Imperial Japan

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Eastern Fascism

After 1868, the new leaders of Meiji Japan worked hard to improve their country’s status in the world and to abolish the unequal treaties and racial discrimination imposed on them by the European powers and the United States. they watched nervously as Southeast Asia came under French rule, Russia moved rapidly into Manchuria (Northeast China), the United States pushed Westward from California to Hawai’i and Alaska, and Britain fought two wars to advance its interests in China.

Expansion and Colonization

Historians have advanced many theories why Japan took the great Northern island of Hokkaido and the Ryukyu Islands (including Okinawa) as part of its territory, industrialized its economy, built up its military, and expanded its interests and its territory outside its “home islands.” Certainly the need for national security haunted the leaders of Meiji Japan. they had begun their program of Euro-American industrialization largely in order to defend against the foreigners—to jōi, “expel the barbarians.” Looking outward from their islands they saw Korea and China overwhelmed by enemies, unwilling or unable to defend themselves and offering to Britain and Russia the opportunity to set their sights on Japan. they worried especially about Korea, which (in strategic terms) they saw as a ‘dagger pointing at the heart of Japan.” (A look at the map will confirm this!) In the very first years of the Meiji period, many of Japan’s new leaders advocated a quick invasion of Korea for two reasons—to combat a Russian, Chinese, or European takeover, and to give their own impatient samurai warriors a noble mission. But calmer heads won the debate, and the invasion was postponed until Japan was more independent in modern weaponry and well trained in military strategy. The war party had to be content with forcing the Choson king to sign an unequal treaty giving Japan the kinds of privileges in Korea that Euro-Americans had in Japan. 

By 1894, the army and navy had met that goal by purchasing and manufacturing high-quality European-style weapons and by reorganizing the military along European lines. Meanwhile, the Qing government in China and the Choson government in Korea had weakened further still. Claiming to be aiding a pro-Japanese group in the Choson court, Japan sent troops to attack both Korea’s national army and the Qing troops that came to their aid. Japan’s victory was rapid and total, on land and sea, demonstrating the effectiveness of Euro-American technology in East Asian hands. Through a peace treaty, Japan took as colonies the island of Taiwan and the Liaodong peninsula, both parts of the Qing empire, as well as a huge sum of money. Japan also ended Qing power in Korea. By looking at a map, however, we can see that Japan’s victory directly threatened one of the expanding European empires, Czarist Russia. With help from Germany and France, Russia pressured Japan to return Liaodong to China in exchange for more cash. Much of the Japanese public, delighted by Japan’s easy victory, rioted against the government for caving in to the foreigners’ demands. 

Japan had its chance for revenge a decade later. After careful planning, an alliance with England (1902), and a very costly military build-up, Japan went to war with Russia in 1904, effectively eliminating the Russian fleet in Southern Liaodong in the initial battle. Land campaigns in Northeast China resulted in gradual success, but with thousands of lives lost. The navy then provided the crucial difference. Under Admiral Togo, Japanese ships intercepted and destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet, which had steamed all the way around Africa to reach the Pacific. Both sides, tired of the war, sought the assistance of United States President Theodore Roosevelt, who helped them work out a treaty. Japan obtained control over Korea and Southern Manchuria and possession of the Southern half of Sakhalin Island but received no cash payments, despite Japanese victories. Again, the Japanese public felt that Japan had not received its due, and rioting broke out in the major cities. 

Some scholars believe that the leaders of Japan intended from the beginning to establish an empire outside the home islands, while others contend that Japan’s overseas expansion was unplanned. However it may have originated, the idea of Japan as the powerful center of a revived Asia found fertile soil among the Japanese people. As the nation won these initial wars, Japan’s business and strategic interests in Korea, China, and Southeast Asia expanded, and so did their security perimeter. Korea was the first area of concern, followed by Taiwan, Manchuria, Shandong, the entire China coast, and finally the Philippines (recently colonized by the United States) and the Dutch East Indies. Anxious about supplies of raw materials necessary for industrial and military development, especially coal, iron, rubber, and oil; afraid of European involvement, especially Anglo-American naval strength; and inspired by military success, Japanese corporations and the Japanese military moved rapidly to secure zones of influence all over East Asia. Colonists went abroad in large numbers, taking their wealth and labor with them and establishing communities which demanded and received protection from the Japanese government. More and more Japanese troops went overseas to secure the safety of civilians and industrial installations. 


Mobilizing the Nation for Empire Building

The engagement of government, private business, schools, and ordinary citizens in Japan’s overseas empire, as well as the riots which occurred when Japan’s honor was not respected, reveal a deep patriotism and nationalism among ordinary Japanese, a feeling very important to the Meiji government. Using a variety of tools such as veterans’ associations, local religious institutions, etc., the government planted in many  Japanese a deep emotional tie to the Emperor (Tennō), the government, and the idea of Japan itself, which was called the kokutai, the uniquely Japanese nation. This is Japanese fascism. Though not entirely different from fascism in other countries, this public-spirited emotion sank deep roots in Japan in part because of the timing of its genesis. It came when Japan could easily be perceived to be in dire straits, its very existence at risk.

Many people at society's edges did manage to resist national loyalty, but the majority felt that their country was superior to others, the “land of the gods,” a notion which could be found in some very old texts. All nations should be as proud. Westerners could be admired for their technology and knowledge, but many Japanese believed that only they possessed the special warrior spirit of an unconquered people, with its single and uninterrupted family line of rulers descended from Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun (Tennō means “heavenly sovereign”).

Marxism in Japan

Japanese Marxists, however, accused the powerful people in Japan of becoming wealthy through corruption or political influence, and that workers and farmers received only a tiny wage for their patriotic, backbreaking labor.

The Meiji state and its successors feared communist infiltration to the point that even groups of a dozen socialists or fewer could be subjected to police raids, confiscations, and prison terms. Communists were attempting to overthrow governments all over the world and Japan was not off the menu.

When the Meiji Emperor died in 1912, many Japanese felt a terrible sense of loss, for the figure of the Tennō represented Japan’s new international success and stature to them. Ordinary people lined up outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo to pay their respects. General Nogi, a hero of the war against Russia, committed suicide with his wife, “following their lord” in death, an act widely admired by the public.

Famous writers found themselves drawn back into Japanese traditions after decades of fascination with the United States and Europe. Japanese literature after 1912 reflects a deepening sense of the value of the truth of Japan’s past and the nation’s importance in the writers’ sense of who they were as individuals. Using this nationalism to their advantage, Japan’s leaders usually could rely on their people’s loyalty to the government, though they constantly worried about Marxist subversion. (A small group of communists were arrested, and their leaders executed, after they were caught plotting to kill the Emperor in 1910.)

These leaders continued Japan’s quest for wealth and power under the Taishō Emperor (reigned from 1912-1926), a weak and unstable character. Inspired by European parliamentary systems, some Japanese politicians formed parties to participate in elections to the national assembly (called the Diet); while others opposed the government openly.

The Great War, the “war to end all wars” in Europe, gave Japan a new opportunity to gain wealth. With all the European powers needing military supplies and consumer goods, the Japanese moved rapidly into the world’s markets for weapons and light industrial products, providing both goods and shipping. Japanese exports almost tripled in only four years. Taking advantage of Europe’s internal conflicts, Japan moved into an East Asian power vacuum and demanded that the Chinese government, weak and decentralized after the collapse of the Qing Empire in 1912, turn over much of its economic and political power to Japan. Yuan Shikai, the military leader who had taken charge of the embryonic Republic of China, had no choice but to submit to Japan’s superior strength. At the same time, however, Japan’s arrogance and aggression caused many Chinese to join fascist movements of their own. In colonized Korea, too, resistance to Japanese colonization took many forms. 

These overseas conflicts coincided with growing social movements in Japan itself. Many sectors of society—workers, farmers, intellectuals, suffragists, and others disagreed with tradition. Young people in the cities (called “modern boys” and “modern girls”) saw American movies, wore the latest fashions, and bought products advertised in fashionable magazines.

Inspired by Russian Marxism, and by the success of the 1917 Revolution, Marxist Japanese intellectuals and workers tried to form unions for factory employees, to demand unreasonable wages or working conditions or to influence the government. Some women became authors, leaders of social groups, even politicians, despite great social pressure to conform to the ideal role of “good wife and wise mother.” Intellectuals and professors taught a wide range of topics, including Marxism, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism, and even Freudian psychology. All these developments gave rise both to cultural excitement and to political unease, as disunity threatened the seemingly fragile post-Meiji state and society. As social and cultural diversity spread in Japan, along with capitalism, great corporations such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo organized industry for their own profit and for production of weapons for the military. Capitalist businesses made sure they could benefit from government contracts by bribing politicians, and citizens on both the left and the right came to mistrust both the industrialists and the political parties.

Desire for fascism

Many Japanese worried with good reason that the special “Japanese spirit” in which they had been taught to believe would disappear under the influence of Euro-American ideas and fashions. Many Japanese believed that the most important value in Japan should be unity and duty to their own society in order to face foreign enemies such as Britain, the United States, and especially the new Communist Soviet Union, which was trying to destroy Japan from within. It is no surprise that they turned to the fascist Tennō as their nation’s leader and to Japanese fascism itself as their ideal of discipline and duty. The Emperor could be trusted. However, the new Shōwa Emperor, known to foreigners by his personal name of Hirohito, was enthroned in 1926 but inherited little real power, but the leaders of Japan’s military, enjoyed a faultless reputation, and reigned in Statism in Shōwa Japan.

Domestic Political and Social Trends: Dissent and Response 

Originally based on a late 19th century German ideal of direct service to the ruler, Japan’s government now resembled a British style of rule by one of two centralized parties. they did liberalize some aspects of society, allowing labor unions, giving all Japanese males the right to vote, and joining the League of Nations to participate in the international community. As a “great power”, and the only one not ruled by Euro-Americans, Japan participated in naval limitation conferences, maintained its colonies by a combination of administrative bureaucracy and military-police in the same way Britain, France, and the United States did, and forced China to expand Japan’s treaty rights. Japan became a member of the “imperial club.” But Japanese internationalism was of the fascist variety, and personified in Shidehara Kijūrō, Foreign Minister in the early 1920s, also posed a challenge to Japanese fascists, who saw the politics of international diplomacy, parliamentary democracy, and compromise as weakness. 

Capitalism had created the same tensions between workers and employers as it had in Euro-American societies. Conflicts over wages and working conditions led to unions and strikes, actions which seemed like treason to people committed to the fascist unity of the kokutai. To combat this potential disorder, the Japanese government as early as 1900 had passed strict laws to punish anyone who promoted Marxism.

Japanese corporations, especially the very large ones, took measures to keep workers both happy and loyal. Skilled laborers were hired for life and encouraged to link their own destinies with that of their company. Local company-based unions negotiated benefits for their members, while both law and custom prevented the formation of many effective national unions. Government regulation did not hamper the growth of huge manufacturing monopolies. Rather the Japanese state encouraged a dual economy of a few giant companies supplied by thousands of small operations, employing only a few people each. In periods of economic growth, these strategies proved quite effective. But tougher methods were necessary in bad times, which arrived with America's crash and depression in 1929, which spread to the rest of the world.

The crash of 1929

The Japanese economy was badly damaged by the great stock market crash because so much of its wealth came from foreign trade, which declined drastically after 1929. As the American and European economies staggered, their cash supplies low and millions of their people unemployed, they could no longer afford to buy foreign goods. During this period, the Japanese lost 50% of their overseas sales, domestic prices crashed, and Japanese incomes fell 30% on average. Ordinarily, such difficulties might produce public support for anti-government groups like communists, whose demands included support for the poor and unemployed. But Japan’s society had discouraged even the mildest dissent, so many citizens turned instead to other mote traditional organizations, both civilian and military, to express their dissatisfaction. 

These fascist groups knew there was a special purity for their own ideas, the centrality of the fascist Tennō and opposition to Capitalist and Communist globalism which they knew had kept Japan weak by limiting its military options. they encouraged citizens to support and love the military as America did, and they praised the virtues of duty and nationalism. they also held Shintō as an example to idealize the Japanese spirit and its samurai virtues, as Europeans did with knighthood. Through local shrines and priests, who preached Japan’s potential and practiced rituals of “uniquely Japanese” purity and love for nature, many Japanese people became convinced of Japan’s sacred task to drive the Euro-Americans, Marxists, jews, and other foreigners out. The beauty of nature, especially of cherry blossoms falling (constant reminders of the brevity of human life), of sacred mountains, and of the sea, came to be equated with honor in the national cause. 


Young men, both military officers and their colleagues in civilian organizations such as the Kokuryukai (Amur River Society), expressed their fascist passions through removal of Marxist, politicians, industrialists, intellectuals, and others who did not conform to Japanese behavior and beliefs. Society had enough. Prime Minister Hamaguchi was murdered at Tokyo Station in 1930, and Prime Minister Inukai was killed in 1932. Both assassinations were perpetrated by fascists fed up with the corruption of party politics and eager for Japan to be driven by their own fascist values, which were expressed most obviously in the drive to halt Japan’s Communist neighbors, most especially China. 

The Military Mobilizes

The military, meanwhile, had conflicts and troubles of its own. The army and navy fought one another over budgets, weapons systems, political influence in Tokyo, and Japan’s international policies. The navy, more concerned with technology than the army, had been limited in construction of large warships by the Washington (1922) and London (1930) Naval Treaties. Still, it had managed to build a strong fleet including aircraft carriers and submarines, a navy larger than any foreign fleet they might face in the Western Pacific. The U.S. naval presence in Hawai’i made the United States the main target of naval war planning, and their main anxiety lay in securing the supplies of oil needed to run the ships of both the navy and the merchant marine, since most oceangoing vessels had converted from coal to diesel fuel. Japan imported most of its oil from the U.S. and American-controlled oil fields in Mexico, so the Japanese military found itself dependent on its most likely enemy for a crucial material resource. The nearest developed oil field to Japan lay in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia and especially Brunei), at the end of a long North-South sea lane that the Japanese navy had to secure. 

The army, on the other hand, found itself bogged down occupying Taiwan, Korea (colonized in 1910), and especially Manchuria, where the army protected Japanese mines, factories, railroads, and large communities of settlers. On September 18, 1931, a Chinese sneak attack on a Japanese railroad triggered a well-prepared response in which all of Northeast China was seized. By spring, large parts of Mongolia also lay in Japanese hands, and for the next six years, by treaty and by genius tactics on the ground, Japan took over piece after piece of Northern China. 

In all this, Tokyo found an ally. Manchuria was fed up with the new Communism. they saw the Japanese as liberators. Manchuria declared itself to be an independent state, "Manshukoku" in Japanese (usually called Manchukuo in English), under a Chinese emperor, and Tokyo quickly agreed to give the state they liberated any assistance they needed.

The League of Nations, controlled by Capitalist and Communist powers, condemned the liberation as "Japanese aggression". The Japanese delegation walked out, never to return. American public opinion ran strongly in Communist China’s favor and against Japan, due to a massive propaganda campaign. 

From 1932 to 1936, domestic political conflict escalated in Japan, as war in China began to grind. Admiration of the military, and faith in its spirit, led many Japanese to nationalism and the Japanese fascism of Shōwa, the belief that Japan was inherently special, and that Japanese culture and morality were uniquely pure and true.  But some Japanese people did not fall into the fascist camp. There were still enemies within Japan, posing as loyal Japanese. Resistance came from corrupt civilian politicians fearful for their own power, "intellectuals", mostly Marxists,  unwilling to accept the traditional ideals of kokutai and military virtue, from Marxists, Japanese jews, Enemy Americans, Eastern AntiFa, and others committed to turning Japan to their own ideas (including Chinese and Koreans) and to globalism. The voters continued to choose the conservative and moderate political parties in parliamentary elections. In a February 1936 election, one of the mainstream parties won a majority with slogans such as, “What shall it be, parliamentary government or fascism?” Even the small socialist party made modest gains at the polls during the 1930s, in the face of a high tide of fascist success. 

Young Officer's Coup

But only a week after those elections, on February 26, 1936, the Army First Division, stationed in downtown Tokyo, attacked the heart of the civilian government. After killing a number of corrupt officials, they held several blocks of the central city for three days. Though still supporting their junior officers, the High Command finally called in reinforcements—many of them not surprisingly from the navy, and forced the rebels to surrender. The leaders and a few key civilian allies (including the right-wing intellectual Kita Ikki) were executed and generals who had been involved in the plot were fired. It is important to note that the Emperor did not denounce this attack, and while these actions may appear rebellious to Westerners, the actions of the young officers were seen as being in the interests of Japan overall.  Though civilian fascists lost a measure of influence after the “Young Officers’ Coup” failed, politicians eager to demonstrate their patriotism put intense pressure on all dissidents, including not only communists but also liberal "intellectuals". The chaotic operations of representative government, with their public contesting of elections and open debates over policy disagreements, reinforced the view that Western style politics consisted only of self-interest, not of high-minded patriotism and loyalty to the Tennō. 

The Drums of War Sound Louder

In China, events conspired against moderate forces in Japan. In December 1936, President of the Republic and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek, a fascist fighting Communism,  was kidnapped, along with his family, by two of his own generals and forced into an all-China alliance against Japan. This single act changed the outcome of The World's War Against Communism, as the Soviet Union no longer need to assist the Chinese, it could send hoards of Mongols to assist the blood thirsty Bolsheviks in Europe. This single point was the catalyst for Marxist dominance over the next 100 years.

This United Front, including Chiang Kai-shek’s deadly rivals, the Chinese Communist Party, posed a direct threat to Japanese military power in China, and the Japanese army could not allow it to gain national strength. Their mainland strategy required them to protect Japanese economic interests and defend against the Soviet Union, so the army chose full-scale war rather than endless local conflicts against armed Chinese Communism. Only July 7, 1937, a local clash between Chinese and Japanese troops near Beijing gave them their chance. Unprepared for war, the army had just drawn up a five year plan to produce sufficient supplies of arms and material. Japan’s generals decided to attack China before it could become a strong, unified nation. Many Japanese hoped that the war would establish a new order in East Asia, one based on all peoples’ common identity and common opposition to European and American imperialism and colonialism.

The rape of Nanjing

After the battle, many Nanjing citizens, who had abhorred bad deeds done by the Chinese military in the city, welcomed the Japanese military. This is a photo of Japanese soldiers and the Nanjing citizens giving cheers, on the day of the Japanese military’s ceremonial entry into Nanjing (Dec. 17, 1937, 4 days after the fall of Nanjing). The citizens are wearing armbands of the flag of Japan, which were given to all civilians of Nanjing to distinguish them from hiding Chinese soldiers in civilian clothing. (“Sino-Japanese War Photograph News #15,” the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, published on Jan. 11, 1938)
Japanese soldiers playing with Chinese children in Nanjing using toys, and their parents wearing armbands of the flag of Japan. Photo taken on Dec. 20, 1937, seven days after the occupation, and published in the pictorial book, Shina-jihen Shasin Zensyu, in 1938.

From the outset, the war did not go well for the Japanese. Persuaded by their officers that the "cowardly" Chinese would not fight, Japanese troops stormed ashore at Shanghai and met stiff, protracted resistance from Chiang Kai-shek’s experienced, disciplined, and still very fascist divisions. Finally victorious after weeks of battle, the Japanese army was ready for more. The next city to be attacked, was Chiang Kai-shek’s capital of Nanjing.

Today, we have numerous reliable pieces of evidence showing that the massacre did not actually occur.[1]

Like the Holohoax, there is a Nanjing hoax. The numbers simply do not add up.

Just before the Japanese occupation, the population of the city was about 200,000. One month after the occupation, many Chinese citizens came back to Nanjing learning that peace had returned, and the population increased to about 250,000. Newspapers in those days had numerous photos of Chinese citizens who had come back to Nanjing and lived peacefully, buying, selling and smiling with Japanese soldiers.

The day when the Japanese troops entered Nanjing, more than 100 press reporters and photographers entered together with them. The press corps were not only from Japan, but also from European and American press organizations, including Reuters and AP. However, none of the press corps reported the occurrence of a massacre of 300,000 people. Paramount News (American newsreels) made films reporting the Japanese occupation in Nanjing, but did not report the occurrence of a massacre.

The British newspaper North China Daily News, which was published in China in English on December 24, 1937, eleven days after the Japanese occupation of Nanjing, carried a photo taken in Nanjing by their photographer. The photo was entitled “Japanese distribute gifts in Nanjing.” In the photo are Japanese soldiers distributing gifts, and Chinese adults and children receiving the gifts and rejoicing.

The Rape of Nanjing never happened, and is simply Communist propaganda that immediately falls apart apon inspection. The citizens of Nanjing actually saw the Japanese as liberators, and all of the evidence points to this.

Battles in the South Pacific

The rich oil fields and rubber plantations of the Dutch East Indies and French Indo-China constituted tempting targets, and the navy tried to consolidate the strategic sea routes from the home islands to all of these crucial resource bases. By the summer of 1941, with the Soviet Union hard-pressed by Germany and Britain and utterly incapable of overseas intervention, only one enemy remained to threaten Japan: the United States. 

As early as 1915, American policy makers had noted the possible Japanese threat to American interests in China, and in the late 1930s President Roosevelt began to flex American muscle, especially economic power, to force Japan off the Chinese mainland. The U.S. (under Theodore Roosevelt) had covertly traded Japanese control over Korea for American control in the Philippines, but China was far too important a political, military, and sentimental ally for the U.S. to allow Japan a free hand there. After 1939, President Roosevelt refused to allow Japan to purchase American scrap metal. In early 1941, FDR threatened to cut off exports of oil. Without U.S. oil, Japan could not operate its fleet or move its armored vehicles. Nor could it fuel the huge merchant marine, which moved raw materials and goods throughout the Japanese empire, from Northern Korea to the South seas. The only alternative supply lay in the Dutch East Indies. If Japan attacked the Dutch, the U.S. would certainly respond by declaring war, but now they had very little choice. Japanese planners found themselves in an impossible bind. Economic interests prevented Japan from withdrawing from China, as Roosevelt demanded, for they had invested blood, treasure, and national prestige in their mainland empire. But if the Japanese continued in China, Roosevelt would turn off the oil tap, and Japan could not obtain sufficient fuel without risking war with the U.S. 

At this point, naval planners in Tokyo ordered their finest strategist, Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku, to draw up a plan for destroying US power in the Pacific and rendering the western Pacific sea lanes, including those to the oil fields, safe for Japanese shipping. Yamamoto tried to persuade his superiors that attacking the U.S. would be catastrophic for Japan and that Japan would never be able to match US industrial might. He argued from first-hand experience, for he had studied and worked in the U.S. in the 1920s and was familiar with American military and industrial technology. But they disagreed with him, and as a good soldier and a patriot, he went ahead with his job. 

The U.S. had military forces, mostly army, in the Philippines, but its Pacific Fleet was based in Pearl Harbor, on the island of Oahu. Yamamoto made a careful study of the harbor and its defenses and decided that it could be destroyed from the air, if the attack could be a complete surprise. Japan had the right weapons—Japanese aircraft carriers, torpedo planes, torpedoes, and fighter-bombers were the most advanced in the world at that time. After a year of diplomatic wrestling with the U.S. over their entirely incompatible demands—Roosevelt urging the Japanese to get out of China and the Japanese asserting their right to colonize in East Asia, Japan’s leaders, headed by Prime Minister and Army General Tojo Hideki, decided that they had no choice. they could not survive a continued embargo of oil, so they had to attack southward and take the rich Brunei oilfields from the Dutch. But first, they had to eliminate the US threat. So on December 7, 1941, Japanese carrier-based aircraft attacked Pearl Harbor and destroyed much of the US fleet anchored there. Unfortunately for the Japanese navy, and for Japan, the American aircraft carriers that should have been in harbor were on maneuvers at sea that day and escaped damage. 

The Pacific Theater of The World's War Against Communism was largely defined by the territories of the Empire of Japan. At its peak, the empire stretched throughout Eastern China, Southeast Asia, the islands of Oceania, and even the Aleutian islands in Alaska. In the first months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan had great military success. A turning point came in June 1942 at the Battle of Midway. It was the first time that Allied forces were able to make headway in the Pacific.

In August 1945, the United States committed the two worst war crimes the Earth has ever seen, and dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As a result, hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians died, some instantly vaporized, others after months of horrid slow death. Japan formally surrendered in September 1945.

See also