History of Modern Japan

Dec 1, 2017 at History Essays


The modern history of Japan can be counted from the existence of Empire of Japan that emerged in 1868 and lasted until 1945. However, as I see the beginning of the modern Japanese history is more related to the fall of the isolation policy. Seclusion that lasted more than 200 years had to end due to the western countries, which wanted to open borders and build strong trade relationship with Asian countries.  The policy of seclusion that meant to be a protector of the land, from which modern history started with its fall led to the today`s Japan`s prosperity.  

William II of the Netherlands in 1844, proposed to Japan to open their borders. From the beginning the message was rejected by shogunate, because they felt that after the accepting that proposal, Japan will be significantly influenced by the western countries. As it actually happened, on July 8m 1853 three ships of United States, that were called Black Ships, threatened with their attack on Yokohama. The purpose of that operation was to force Japan to start trade with the West. The next year peace treaty was signed by both sides, and the country that accepted unequal treaty was Japan. Within other four years, the Empire of Japan signed peace treaties with other western countries. The circumstances in which Japan appeared were highly unequal and most of the changes that government had to accept remained as a major barrier in Western-Japanese relations up until the beginning of the 20th century. Those rules included such policies as giving control on tariffs on imports and that foreigners could attain in Japan piece of land to their belonging. It is obvious that such rules made Japanese feel suffering from western pressure. 

The beginning of exploration

The brief description of Empire of Japan or Prewar Japan includes word combinations as rapid economic growth, colonization and military power. Japan in the beginning of 1868, under the western pressure and desire to achieve better political conditions, suddenly emerged as centralized and unified state. Political, economic and cultural upheaval that happened that year led to the major changes that brought development. Due to that Japan became an imperial power that colonized Korea and Taiwan. Adding to those countries Manchuria and China also fall under the Japanese expansion in order to protest against the League of Nations and the United Nations. Obviously that kind of defiance that was made by Japan led to World War II. Japan attacked several times U.S. and also British, Dutch territories in 1941-41. As a result U.S. attacked more than 50 cities of Japan and also dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Moreover U.S defeated Japanese fleet, so due to that Japan gave up on overseas colonies such as Korea, Taiwan or China. As a result of such relations between Japan and Western countries, after the end of the World War II superpowers as United States and Soviet Union decided to deprive Japan from having military forces. 

The roots of such enormous expansion of military and colonialism are in the peace treaties that were signed after the fall of seclusion. Japanese people saw those treaties as common shame and humiliation of their rights. When in 1868 emperor was restored in power, the development that was brought by him was known as Meiji Restoration, in which particular intensive focus was on social and economic aspects. Even though many of the new institution that was created were adopted from the western system, Japanese people even before invasion of United Nation Black Ships brought many other changes. However in order to attain independence and stability in front of world political powers, Japan firstly had to improve their economical conditions. Industrial revolution that occurred these years was a result of strong desire of Japanese government to catch up with western world. In order to learn western politics Japanese politicians were sent to the Europe and when they come back they brought many significant changes. The government sent thousand of students to study abroad to study mathematics, technology and languages; they improved roads and build railroads. First manifestation of modern industry was cotton and silk. 

Those were first steps to get recognition from western countries in order to be an important political player. The next steps that Japan launched were much more violent and harsh. 


Japan is as for now reflecting on the wartime that affected their country years back. This has made divion in the country as they try to think of the reason why they had to fight. Most of the countries suffered a lot when this war existed and this affected Asia as a whole. This japanesse war crimes happened in Asian countries in the period of Japanese imperialism. This was during world war II and second sino- Japanese war. Most of this crimes occurred in the 19th century and these crimes were mostly done by the military personel from the origin of Japan. Most of these might have taken place in the earlier periods and lasted for a long time. For instance, it is supposed that this war on japan lasted upto the year 1945. This happened when the country was ruled by the Emperor named Hirohito and the time came when he was overthrown by the military.

Other goverments that existed and were stable had a pointing finger to the Millitary and the Emporor responsible for the crime. Many crimes were commited and affected majority of the citizens in one way or another. Some of the soldiers later came to admite committing the said crimes meaning the accusations pointed at them by other states were true. The imperial Japanese family were not left behind and had to also carry the blame because it is suspected that they also participated in the crime.

The japan government had to apologies to the world for the war crimes that happened in their country. This is evident from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the country was aware of the crime and the consequences that it put into its citizens and other neighboring states. They admit that many crimes against humanity were committed in the World War II that included looting, rape and killings to its citizens. Several prime ministers of the states spend time in the shrines praying for the country. However, the party in the country, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has denied some of the claims that were put on the country and some of the crimes denied include Comfort Women. During that time, there were outside Millitary that were in Japan including Taiwanese and Korean that were in the country as authorities and are also victims of the crime. The were working in the Empire of Japan.

Military culture and imperialism of japan

The conduct of Japan can also be based on the military culture. This had a role to play both in the world war or even before. The military became a focus after the military loyalty. Japan then made up its mind in the 19th century to follow other developing worlds in empire development and made in an objective that the state had to fulfill. Japan itself had not made any effort to sign the Geneva Convention and this was initially meant to heal the prisoners who had fell victims of the war that hit their country. This was a one of its own version ment for Geneva Convention the purpose being treatment of the affected prisoners during the war. Japan opted for Hague Convention that contained terms of the prisoners after the World War II. Ht proclaim stated that the Japan military should win the war and in this case making sure that no violation is committed in the process. The prisoners as stated in the signed an agreement with the military that they were not going to take up any arms or weapons to fight against the government. It estimated that the Chinese prisoners released were around 1,790. Immediately after the Russio- Japan war, the empire prisoners approximated to be 79, 367 were also set free and the government honoured the Hague requirements that states that they were to be paid for labour that they performed.  After the war, japan German POWs were very convinced that japan had changed and agreed to settle in the country. 


The suffering that was caused in Japan is comparable to the suffering that once affected Germany in the 1933 upto the year 1945. It is comparable due to the suffering it exposed to its citizens. What was more intense in the crime in japan was so much looked on the the rate at which the prisoners died and also the civilians that at that time were under Japanese occupation. In Germany, six million Jews were killed and twenty million Russians. In japan, approximately thirty million Cambodians, Malays, Vietnamese, Burmese, and Indonesians lost there life due to man slaughter. It is also approximated that twenthy three million of them were ethnically Japanese. Thereafter, both nations managed to loot the countries that they had killed its citizens and in the process took some as slaves and made them forced laborers. They were put in the front lines during wars. Women were made prostitutes to the military personnel. Tokyo managed to carry out a survey and this estimated the death rate at 27.1 per cent of the POWs that came from the Asian countries. 

Mass killings

The estimation of the people murded between the year 1937 and the year 1945 is between  3 million and 10 million. This is according to the survey carried out by a professor of the university of Hawaii. This includes 6 million chinese, Koreans and Indonesians. This war was termed to be a political and military plan. international Military Tribuanl for the Far East gave out a discovery that between the year 1937 and 1945, around 300 thousand prisoners and civillians were massacred by the Japanese military and when asked they responded that the figure that was given by the findings was almost the right figure. Estimation carried out shows that one in every 20 filipinos were killed by the Japanese. The main targets of the Japanese attacks were Asia, the overseas chinese and even included Europe Diaspora and this was because of the influence of the Chinese culture of which it never existed in the Southeast Asia and latter driven by racist Pan-Asianism for the purpose of showing the past colonial the strength and influence of the western giants.  The policy that the hiostorians claims was respossible for the massacre in China had been put in place from the year 1942 to 1945 and is the one that let an approximately 2.7 million civilians belonging to china to lose their lives. This policy was named “three Alls Policy”. This ordered the forces of Japan to kill, burn and Loot All. Other Massacres that led to the killing of the captured allied service personnel includes parit sulong, Palawan Massacre, battle of Wake Land, Shinyo Maru Incident, Laha massacre and Banka Island massacre.

Period of seclusion 

Japan as a country managed to get itself in a seclusion and this was from influences coming from foreighn countries in the 17th century. “sakoku” is the name of the period in Japan. This period has its origin from the government of Tokugawa and the main aim was to keep the country in its own not to allow any influence from the outside. This had the purpose of opening the country by its own means and not a denial from the foreign influences. This was a time when the country would keep a strick attentiveness to the relations of maritime trade and make a recognition on the benefits and setbacks on the stability of the country.  The seclusion itself was termed by a german doctor who at that time served a dutch trading station as a recent example of national security and this was against foreign infrigments. This also Japan remained a nation that situated to be relying in itself interms of the soil that surrounded the nation by the ocean. This made him have an idea that Japan had strenght when it comes to customs, morality, wills, skills, and health. It was an excemption nation with such extensive mode of transport materialistic assets and agrarian wealth. The period had value that of a ‘Tenka Taihei’ where peace was to reign in Japan’s land. 

In trade monopoly, japan used to limit foreign trade partners and this was the reason to satisfy an intention of the government of Tokugawa. This was done to improve the trade monopoly that it enjoyed and this was to lift the economy of Tokugawa. Maximum protection was enhanced in the port that involved surveillance by the officials of Tokugawa. In this process, it managed to take control of the gains in the vessels belonging to daimyos that were the main rivals to the government of Japan,  the clan of Tokugawa and this was to rule alone of the foreign trade gains. Trading was done while it was supervised tightly and the only allowed to make through when it came to private trade were the Dutch. The leader had a name  “kapitan” and as the rules had it, he was required to make a special visit to Edo and this was intented so that he would meet periodically with the government officials. 

There was no travelling abroad. This was a rule made by the Tokugawa government on its citizens. They made it clear that incase a citizen leaves the country, they were never allowed back to Japan. This was done in order to limit the freedom that its citizens would have enjoyed in trade or even getting knowledge outside their country and in the back of their mind, the said this had a purpose to eliminate any form of corruption among the population. They made sure that they managed the population and the entry of any foreign influence to the country bringing peace to the country. This enabled socio-cultures to form and be firm. Also during the rule of Tokugawa, the Japan government established a good trade relation with the country of Korea. 

Sakoku came to an end with the entrance of the United States back in the year 1853. This came at a time that its strenght to avoid contacts with the foreign was weak because of emergence of a universalism that had the western Nations lead. The policy from then onwards was thrown out as the national independence spread and also domestic stability. This cut short any access to economical, political and even ideological influences that may have arise from the west and other foreigners. Japan was guarded from from religions such as Christianity given that Japan had made an ideology in the period of Sakoku. A foundation is when Sakoku policy was defented and made strong and in time to come enable the country to be prepared for a rapid modernization. The countries attitude of choosing foreign elements was left behind. Japan then made real there socio-cultural character.

The current japan

In the year 1993, when Japan changed its government, political took a diffenent turn when it got a modification with its trading partners and soon, with the prediction, Japan is going to align itself with the United States. The market is soon going to be taken by a free market forces and the change in economy is expected to change gradually like the United States Economy. It is however, like a drastic move as was assumed by Anglo-American Journalists and even economists. However, there is currently no indication of any form of convergance due to the lack of some basics that have changed about the goverments role in making sure that economy takes a new a quick move in growth and well-being. Currently, there in no change in japan in terms of philosophy giving a guideline on how things are done but instead it gives a an adaptation to the means and way in which the world in making a turn in the country. For instance, Japanese rice market that happened to open in the year 1994 was never with a reason of the government seeing the necessity that had trade carried out without any charge but due to the destruction of the rice harvest by summer and had no option but import rice to the country. The changes of the world that was experienced by japan underlined japan’s history. These adaptations includes the bringing ito being of a bureaucracy and even a tax system immediately the chinese brought a confucianist thinking to the country. The first government formed of which looked like western countries but in the real sense resembled the one that was established in 645 immediately  commodore Perry made way in Yokohama in 1853 or even the establishment of new state system  resembling continuation of practice after a defeat in the year 1945. Another example of a pragmatic adaptation occurred in the year 1980 when Japan made a great progress and shifted its gears from a developing economy to an already developed economy. There was a shift towards increase in the international competitiveness that started in 1980s and where the tools and goals changed. 

Currently, Japans economy is the third largest in the world. It is the second largest when it comes to economy development. The countys GDP is excellent and is approximated as being 34,739 US dollars way back in the year 2011. Interms of automobile manufacturing, the country is third and is proud to have the largest electronic goods industry. It is however facing a lot of competition from other countries like China and South Korea. Japan has made its focus on the manufacturing of precious goods. It has also emerged to be the largest creditor nation that have international investment surplus. In the year 2011, it was estimated that the world has on average 500 companies and Japan being that much developed managed to scoop 68 of the companies.


The country happened to pass through great structural changes in 1970s and even 1980s. this was a change to a country good in assembling and processing from the previous heavy polluting industry.

Nowdays, environment agency is responsible in controlling any form of pollution and conservation of nature with different ministries taking roles in the development. It includes the management of forests, conservation of fisheries resources  and even the approvals of agricultural chemicals.



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