Japan is an archipelago of 8964 islands. The six largest islands are Karafuto, Ezo, Honshū, Kyūshū, Shikoku and Taiwan, together accounting for ninety-seven percent of Japan's land area. Japan has the world's eighth largest population, with over 153 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding provinces, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 40 million residents.
The climate of Japan is predominantly temperate, but varies greatly from north to south. Japan's geographical features divide it into seven principal climatic zones: Northern Islands, Sea of Japan, Central Highland, Seto Inland Sea, Pacific Ocean, Ryūkyū Islands, and Taiwan. The northernmost zone, Northern Islands (Karafuto and Ezo), has a humid continental climate with long, cold winters and very warm to cool summers. Precipitation is not heavy, but the islands usually develop deep snowbanks in the winter.
In the Sea of Japan zone on Honshū's west coast, northwest winter winds bring heavy snowfall. In the summer, the region is cooler than the Pacific area, though it sometimes experiences extremely hot temperatures because of the foehn wind. The Central Highland has a typical inland humid continental climate, with large temperature differences between summer and winter, and between day and night; precipitation is light, though winters are usually snowy. The mountains of the Chūgoku and Shikoku regions shelter the Seto Inland Sea from seasonal winds, bringing mild weather year-round.
The Pacific Coast features a humid subtropical climate that experiences milder winters with occasional snowfall and hot, humid summers because of the southeast seasonal wind. The Ryukyu Islands have a subtropical climate, with warm winters and hot summers. Precipitation is very heavy, especially during the rainy season. The generally humid, temperate climate exhibits marked seasonal variation such as the blooming of the spring cherry blossoms, the calls of the summer cicada and fall foliage colors that are celebrated in art and literature.
In Taiwan, the climate is generally marine and varies widely by season in the Northern part and the mountain areas. The Southern part of the island, however, belongs to the tropical belt and is warm and humid all year. Rainfall varies hugely from place to place throughout the year, but averaging 2600 mm for the island proper. During the winter (November to March), the northeast experiences steady rain, while the central and southern parts of the island are mostly sunny.
The average winter temperature in Japan is 5.1° C (41.2° F) and the average summer temperature is 25.2° C (77.4° F). The highest temperature ever measured in Japan - 40.9° C (105.6° F) - was recorded on August 16, 2007. The main rainy season begins in early January in Taiwan, and the rain front gradually moves north until reaching Ezo in late July. In most of Honshu, the rainy season begins before the middle of June and lasts about six weeks. In late summer and early autumn, typhoons often bring heavy rain.
Politics and GovernmentAccording to the Constitution of the Republic of Japan, Japan is the sovereign and independent republic which governing the territory of Japanese Archipelago based on the Gobosei Shiso (ゴボウセイ シソウ gobōsei shisō, "Political Teaching of Five-Pointed Star"), consists of Social Nationalism, National Democracy, Economic Self-sufficiency, Pragmatic Development and Pan-Asianism.
The founding and sole ruling party of Japan is the Japanese Nationalist Party. As of 2013, it has an estimated 15.7 million members and dominates every aspect of Japanese politics. It was founded in 1918 by Nagayama Yoshida and Kita Ikki. The Nationalist Party is organized based on the idea of democratic centralism, a same principle which is applied on the Soviet Communist Party, and is committed to the Gobosei Shiso as its official ideology. There are other two political parties in Japan, the social democratic Japanese Socialist Party and the Buddhist-based Komei Political League, which are almost completely subservient to the Nationalist Party in order participate in the National Congress of Japan.The unicameral National Congress (コクミンダイヒョウタイクイ Kokumin Daihyō Taikai) constitutionally is the highest organ of state authority and holds supreme powers in legislative, executive and judicial matters. Its members are elected every four years through a rigid hierarchical electoral system. The members of the National Congress and the Provincial Congresses are elected by the local city and village councils, which in turn are directly elected by the citizens. This system is applied in order to preserve the domination of the Japanese Nationalist Party in the country's politics.
The President of the Republic (ソウサイ Sōsai) is the head of state of the Republic of Japan and the nominal commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Japan. The President of the Republic is elected by the National Congress from among its members every four years and can be re-elected without any term limit. Current President of the Republic of Japan is Maehara Seiji, who also heads the ruling Japanese Nationalist Party as de-facto leader of the General Political Office, the most important decision-making body of the Party.
The Council of Ministers (カクリョウクイギ Kakuryō Kaigi) serves as the highest administrative body of Japan, which is currently presided by Prime Minister Sai Eibun, the second Taiwanese and the first woman to be the office-holder. The Prime Minister (ソウリ Sōri) is the presiding member of the Council of Ministers and his authority extends over three Vice Prime Ministers (フクソウリ Fuku-Sōri), the Ministers of State (コクムショウ Kokumushō), the president of Central Bank of Japan and other heads of state commissions.
To exercise daily legislative functions, the National Congress elects the members of Legislative Council (リッポウイ Rippō-in) from and among its members every two years. The Legislative Council is described by the constitution as the main law-making body of the Republic.
The State Council (コクムイン Kokumu-in) have a minor significant role in the day-to-day government of Japan. Its members are elected by the electoral college which each consisted of 40 electorates in every province every six years. The State Council functions as the main advisory body for the government.
The National Court (コクミンサイバンショ Kokumin Saibansho) serves as the supreme judicature for the whole territory of Japanese Republic. The court supervises the administration of justice by the state courts at various levels. All of the judges of the Court are appointed by the National Congress. Every Japanese nationals are the subject of Japanese law and under the authority of National Court of Japan.
Japan is one of few non-Communist countries that is applying the procuratorial system. The procuratorates are charged with both the investigation and prosecution of crime with the office of National Procuratorate (コクミンケンサツイン Kokumin Kensatsu-in) at the national level.
A Paleolithic culture around 30,000 BC constitutes the first known habitation of the Japanese archipelago. This was followed from around 14,000 BC (the start of the Jōmon period) by a Mesolithic to Neolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer culture, who include ancestors of both the contemporary Ainu people and Yamato people, characterized by pit dwelling and rudimentary agriculture. Decorated clay vessels from this period are some of the oldest surviving examples of pottery in the world. Around 300 BC, the Yayoi people began to enter the Japanese Islands, intermingling with the Jōmon. The Yayoi period, starting around 500 BC, saw the introduction of practices like wet-rice farming, a new style of pottery, and metallurgy, introduced from China and Korea.
Yamato Dynasty (250–1349)Japan first appears in written history in the Chinese Book of Han. According to the records of the Three Kingdoms, the most powerful kingdom on the archipelago during the third century was called Yamataikoku. Buddhism was first introduced to Japan from Baekje of Korea, but the subsequent development of Japanese Buddhism was primarily influenced by China. Despite early resistance, Buddhism was promoted by the ruling class and gained widespread acceptance beginning in the Asuka period (592–710).
The Nara period (710–784) of the eighth century marked the emergence of a strong Japanese state, centered on an imperial court in Heijō-kyō (modern Nara).The Nara period is characterized by the appearance of a nascent literature as well as the development of Buddhist-inspired art and architecture. The smallpox epidemic of 735–737 is believed to have killed as much as one-third of Japan's population. In 784, Emperor Sudo moved the capital from Nara to Nagaoka-kyō before relocating it to Heian-kyō (modern Kyoto) in 794. The Zen school of Buddhism was introduced from China in the later part of Heian period (784–1333) and became popular among the petite noble class.
Kōwa era (1282–1349)
Japan repelled Mongol invasions in 1274, but was eventually successfully defeated by the Mongols in 1282. Miura Tanemura was installed as the imperial regent of Japan, established the Miura Regency that replaced the Bakufu government. Between 1282 and 1349, Japan became the tributary state to Yuan Dynasty under the rule of Miura clan. The Kōshō Edict that was issued by the Miura clan in 1283 declared Buddhism as the official state religion. The indigenous Japanese shamanist rituals that previously incorporated into Buddhist rites was officially suppressed by the government.
Opposition against the Miura clan and the Kōshō Edict developed into a large-scale rebellion by the rival clans in the central and northern Japan that known as the Haibutsu Rebellion or Anti-Buddhist Rebellion. This rebellion, however, successfully suppressed in 1285. Following the end of Haibutsu Rebellion, the shamanist priests were captured and executed by the governmental armies. The traditional Japanese shrines were destroyed and its properties were looted by the government. This persecution against traditional Japanese belief marking a beginning of the period of Pacification or famously known as the Kōwa era (講和) in Japan.During this period, the Japanese adopted some Mongol-influenced elements on every aspects of its life like on the clothing, architecture, science, art, literature, weaponry, cuisine, and mail system. Japanese society was also being demilitarized and the warrior class lost their prominence in the politics. Under the Miura regency, the Japanese aristocrats that were known as "kuge" (公家) once again found their role as the patrons of arts and culture. However, as the warrior class that was known as "buke" (武家) began to decline, a new class of intellectual elites called "gakke" (學家) was emerging from the Japanese scholars who studied in China and, together with kuge, they contributed to reshaping Japanese politics and society into its recent form.
Early Imperial era (1349–1543)
In 1349, under the reign of Emperor Jōkai, Japan ended its tributary relations with Yuan Dynasty following the dynastic succession which occurred in China. Emperor Jōkai appointed his eldest son, Prince Takahito (who later became Emperor Go-Mizunoo), as Seii Tai-shōgun, making the control of the military now under the imperial family. Japan later renamed as "Great Nippon State" (Japanese: 大日本國; ダイニチポンコク Dai Nippon-koku) by an edict issued by Emperor Jōkai in March 24, 1350 (or February 16, Jōwa 1 in traditional calendar). February 16 today is celebrated as the National Independence Day in Japan as it also coincides with the date of the foundation of Republican government in 1919.In 1351, the Kingdom of Hokuzan in the Ryukyu Islands became Japan’s first tributary state after Emperor Jōkai sent three imperial envoys before King Haniji. Two other Ryukyuan principalities, Chūzan and Nanzan, were granted similar commercial status shortly afterwards. From then on, the three kingdoms would send frequent tribute missions before the Japanese Emperor even until the islands were unified by Chūzan as the Kingdom of Ryukyu in 1429.
Following the decline of Yuan Dynasty, Japan started expand its hegemony farther to the south. The island of Taiwan (which was called "Takasago" at that time) which at that time was inhabited by native Austronesian aborigines became the first target of Japan’s military invasion. In 1358, Emperor Jōkai launched the invasion of the northern region of Takasago which unfortunately met a heavy resistance from Tayaru people. With the help from Ryukyuan and native Tagaramu forces, the Japanese successfully defeated the Tayaru people after two months of fighting. However, only in 1360, the entire island of Takasago can finally be subjugated under Japanese rule.
In 1381, Japan launched a punitive expedition to the island of Ezo after its imperial envoys were killed by local Ainu villagers in Muroran. Emperor Saka used this opportunity to annex Ezo and Karafuto into the Japanese Realm. Despite being successful, the punitive expedition itself was a very bloody one due to the fierce opposition from Ainu peoples which were forced by Japanese troops to leave their settlements in the hilly areas in northeastern Ezo.
The rise of the Ming Dynasty in China triggered some worries among the inner circle of the Japanese imperial court about possible Chinese invasion of the islands, especially after pro-Ming Joseon Dynasty replaced pro-Yuan Goryeo Dynasty in Korea. In 1394, Emperor Go-Junna reorganized the Japanese military from land-based armies to maritime-based fleets, in order to build the significant naval forces for Japan. He believed only with the strengthening the Japanese naval defense in the Sea of Japan, the country could avoid any future invasions from a Ming armada.
As the Japanese naval forces grew stronger, Emperor Go-Junna and his advisers began to envision the prospect of more larger maritime hegemony which would rivaling directly against Ming Dynasty. In 1395, Japan sent its envoys to the Kingdom of Tondo in Luzon, which today being part of Philippines, in hope to establish its influence in the island. However, Tondo refused the request as it was already entered a tributary relationship with Ming Dynasty, to masquerade its maritime trade in China which enforced the Hai jin laws at that time. Enraged by the refusal, Japan sent its armada under Admiral Yoshitoshi Shuzaheijin to Tondo. However, the invasion was successfully defeated by Tondo and Emperor Go-Junna decided to retreat his armada after the death of Admiral Yoshitoshi on the battle.Only after the second invasion under the reign of Emperor Shijō in 1400, Tondo finally accepted its dual subordination to both China and Japan wherein Tondo tributary relations were maintained with both the Japanese and Chinese court. After gained a subjugation from Tondo, Japan continued to expand its influence over the island and later to the Visayan Islands by fifteenth century. While neither had a similar significant presence as the Chinese, the large number of Japanese merchants did settle in the Philippines, especially in Manila, which later served as the base for a future Japanese-Filipino community.
During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Japanese society was getting wealthier thanks to the maritime trade which not only limited around the water areas of Southeast Asia, but even reached the remote islands of Oceania as far south as Aotearoa for whaling and cabbage tree trade and as far as east as Hawaii for sandalwood trade. There are also some theories existed about a possibility of the Japanese sailors for already crossed the Pacific Ocean and landed in the coast of the Americas for trading with the native Americans during this period.While the kuge and the gakke continued as the influential forces around the Emperor and the government, the merchants and the traders emerged as new dominant class called shōnin (商人) or chōnin (町人) in the urban areas especially in the port-cities like Edo and Osaka. They were relatively independent from the rule of Kyoto aristocracy and increasingly powerful over the Japanese maritime trade around this era. The merchants also took over the position of the kuge on the field of arts in the port-cities such Edo, to support a new mass, urban culture.
Middle Imperial era (1543–1853)After the Japanese established a trading relation called "Nanban trade" with the Portuguese in 1543, the role of shōnin increasingly more powerful and the role of kuge within the government started to fade away. The Bureau of Trade which had its headquarters in Edo became more independent in action and regulated its own laws over the maritime trade. Personally, Emperor Go-Nara was very supportive to the shōnin and warmly welcomed the arrival of the Portuguese.
During this era, the Japanese adopted several of the technologies and cultural practices of their European visitors, whether in the military area (the arquebus, European-style cuirasses, European ships), religion (Christianity), decorative art, language (incorporation of Western loan words to Japanese vocabulary) and culinary: the Portuguese introduced the tempura and variety of refined confectioneries, called nanban-gashi (南蠻菓子), literally means "southern barbarian confectionery", such as castella, kompeito, and bisukauto.
The growing power of the shōnin and the increasing number of Catholic converts in southern Japan who mainly came from the shōnin class was viewed as a threat by the kuge, the gakke and the priests. These three ruling classes joined their forces against the shōnin and were successful in convincing Emperor Go-Konoe about how the Spanish and Portuguese were settling in the New World, and how Japan would also soon become one of the many countries in their possession.
In 1614, Emperor Go-Konoe issued an edict to close the headquarters of the Bureau of Trade in Edo and establish the new one in Kyoto. The Japanese Christians were also forced to denounce their belief as it was viewed as dishonoring the Emperor's divine reign and the kami. More restrictions came afterward, such as the restriction of foreign trade to Nagasaki and Hirado, an island northwest of Kyūshū in 1616, the execution of 120 missionaries and converts in 1622, the expulsion of the Spanish in 1624, and the persecution of the thousands of Japanese Christians in 1629.
In 1635, Emperor Go-Konoe regulated the trade relations to the Europeans can only be conducted through the ports in Nan'yo Islands (except to the Dutch who had a restricted privilege in Dejima, a small artificial island in Nagasaki's harbor). The Chinese were restricted to Takasago, Ryukyu Islands, and Dejima, while the Koreans only to Tsushima Island. The Europeans that entered Japan illegally would face the death penalty. Any practice of Christianity was also strictly forbidden and the missionaries were not allowed to enter the Japanese Realm, including the Ryukyu Islands and the Nan'yo Islands. However, the study of Western sciences, known as rangaku, was still continued through Dejima.
The seventeenth century saw the collapse of Japanese maritime empire in Asia and Oceania. After the Spanish conquered the Kingdom of Tondo in 1570, the Japanese hegemony started to falling down in the Philippine Islands. Japan lost most of its trading partners while at the same time partially isolated itself from outer world. The only contact between the Japanese and the foreigners only possibly occurred in Takasago and Nan'yo Islands which also slowly sunk into the Spanish influences. Japan, with its weakening naval forces, was unable to prevent the decline of its Empire.
Failed military campaign to invade the Joseon Dynasty in Korea between 1592 to 1598 only worsened the situation and many soldiers were rebelled against the government following the withdrawal of Japanese forces from Korean Peninsula. There also several attempts to re-establish the old bakufu government in early 1600s, which successfully suppressed by the government forces. After the size of military was reduced in 1621 and many of senior commanders was stripped from their rank, the Japanese navy was losing its prestige and no longer respected as the powerful maritime forces by the neighboring countries.
Takasago was claimed under the Spanish Crown in 1626 (which later renamed it "Formosa"), then under Ming pretender, Kingdom of Tungning, in 1662, and finally under Qing Dynasty in 1683. Nan'yo Islands were fallen under the British influence in 1700s until claimed by the Spanish and being incorporated into the Spanish East Indies in 1885. Many of the Japanese tributaries in the Pacific Ocean, such as Fiji, Aotearoa, and Tonga also fell under the Western powers between eighteenth and nineteenth century. The Kingdom of Hawaii remained the last Japanese tributary in Oceania until the French invasion to Honolulu in 1849 which made the islands fall under the British and American influences.
As the Emperor's power started to weaken, since 1691, Japan was collectively ruled by the state elders from the kuge and the gakke on the Council of the State. At this point, the Council was no longer the Emperor's Privy Council, but already assumed other military and administrative duties and served as the country's main policy-making body.
With a limited contact to foreign nations, the teaching of Neo-Confucianism began to decline and the intellectual class began to study Japanese ancient literature instead. The study of Japanese literature resulted to the rise of romantic nationalism and the resurgence in popularity of Japanese national mythology. The interactions between Japanese mythology and neo-Confucian rationalism and materialism then created an intellectual form of Japanese folk religion, called the kokugaku movement. Kokugaku contributed largely to the revival of Japanese mythology as a national creed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.The gakke was also no longer associated with the scholars who ever studied to China, but rather to the new generation of the Japanese scholars who studied kokugaku. The Motoori clan, which formed by prominent kokugake scholar, Motoori Norinaga, and his adopted son, Motoori Ōhira, was one of the prominent gakke clan and ruled the Council from 1795 until the re-opening of Japan in 1854
During his tenure as the Chancellor of the Realm (1800-1833), Motoori Ōhira backed the restoration of the Emperor's prerogative powers while at the same time retained the dominance of the Council generally and the gakke especially on Japanese politics.
The restoration of Emperor's powers was necessary to avoid any resistances from other social classes to the Council's rule, especially the shōnin. The shōnin was seen by the elders being too friendly toward the European traders and can acted as possible agent of Western imperialism to take over the Japanese sovereignty. The Emperor also intended to be the mediator between the ruling classes and the symbol of unity for all social classes. This dyarchy between the Emperor and the Council bore a slight resemblance to the Western context of constitutional monarchy where both institutions sharing the powers with each other.
Modern Imperial era (1853–1920)After the victory of the British over the Chinese in the 1840 Opium War and the defeat of Japanese forces in 1849 French invasion to Honolulu which made Hawaii fall under the British and the American influences, many Japanese realized that traditional ways would not be sufficient enough to against the Western thread. Reformist forces, mainly came from the shōnin, supported for the military modernization with the Western techniques and technology. Always suspicious toward the shōnin, the Daijō-kan, however, blatantly rejected this proposal.
Only after Commodore Matthew C. Perry's four-ship squadron appeared in Edo Bay in July 1853 in order to force Japan to open the trade with the west, the imperial government was really plunged into turmoil. Although some of the councillors wanted to keep the foreigners out, the Emperor and the Daijō-kan, finally realized their weak position and through the Minister of the Left (左大臣), Abe Masahiro, agreed to compromise by accepting Perry's demands for opening Japan to foreign trade.The Emperor himself now personally viewed the shōnin demand for the modernization of Japan and the constitutional reform was more favorable than the Daijō-kan's isolationist stance. A new imperial institution called the Genrō-in (元老院), known more as the Imperial Senate, was assembled by Emperor Ninkō in late 1853. The Genrō-in was composed mostly by the representations of the kuge, the gakke, the buke, and the shōnin, and functioned as non-political advisory body in order to reach a common consensus between four classes every time the Emperor need to solve a national problem.
The following year at the Convention of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854, Perry returned with seven ships and demanded that Japan to sign the Treaty of Peace and Amity, establishing formal diplomatic relations between Japan and the United States. The era of seclusion was brought to the end and an opposition movement against the rule of gakke class emerged.A coalition between the wealthy land-owners who belong to the ancient buke class and the wealthy merchants from shōnin class, called the "Edo clique", was formed in late 1850s for rebelled against the imperial government, to overthrow the gakke rule and to enforce far more radical reforms in Japan. The assassinations of several key figures of the gakke government, called the "Kyoto clique", by the Edo clique sympathizers became widespread in 1860s.
This political and social crisis later culminated into the First Japanese Civil War between the Edo clique and Kyoto clique from 1865 to 1867. Afraid of the disunity of Japanese society, newly-enthroned Emperor Taisei agreed for the dissolution of several old imperial institutions including the Council of the State and given the Imperial Senate more political power, substituting the former role of the Council. Four divisions of society formally abolished in 1871 and Western bureaucracy system officially implemented in 1875. All members of kuge and gakke merged and formed new aristocratic class called kazoku (華族), while the buke and shōnin merged into a bourgeoisie class called shinzoku (信族).
After the old Confucian social division perished, the national capital moved from Kyoto to Edo (which renamed as Tokyo), and as the Emperor allowed ten seats of the Senate for getting elected although by limited male suffrage, the imperial government began to dominated by the shinzoku. The Charter of Tokyo, proto-constitution of Imperial Japan, was promulgated in 1877 as a compromise between the conservatives and the reformers within the Senate which adopting Western political, judicial and military institutions into Japanese political system.Although the gakke formed a part of kazoku, many former gakke families lost their position within the society. The gakke were respected because they were the ruling bureaucratic class and owned their own land during the era of seclusion. However, as the empire's political system transformed into the Westernized one and the ancient institutions abolished during the reform, following by the land nationalization by the shinzoku government, most of gakke families was impoverished and instead fell into the rank of commoners or the heimin. With many of the gakke was integrated into the heimin community, the populist-nationalist revolutionary movement later emerged with many of its key intellectual figures had gakke family background.
In a few decades by reforming and modernizing social, educational, economic, military, political and industrial systems, Japan emerged from the transitional period as the first Asian industrialized nation. From the onset, the shinzoku ruling elites embraced the concept of a market economy and adopted British and North American forms of free enterprise capitalism. Japanese economy was transformed from the traditional agricultural based one into the modern industrial state. Transportation and communications developed to sustain heavy industrial development.
After victories in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Japan was able to rebuild its maritime empire by annexing the Kingdom of Ryukyu and Formosa and gaining control of Kwantung, Shandong Peninsula and the southern half of Korean Peninsula. Japan also involved during the overthrow attempt of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893 by sending its armada to Hawaii, supporting Queen Liliuokalani against the rebels. Japan's failed attempt to annex the Philippine Islands in the Spanish-Japanese War (1898–1901), however, led to the growth of nationalist-populist movements against the Imperial government.
Japan entered World War I in 1914 and sided with the Allied Powers. Central Powers was defeated in 1918. However, although winning the World War I and gained the control over Spanish East Indies, Japan’s economy was already suffered due to large military spending on previous wars. Japan succumbed into deep economic crisis and general dissatisfaction emerged among the populace against the country's expansionist policies.
Second Japanese Civil War (1918–1924)Japan's participation on World War I and Siberian Intervention brought the country into industrial booming. Exports quadrupled from 1913 to 1918. The massive capital influx into Japan and the subsequent industrial boom, however, led to rapid inflation. On July 1918, protests and disturbances against high prices of rice caused by this inflation erupted in villages and cities throughout Japan. This series of political disturbances then known as the Rice Riots of 1918.
By August 11, the riots had spread to the rest of the Kansai region; Osaka, Kobe, Kure and Hiroshima all experienced rioting, followed by Tokyo the next day. The largest cities in the industrial areas of Kansai and Kanto saw riots last up to a week, such as in Nagoya that lasted the longest at ten days. Beside the peasants and the urban population, the workers soon also involved on the disturbances by mounted strikes for better wages and working conditions.
On September 11, 1918, at the middle of country-wide crisis, Emperor Keishin suddenly died of influenza and it resulted to a disturbance among the country's elites since the Emperor not bore any son which created a vacuum on the throne succession. Prince Fushimi Sadanaru, from the Fushimi branch of the Imperial Family of Japan, was then appointed as sesshō-no-miya, the Prince Regent of the Empire of Japan. At the time of Emperor's death, the riots increased as many young soldiers deserted and switched their supports to the protesters.
The riots reached its climax on November 13, 1918. More than 5200 demonstrators gathered in Hibiya Park, Tokyo in protest against the government's economic policy and overspending on the military investiture. When the demonstrators marched from the park and approached toward the Imperial Palace, the Imperial Guards opened fire on the masses, killed 50 individuals and injured 327 others.The anti-government waves soon spread throughout Japan. The Nationalist Party under Nagayama Yoshida and Kita Ikki formally declared its support to the revolution on December 3, 1918 and resigned all of its delegates from the Imperial Diet. The Nationalists then formed their own National Congress of Japan in Kyoto and declared the establishment of Council of National Salvation on January 14, 1919 with Nagayama Yoshida as the Political Commander of the Army and Navy. The Council itself is the predecessor of the Japanese Republican Army, that later will became Republic of Japan Armed Forces.
On February 16, 1919, coincided with the date of traditional founding date of the Empire of Japan, the representatives from all provinces of Japan as well as from various political parties and interest groups that convened in the National Congress of Japan in the Kyoto City Hall adopted the declaration of the establishment of the Republic of Japan. The Provisional National Government of the Republic of Japan was formed with Inukai Tsuyoshi as its first Prime Minister.The fighting between the government forces and the Republicans quickly erupted in every Japanese cities. By 1922, the Republicans controlled almost all towns and cities on eastern Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu and Ryukyu while the Loyalists controlled Greater Tokyo, western Chubu, Kanto, Tohoku, Ezo, and Karafuto. Kyoto served as the first capital of the Republican government between February 1919 to March 1922 before the seat was moved to Nagoya until 1923. On March 17, 1922, the Republican forces entered Tokyo while the Imperial government evacuated farther north to Sendai.
A provisional truce was issued by both sides from September 2 to October 25, 1923 following the Great Kantō earthquake. The earthquake devastated Tokyo and caused widespread damage throughout the Kantō region. Relief efforts were actively done by the Republican Army that controlled the damaged region. At that time, the Republican government had been internationally recognized by Czechoslovakia on June 12, 1921, Colombia on December 11, 1921, and Chile on October 26, 1923. The Treaty of Equality and Mutual Understanding was also signed between the Republic of Japan and Korea on March 18, 1920, nullified the Protectorate Treaty of 1905 and renewed Korea's status as a member state of a Japanese commonwealth.
Republican northward campaign was restarted in December 1923. The fifth anniversary of the Republic was celebrated for the first time at Tokyo in 1924. By March 1924, the remnants of the Loyalists fled to Karafuto and made Ōtomari at the southern tip of the island their final defense. On April 11, 1924, the Republican government launched its final campaign on the civil war by dispatching a naval infantry force to Karafuto and starting the Battle of Ōtomari. After suffering a heavy defeat, Prince Regent Fushimi Sadanaru formally surrendered to the Republic on May 1, 1924, thus ended a five-year civil war in Japan.
Interbellum era (1924–1941)Japan was heavily devastated both by the prolonged civil war and the 1923 Kanto earthquake. To recover the national economy, the administration of Suzuki Bunji launched the First Economic Policy on January 13, 1924. Under the policy, the Republican government nationalized the companies and assets of zaibatsu conglomerates as well as all active railways throughout Japan. To reform the national banking system, the Central Bank of Japan was formed in 1925. On agriculture, the lands owned by landlords were seized by the State and redistributed to the tenant farmers. However, the farmers were also encouraged by the government to join agricultural cooperatives to increase agricultural productions.
Due to the success of First Economic Policy, the Great Economic Plan was launched in 1927 by Nakano Seigo's administration. The Plan ambitiously sought to increase Japan's agricultural and industrial outputs and was autarkic and self-reliant in practice. To supply the needs of rice and other agricultural products, the state-running Komyo Agricultural Company was established in 1928 to purchase the lands from the farmers in Korea and the South Pacific. By 1937, about 16% of farmed lands in Korea and 31% in the South Pacific were owned by this company. In 1931, another state-owned corporation, Taisho Rubber Company, ran rubber plantations in Taiwan, the South Pacific Islands, British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies.
On May 6, 1927, the use of Chinese characters (kanji) was formally abolished. The angular style of Japanese native syllabary (kana) or katakana was selected to be the sole official writing system for the Japanese language over Latin characters and cursive style of kana or hiragana. May 6 is now still celebrated in Japan as "Kana Day" (カナンヒ Kana no Hi) along with the traditional holiday "Tango no Sekku" (Boys' Day) that is celebrated earlier on May 5.In 1930, Japan launched a military campaign to northern Korea to remove Manchurian-based Fengtian clique's influence over the region. After captured Anju and officially abolished the entire institution of Joseon Dynasty in September 1930, Japan successfully ousted the Fengtian Army from northern Korea in December 1930 and continued to move into Yalu River. Chang Tso-lin, the warlord of Fengtian clique, with his significant influence over the Central Government, reacted by made China to declare the war with Japan in 1931, thus led to the Second Sino-Japanese War (1931–1932).
At the middle of war, on February 19, 1931, Nagayama Yoshida was sworn in as the first President of Japan as result of the First Amendment of the Constitution of Japan. By this inauguration, Nagayama now usurped the control of Party, military and government as the supreme leader of the Japanese Republic. Meanwhile in the battlefield, China, almost bankrupted after the Central Plains War, had no choice other than completely retreated its forces from Manchuria in 1932. On February 18, 1932, the establishment of the State of Manchuria was proclaimed with Zhang Shiyi as its first President. After the League of Nations demanded Manchuria be returned to China, Japan withdrew from the League membership.
During the Great Depression, Japanese exterior commerce grew. The expansion of this trade was due in part to European difficulties in supplying their colonies, allowing Japan to expand into new markets. Before the war, crude silk represented one-third of exports and 10% of processed silk. Other products for export were cotton, processed silk and others. In 1937, Japanese exports were consisted of crude silk, cotton fabrics, and rayon. Japan was importing raw cotton, wool and oil imported products from Manchuria, Korea, the South Pacific Islands and the Dutch East Indies.After several minor border clashes between China and Manchuria, Japan and China signed a non-aggression pact in 1938, secured China to move into the Indochinese Peninsula three years later. Japan stayed neutral during the early years of World War II, but continued to give its own diplomatic pressure to the government of Dutch East Indies for an exclusive access to oil supply on the islands. When China occupied French Indochina in February 1941, Japan decided to attack the Dutch East Indies from Luzon on March 1941. With this intense pressure, diplomatically and militarily, the Dutch East Indies finally allowed Japan to station its troops on the islands and get an exclusive access for oil and raw materials.
World War II (1941–1945)Influenced by the German invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, China decided to denounce the non-aggression pact and declare war on Japan an hour before midnight on July 7, 1941. Full-scale battles soon broke out across Sino-Manchurian borders on July 8–23. Japan itself was caught completely by surprise when China deployed its newly-modernized air forces to bomb Kwantung on August 1. With the Fall of Kwantung on August 10, 1941, the Chinese forces unexpectedly overran Manchuria by October 1941. However, the Japanese forces were able to halt the Chinese movement in the Korean Peninsula at the Battle of Hongcheon from January to February 1942.
The Chinese also attacked Formosa from air and heavily bombed Taihoku on October 25, 1941. Four massive bombings on Taihoku followed on March 1942, destroyed many Japanese military bases on the city and inflicted heavy civilian casualties. Massive air raids were also launched by the Chinese air forces over Manila on April 1942 and over Busan on August 1942.
By March 1942, Japan decided to renounce its nominal neutrality. President Nagayama Yoshida then sent Prime Minister Nakano Seigo to Mayflower, D.C. on March 1, 1942 to endorse the Declaration by United Nations and join the war with the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Soviet Union and other Allied nations against the Axis Powers. On March 2, 1942, Japan officially declared war on Germany, Spain and Italy. The governments-in-exile of Manchuria and Korea as well as the South Pacific Islands also followed Japan's move by joined the Allies and formally declared war on the Axis Powers.On March 15, 1942, after had begun drafting the large numbers of Koreans, Filipinos, Moros and Indonesians, Japan launched a massive counteroffensive to northern Korea and Manchuria. Japan was able to liberate Korea by December 1942 and Manchuria by April 1943. In June 1943, the Japanese launched another offensive from Manchuria and occupied Beiping on July 27, 1943. Advancing very aggressively, the Japanese forces captured Nanjing by December 1943 and forced the Chinese government to move to Chengdu.
With the aggressive offensive from the occupied northern China and the naval infantry landings and air raids in the southeastern coast of China from Formosa in April 1944, Japan had completely conquering the eastern China by late 1944. In January 1945, the Japanese divisions from Formosa and French divisions from French India launched a campaign to French Indochina, mainly to encircle China for the final time. Japan also sent its war vessels to destroy the Thai navy in the Thailand waters around February and April 1945 as well as helping the British in the battles against the Thai forces on four northern Malay states.
By May 1945, Japan has occupied North China and Inner Mongolia. The Interim Government of the Republic of China (中華民國過渡政府 Zhōnghuá Mínguó Guòdù Zhèngfǔ) led by Zhou Fohai was proclaimed in Beiping on May 2, 1945. On August 9, 1945, the Soviet Union renounced its non-aggression pact with China and attacked the Chinese in East Turkestan, fulfilling its Yalta Conference pledge to attack the Chinese within three months after the end of the war in Europe. In less than three weeks, the Soviets has overran East Turkestan and West China. President Chiang Kai-shek of China officially capitulated to the Allies on August 25, 1945, and the official surrender was signed in Pyongyang, Korea on September 2, 1945.
Post-war developments (1945–1952)
Progressive Era (1952–1974)
Economic growth (1974–1997)