day, and on December 13, 1931 Inukai Tsuyoshi of the Seiyukai party became prime minister. He immediately took Japan off the gold standard, restoring the embargo on gold. Mitsui and other conglomerates quickly made a paper profit of 60 million yen, and this stimulated an export boom. Japan was the first of the world’s industrial nations to recover from the Depression that had caused severe hardships among peasants, workers, shopkeepers, and businessmen. Real wages of workers had dropped 30% in five years, and the number of labor disputes rose from 1,420 in 1929 to 2,456 in 1931. From 1926 the price of rice fell two-thirds by 1931. Northeastern Japan and Hokkaido suffered a rice crop failure in 1931. Children begged in the street; suicide and infanticide increased; girls were sold as prostitutes; and crime doubled in seven years.

Inukai had opposed the London Naval Treaty and approved the actions in Manchuria, and he asked the Emperor’s permission to send reinforcements into Manchuria. Hirohito appointed his great uncle Kanin Kotohito Army chief of staff, and two months later he appointed his wife’s cousin Fushimi Hiroyasu as Navy chief of staff. On December 21 the Japanese launched a major advance on Jinzhou. Zhang retreated behind the Great Wall, and the city fell on January 3. The Americans, British, and French complained that Japan was violating the Nine-Power Treaty on an open China, and Stimson announced that the United States would not recognize any political change in Manchuria that violated international treaties.

On January 8, 1932 Hirohito issued an imperial rescript praising the Guandong Army for its “self-defense” against Chinese bandits, and on that day a Korean tried to kill him with a grenade. The Emperor declined to accept the new cabinet’s resignation. The next day the Minkuo Daily News and other newspapers in Shanghai commented that “unfortunately the bomb had missed its mark.” Japanese residents protested this by attacking Chinese newspaper offices. Major Tanaka Ryukichi gave his mistress Eastern Jewel $6,000 to bribe Chinese laborers at a towel factory. On January 18 they attacked five Nichiren monks, and one died the next day. The Japanese held a mass meeting, and Tanaka asked Japan for a force to protect them. Admiral Shiozawa Koichi sent in marines on January 28, but they were outnumbered eight to one and were defeated by China’s 19th Route Army of 33,500 men. The next day Shiozawa sent in seventy planes from two aircraft carriers to bomb the Chinese in Chapei. They also used machine guns, and thousands of Chinese civilians were killed in the first systematic aerial bombing in history.

The Guandong Army attacked Harbin and occupied that city on February 5. The Nichiren priest Inoue Nissho gathered the Blood Brotherhood Band on January 31 and designated several assassins, two of whom accomplished their missions. The former Finance minister Inoue Junnosuke was killed on February 9 because he had enabled the Mitsui cartel to exchange yen for dollars before going off the gold standard. On February 11 Okawa organized the Jimmu Society to join the Imperial Road Association that was working to end the political parties. In the election on February 20 Inukai’s Seiyukai party won 301 seats to 147 for the Minseito party, gaining 127 seats. Also in February the Chinese general Ma accepted a check for nearly $2 million from the defeated warlord Zhang Xueliang to pay his troops. The Japanese bank agreed to cash it if Ma became war minister for Manzhouguo; but six weeks later he fled with most of the money.

Inukai got imperial permission to send two full divisions under General Shirakawa to Shanghai as reinforcements. Facing 70,000 Japanese troops, the Chinese forces retreated from Shanghai and agreed to a cease-fire mediated by the British on March 5 that also ended the Chinese boycott. On March 3 the Japanese Finance Ministry had announced they needed to borrow 22 million yen to pay for the fighting. Mitsui’s director-general Dan Takuma denied they had the cash to loan, and he was shot dead two days later by the Blood Brotherhood. Inoue Nissho was arrested on March 11, and later the assassins who had surrendered pleaded their causes in their trials. Saionji asked for the killing to stop, and Mitsui agreed to advance the loan.

On February 16 the Guandong Army command formed the Northeast Administrative Committee with leading Chinese collaborators, and on March 1 they proclaimed the new state of Manzhouguo. The Japanese cabinet was brought around to accept Henry Puyi as a chief executive but not a monarch, and he formally requested Japanese advisors, who ran the country. On March 11 the League of Nations Assembly pronounced that the new state was not recognized under international law. Japanese troops guarded the Lytton Commissioners; but in Manchuria, despite the arrest of thousands and petitions organized by the Japanese, about 1,500 letters got through to them, and only two did not oppose the new state.

Prime Minister Inukai withheld recognition of Manzhouguo and had sent a representative to negotiate directly with Jiang (Kai-shek). Inukai failed to get an Imperial rescript to restrain the Japanese army, and he was criticized for opposing large military budgets. Two naval officers assassinated Inukai in his office on May 15, 1932. On the same day Blood Brothers threw bombs or shot into the Seiyukai party headquarters, the Bank of Japan, the Tokyo police headquarters, electric power plants, and the home of Makino Nobuaki, Keeper of the Seal. The cabinet resigned, and the General Staff announced that they would not nominate a War minister to a cabinet led by a party politician. The elderly Saionji followed the Emperor’s wishes and chose Admiral Saito Makoto to be prime minister rather than the Seiyukai president Suzuki Kisaburo, thus ending the era of government by the political parties. Saito more than doubled the military budget in the first year, making it 70% of revenues, creating an annual deficit of nearly one billion yen. The value of the yen dropped from 2 to 5 against the US dollar. Saito also had the Diet pass a resolution to recognize Manzhouguo.

When the Lytton Commission visited Japan in July, Premier Saito said there would be no direct negotiations with China. The New Capitol (Xinjing) was built north of Mukden, and Puyi moved there in July. On July 27 Japanese troops ambushed 700 Chinese cavalry near the Russian border and reported that General Ma had been killed; but he escaped to Russia, traveled around the world speaking, and then joined Zhang Xueliang in Beijing. Prince Kanin had 25,000 Chinese and Manchu farm families relocated to make room for Japanese settlers. On September 15 the Saito cabinet signed the Japan-Manzhouguo Protocol by which Japan assumed responsibility for defending Manzhouguo, and a secret agreement gave Japan control over the state. The South Manchurian Railroad Company extended its tracks more than a thousand miles. The number of opium addicts tripled, and 70,000 Japanese and Korean prostitutes were brought to Manzhouguo in its first year. Every Manchurian cabinet minister was a puppet for the Japanese vice minister and his staff of Japanese secretaries. The militia had Japanese officers under the Guandong commander who reported to Prince Kanin. The commander of the secret police reported to the Tokyo secret police chief.

The Lytton Report was published on October 2 and found that Japan’s military operations were not in self-defense, that no independence movement had existed in Manchuria before September 1931, that Japan had forcibly seized Chinese territory, that all armed forces should be withdrawn, but that Japan could develop its economic interests. A committee led by War minister Araki Sadao drafted a reply which argued that China was no longer an “organized state.” General Muto Nobuyoshi was appointed commander of the Guandong Army, governor of Guandong, and ambassador plenipotentiary from Manzhouguo to Emperor Hirohito. Politicians, journalists, and intellectuals as well as the military criticized the League of Nations, international law, and the West. Some university professors were dismissed while thousands of “dangerous thinkers” were arrested, 2,200 on October 10, 1932. Torture was used. That year Sano Manabu and Nabeyama Sadachika announced their defections from Communism, and in the next month 614 of the 1,370 convicted also defected. Left-wing movements were all but eliminated as 18,000 dissidents were arrested in 1933, and many renounced their beliefs.

In early January 1933 the Guandong Army seized the town of Shanhaiguan in Jehol and slaughtered several thousand Chinese. In February the cabinet opposed the invasion of Jehol because of the League of Nations; but then they approved it as long as the army did not move south of the Great Wall. During this invasion on February 24 the League of Nations Assembly unanimously agreed to the recommendations in the Lytton Report; the votes of Japan and China did not count, and Siam, the only other East Asian nation that was not colonized, abstained. Matsuoke Yosuke walked out with the rest of the Japanese delegation. By March 4 the Japanese had taken over Jehol, where farmers were urged to rotate soy beans with poppy crops. On March 27 Japan formally withdrew from the League, deciding it could keep the mandated Pacific islands because of the secret treaties it had made with Britain and France.

Konoe Fumimaro published the essay “Reform the World’s Status Quo” in which he argued that the unequal distribution of land and natural resources cause war. He advocated free trade and free migration, and he claimed that the Japanese moved into Manchuria and Mongolia for survival. Prince Konoe sponsored the Great Asia Association, and he was elected president of the House of Peers in 1933. Major Tanaka was sent to Mongolia where he helped the Mongol prince De (Demchugdonrub) establish a government. Emperor Hirohito ordered Chief of Staff Kanin not to advance beyond Jehol, and on May 31 Jiang’s representative and General Okamura Yasuji signed the Tanggu Truce that ceded Jehol to Japan. Puyi was proclaimed emperor of Manzhouguo in 1934.

Japan's Militarism 1933-37

Prime Minister Saito further reduced party influence by forming an inner cabinet with the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance, War, and the Navy. In 1933 the documentary film Japan in the National Emergency was shown throughout the country depicting the “great mission” of Japan’s “divine land” and the hostile Chinese and Western powers who were trying to prevent their sacred destiny. The building of Manzhouguo was portrayed as a place for all races. The film also warned against the Western decadence of hedonism and materialism. The audiences were urged to renounce pleasures to make personal sacrifices for the national mission. Essays on the Time of Emergency Confronting the Nation was published in March 1934. In the preface Hayashi Senjuro wrote that future war would require complete national mobilization. General Ueda Kenkichi explained that they needed to build up armaments and unite politics, the economy, finance, and all institutions. General Tojo Hideki wrote, “The cultural and ideological warfare of the ‘imperial way’ is about to begin.”1 Others in this book argued that they needed to acquire resources for self-sufficiency in order to wage total war.

War minister Araki Sadao was the driving force behind the accelerating military spending; but his effort to have Prince Chichibu made emperor faded after Hirohito’s son was born on December 23, 1933. Araki became ill and resigned on January 22, 1934. He wanted to be replaced by Mazaki Jinzaburo; but General Hayashi Senjuro became War minister while Mazaki was placated by being appointed inspector-general of military education. Japan was employing millions of women and had become the leading exporter of textiles. A scandal in the Commerce Ministry involving bribes from the Teikoku Rayon Company caused Premier Saito to resign on July 4. Although Japan had signed the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War in July 1929, they let it lapse without ratification in 1934. Military leaders opposed it because they did not want Japanese troops to surrender.

Saito was succeeded by Admiral Okada Keisuke. The three members of the Seiyukai party that joined his cabinet were expelled from the party that was favoring ultranationalism. Japan demanded parity for their navy, but the British and Americans refused to grant this. So Japan gave notice in December they were abrogating the Washington and London naval treaties, and this allowed them to build whatever ships they could afford after the end of 1936. Okada was influenced by Nagata Tetsuzan, who advocated coordinated military and economic planning for total war. Officers at the Military Academy plotted to assassinate Makino (Keeper of the Seal) and premier-choosing Saionji, but military police arrested the ringleaders on November 20, 1934. This incident did not become known to the public until 1946.

The Tanggu Truce of May 31, 1933 had also established a demilitarized zone in the Beijing-Tianjin-Shanhaiguan triangle of eastern Hebei that was policed by the lightly armed Chinese Peace Preservation Corps. The Japanese sold refined heroin and morphine from the Jehol poppy fields to northern China. On April 17, 1934 the Japanese Foreign Ministry announced that they would oppose any threat to peace caused by “joint operations undertaken by foreign Powers in China, even in the name of technical and financial assistance.”2 One year later the Guandong Army began a regular air service from Jehol and Manchuria to Beijing under the truce clause that allowed “aerial observation.”

After editors of two pro-Japanese newsletters were murdered on May 2, 1935 the Japanese made several demands of the North China commander He Yingqin; but their not demanding the punishment of the murderers confirmed the belief of some that Itagaki had hired them. He Yingqin refused only the demand to withdraw troops, and the high command in Tokyo said they could withdraw to Baoding, 70 miles south of Beijing; but the Tianjin garrison gave He an ultimatum on June 9 to withdraw all Nationalist forces within a month. The next day He capitulated to Japan’s Tianjin garrison commander Umezu Yoshijiro, and the He-Umezu Agreement gave Japan military control of the entire Hebei province. After several incidents on the Jehol border, on June 11 General Doihara demanded that Nationalist Chinese forces withdraw from the Chahar province of Inner Mongolia. Qin Dechun replaced the warlord, and the Qin-Doihara Agreement on June 23 caused the Chinese forces to withdraw to Beijing.

On February 19, 1935 Kikuchi Takeo charged in the House of Peers that the retired constitutional law professor Minobe Tatsukichi (1873-1948) was guilty of blasphemy because of his long-held theory that the Emperor is the “organ of the state.” Minobe believed that true sovereignty rested with the people, and his theory implied that an emperor is subject to the laws of the state. Members of the Imperial Road who opposed his constitutional philosophy argued that this challenged the divinity of the Emperor. The fascist Hiranuma Kiichiro and the “Strike North” faction were going after the “Strike South” faction as the imperialists came into conflict over whether the best strategy was to attack the Soviet Union or the United States. The Black Dragon Society formed the League to Destroy the Emperor-Organ Theory in March, and Shinto fundamentalists in the lower-class Omoto-kyo sect gathered 400,000 signatures on petitions to the Emperor. Privy Seal Keeper Makino assured Hirohito that the petitions would never be submitted. The police began persecuting the “heretical” sect, and 515 Black Dragon members who had been suspected in a plot in 1933 were arrested; two hundred were convicted and sentenced.

On April 6, 1935 General Mazaki ordered all army commanders to decree that Minobe’s organ theory is incompatible with Japanese patriotism (kokutai), and all Minobe’s writings on this subject were banned. Most partisans of the “Strike North” strategy were sent to field positions or the reserves, and on July 15 Emperor Hirohito had Mazaki transferred. After Lt. Col. Aizawa Saburo complained to Nagata Tetsuzan at the Military Affairs Bureau, he was ordered to go to Taiwan. In revenge Aizawa went to Nagata’s office on August 12 and killed him with his samurai sword. War minister Hayashi resigned on September 3. Minobe agreed to resign from the House of Peers on September 18, and in return the charges against him were dropped; in October all books on his organ theory were banned. Privy Seal Keeper Makino resigned in December and was replaced by Saito.

On January 27, 1936 Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko had the police release several hundred swordsmen who had been suspected in the 1933 plot. Aizawa’s trial began the next day, and his lawyers criticized the Okada cabinet, the court, and Minobe’s constitutional theory. In the election on February 20, 1936 the Minseito party ran on parliamentary government as better than fascism; they gained 59 seats while the Seiyukai party lost 127 seats and their majority. Army minister Hayashi had ordered the entire First Division transferred to Manzhouguo. On February 26, the last day of Aizawa’s court martial, a mutiny involving the First Division and the Imperial Guards began as soldiers were awakened at 2 a.m. After an hour of explanations by the conspirators, 1,450 soldiers agreed to obey the two captains and nineteen lieutenants while 8,500 men stayed in the barracks. As snow was falling, they seized the central offices in Tokyo including the Diet, the Army Ministry, General Staff offices, police headquarters, the Land Survey office, the Home Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and the Navy Ministry; but they did not secure the gate to the palace nor did they win over the Navy. The death squads assassinated Saito of the Privy Seal, Finance minister Takahashi, and the Inspector-General of Military Education, Watanabe Jotaro. Makino was warned and escaped; Grand Chamberlain Suzuki Kantaro was wounded but survived; and Premier Okada hid in the servants’ toilet while his brother-in-law was killed by mistake.

Emperor Hirohito rejected requests to organize a new cabinet and ordered the rebellion suppressed immediately, declaring martial law in the capital the following night. By dawn on February 29 the rebels were surrounded by tanks and artillery in central Tokyo. Planes dropped leaflets ordering the soldiers to return to their units or they would be shot as traitors. Most did so, but one unit held out as their commander shot himself. The others wanted a trial to express their views like Aizawa; but the Special Court Martial was conducted in secret, and 124 received light sentences. Aizawa was executed by firing squad on July 3, nine days before 13 officers were shot. Four civilians including Kita Ikki were also sentenced to death, but they were not executed until August 19, 1937. The faction advocating such direct action to “restore the Showa Emperor” had lost.

Meanwhile on September 20, 1935 Foreign minister Hirota Koki had begun negotiating with Jiang (Kai-shek) asking China to recognize Manzhouguo, allow Japanese economic expansion in northern China, and join Japan in an anti-Communist alliance. The North China Autonomy Movement began in November when Doihara persuaded General Yin Rugeng to found the East Hebei Anti-Communist Autonomous Council; but the Nationalists called him a puppet and outlawed them as traitors. Jiang demanded an end to the Tanggu Truce, the East Hebei Council, and to Japanese and Manchurian smuggling.

On December 11 Nanjing formed the Hebei-Chahar Political Council to administer the territory that was not in the demilitarized zone. So Doihara got the warlord General Song Zheyuan to head an autonomous council over Hebei and Chahar. The Japanese traded other goods besides opium for silver, and they barred Chinese customs boats from entering East Hebei. On land customs officials were bribed, and Japanese soldiers protected smugglers. The Hebei-Chahar Council allowed the Japanese to replace the customs duty with a Japanese handling charge, and soon a third of Nanjing’s customs revenues were being diverted to the puppet Council. This affected the security of British and American loans to China. On January 13, 1936 the Japanese War Ministry issued “An Outline of Policy to Deal with North China” that called for bringing three more provinces under Japanese control. When the British and Americans complained about the “autonomous” councils, the Japanese said this was a Chinese question they were watching.

Tanaka Ryukichi and Kempeitai (military police) commander Tojo Hideki managed to get Qin Dechun to proclaim an Inner Mongolia government in June 1936, and Emperor Hirohito declared Qin a prince. However, warlord Zhang Xueliang led a Chinese campaign against these Mongolians and Tanaka’s Guandong Army and defeated them. When Tokyo declined to send more troops, Qin changed his allegiance to Nanjing. Tojo concentrated on economic development, and the Nissan automobile company moved into Manchuria.

Japan drove out Ford, General Motors, and other foreign auto companies by only giving production licenses to Toyota and Nissan. By 1936 domestic consumption was up 20%, and Japan’s population reached seventy million. Coal production had risen from 9 million metric tons in 1931 to 14 million, and iron production went from 673,000 metric tons to 1,325,000. Cotton increased by a third while timber multiplied three and a half times. Japan’s overall exports rose from 1,435 million yen in 1930 to 2,641 million yen in 1936. In 1930 Japanese factories employed 1,886,000, and 2,876,000 worked in factories in 1936. Japan’s net national product increased from 10.2 billion yen in 1930 to 15.8 billion yen in 1936.

After the mutiny in February 1936 Hirota Koki became prime minister on March 9. The policy was changed back so that only active duty generals and admirals could serve as the ministers of War and the Navy. On August 7 the Inner Cabinet adopted the “Strike South” strategy as a “fundamental of national policy.” The Army was still preparing for war against the Soviet Union, but the emphasis was on controlling the western Pacific and Southeast Asia and building up the Navy in the southern oceans in order to take on the United States. The Hirota government announced that military spending would be 69% of the 1937 national budget.

When a Japanese shopkeeper was murdered in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong in September 1936, Japan sent two cruisers and five destroyers from its Southern Task Force to the island of Hainan. Three weeks later a Japanese sailor was killed in Shanghai, and the Naval General Staff began planning for a Sino-Japanese war. The Communists were also feared, and Guandong Army chief of staff Itagaki had a plan drawn up for an attack on Vladivostok and Lake Baikal with 1941 as the deadline for preparations. Chief of Operations Ishihara had his staff draft a Five-Year Program for Major Industries in order to prepare for war against the Soviet Union.

On November 25 Japan signed the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany to form an alliance against the Soviet Union. Adolph Hitler even said that Japanese blood was “closely akin to the pure Nordic strain.” War minister Terauchi Hisaichi was severely criticized in the Diet, and he resigned on January 22, 1937, followed by the entire Hirota cabinet the next day. Saionji recommended General Ugaki, but the Army would not accept him. The elderly Saionji was allowed to choose between General Hayashi Senjuro and the fascist Hiranuma, and on February 2 the “border-crossing” Hayashi was named prime minister. He appointed Yuki Toyotari as Finance minister, and they reduced the budget ten percent while leaving the military budget alone.

In 1937 Jiang’s Nationalists and Mao Zedong’s Communists suspended their civil war to form a united front against Japanese encroachment in China. Tokyo changed its strategy and began emphasizing economic and cultural policies. Emperor Hirohito dissolved the Diet on March 31. Jiang strengthened his demands, and in April he sent 5,000 troops into Shandong to stop smuggling and collect taxes. This defeat made Hayashi unpopular. In the April election the Seiyukai and Minseito parties joined together against the Government and won more than 400 seats. Hayashi’s party won only 18 seats while the radical anti-Hayashi Social Mass party won 38 seats. Hayashi was replaced by the civilian Konoe Fumimaro in June.


1. Hijoji kokumin zenshu ed. Rikugun, p. 65 quoted in Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan by Herbert P. Bix, p. 278.
2. Quoted in Imperialist Japan by Michael Montgomery, p. 374.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
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Qing Decline 1799-1875
Qing Dynasty Fall 1875-1912
Republican China in Turmoil 1912-1926
Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1927-1937
China at War 1937-1949
Korea 1800-1949
Japan's Modernization 1800-1894
Imperial Japan 1894-1937
Japan's War and Defeat 1937-1949
Philippines to 1949
Pacific Islands to 1949
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Chronology of East Asia to 1950

BECK index