Tag details for japanese-history

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  • Beginnings You can't Edit

    Users Assigned: bendecko  
    According to the earliest official accounts, the eighth-century Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters” ) and Nihon-shoki (“Chronicles of Japan”), the islands of Japan were born of a marriage between the god Izanagi and his sister Izanami. They also – but only later—gave birth to the sun, in the form of the goddess Amaterasu, who endowed the Japanese imperial family with its regalia of bronze mirror, iron sword, and jewel. The mirror is kept to this day at the Shinto shrine of Ise-Shima.

    Before you dismiss all this as the mere “myth” of Japan’s origins, remember that the Japanese continued to trace the imperial dynasty directly back to those deities until Emperor Hirohito in 1946 denounced “the false conception that the emperor is divine.” Many followed Japan’s best-known novelist Yukio Mishima in deploring this formal break with tradition, and the creation myth has persisted in the popular imagination, side by side more realistic versions of Japan’s origins.
  • Prehistory and Early Chronicles You can't Edit

    Users Assigned: bendecko  
    The scarcity of flatlands suitable for cultivation made it possible for a small aristocratic elite to gain quick control of the food resources. This set the pattern of hierarchic rule that was to prevail right up to the last half of the 19th century (some would claim, in economic terms at least that it still persists today).

    Plausible chronicling, laced with a dose of mythology, begins with the arrival of Korean scribes at the Japanese court around A.D 400, at a time when Japan also had a military foothold in southern Korea. The state of Yamato, as early Japan was known, was organized into uji, or clusters of clans, together with subordinate guilds of farmers, fishermen, hunters, weavers, and potters, all subject to the dominant uji of the imperial family.
  • Creative Turmoil You can't Edit

    Users Assigned: bendecko  

    From 1467 to 1568, a civil war constantly raged up and down the country among some 260 daimyo (these are powerful Japanese feudal lords), from which a dozen finally emerged victorious.

    By now the Europeans and their influence had arrived: The daimyo and their men had fought as mass armies of infantry rather than the old cavalry elite. Although traditional swords, bows, and arrows remained the mainstay weapons of warfare, suddenly imported matchlocks, muskets and cannons made their appearance on the battlefield. 

  • The Meiji Restoration You can't Edit

    Users Assigned: bendecko  
    In 1868 the Satsuma and Choshu clans, never a real threat to Tokugawa authority as long as they remained rivals, joined forces to overthrow the shogun and restore the authority of the emperor, the 14-years-old Mitsuhito. Edo was renamed Tokyo (“Eastern Capital”), and Mitsuhito took over the Tokugawa castle as his palace.

    But important though the resuscitated imperial authority undoubtedly was, the real power under the restoration known as Meiji (“Enlightened Rule”) was in the hands of a new generation of forward-looking administrators, who set about abolishing the ancient feudal apparatus in favor of modern government based on merit rather than ancestry. They emphasized the need to acquire western military and industrial skills and technology with which to confront the west itself and eliminate unfair trade tariffs and other unjust aspects of the foreign treaties.

    Agriculture, commerce, and traditional manufacturing were expanded to provide a sound economic base for investment on the modern in the modern technology of textiles and other industries. Shipbuilding and weapons manufacture were already under way; railways and telegraph lines quickly followed. And to show just how fast Japan’s new rulers were catching on, two punitive expeditions were launched against Korea and China in the grand manner of 19th century gunboat diplomacy.

    There was an inevitable reaction to rapid Westernization. Traditional Japanese theater, the tea ceremony, ikebana flower arrangement, imperial edict on education was issued, promoting Asian (that is, Chinese and Japanese) values in culture and stressing loyalty to the emperor and general harmony. If the singing the school of military songs such as “Come, Foes, come!” or “Though the Enemy Be Tens of Thousands Strong” seems excessively belligerent today, we should not forget jingoistic attitudes in Europe and America at the time.

    Japan made a dramatic debut on the international stage, with military actions against China and Russia. The 1894 Sino-Japanese War for control of the Korean markets and the strategic region of southern Manchuria was triumph for Japan’s modernized army over China’s larger but much less well-organized forces. More impressive still was Japan’s success against the powerful war machine of Czarist Russia (1904-1905), beginning with a surprise night-time attack on the Russian fleet, to be repeated some years later at Pearl Harbor.

    The West was forced to accept Japan’s occupation of southern Manchuria and the annexation of Korea in 1910. In just 40 years, Japan had established itself as viable world power.
  • Triumph and Disaster You can't Edit

    Users Assigned: bendecko  
    The 20th century saw a stupendous release of energies that had been pent up for the 250 years of Tokugawa isolation. By 1930 raw material production had tripled the figure of 1900, manufactured good had increased twelve-fold, and heavy industry was galloping towards maturity. Britain led the World War I allies in large order for munitions, while Japan expanded sales of manufactured goods Asian and other markets cut off from their usual European suppliers. Merchant shipping doubled in size and increased its income ten-fold as the European fleets were destroyed.

    Setbacks in the 1930s caused by the European postwar slump were only a spur to redouble efforts by diversifying heavy industry into the machine making, metallurgical, and chemical sectors. Even the terrible 1923 Tokyo earthquake. Which cost over 100,000 lives and billions of dollars, provided another stimulus due to the construction boom that followed.

    Riding the crest of this economic upsurge were the zaibatsu conglomerates – a dozen family -run combines, each involved in mining, manufacturing, marketing, shipping, and banking. These tightly controlled commercial pyramids were the true heirs to the old feudal structures.

    Japan’s progress toward parliamentary democracy was halted in the 1930s by the growing nationalism being imposed on government by the generals and admirals. They proclaimed Japan’s mission neighbours in language not so very different from that of the Europeans in Africa or the US in Latin America.

    After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union was regarded Manchuria and whatever other Chinese territory it could control as buffer against Russian advances. In 1931 the Japanese occupied Manchuria. And then in 1937, with the popular support of ultra-right groups, the army overrode parliamentary resistance in Tokyo and went to war against the Chinese Nationalists. By 1938, they held Nanking, Hankow, and Canton.

    Japanese expansionist policies were leading to direct confrontation with the West. Japan hoped that war in Europe would divert the Soviet Union from interference is East Asia, giving Japan a free hand in China and through its alliance with Germany, in French Indochina after the defeat of France.

    The US responded to the Japanese invasion of Indochina with a trade the fuel embargo, cutting off 90 percent of Japan’s supplies. The result was the attack on the American fleet at Pearl Harbor (7 December 1941) and total war.

    Early success in the Philippines, Borneo, Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East indies enabled Japan to establish the so -called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The “liberation’ of these old European colonies created the basis for postwar independence movements proclaiming the Japanese slogan “Asia for the Asians.”

    Despite this, the various occupied population quickly found themselves suffering harsher and more brutal treatment then they had ever experienced under their former colonial rulers.

    On 8 August the Soviet Union entered the Pacific battlefront and on the next day marched into Manchuria. Five days later the Japanese people heard the voice of Emperor Hirohito, in his first radio broadcast, announcing that “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.” The emperor renounced his divinity, and US forces took formal control of Japan.
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