Japan History Lab

1910-1937: Control at Home, Expansion Abroad

Japan and its early 20th century history is a narrative mainly concerned with domestic solidarity and imperial expansionism abroad. The pre-war years saw Japan’s influence in the world as a colonial power steadily increase following the Russo-Japanese war. Colonial enterprises such as expansion into Manchuria and the Pacific came to characterize Japan as an emerging modern nation. On the home front deliberate and forceful action was being taken to promote solidarity in the population in relation to their government.

Like all nations taking strides into this modern and “civilized” world, Japan was not without complications within its own borders. As Japan opened more widely to the rest of the world, Japanese people became more exposed to external influences and some came together in minority groups in opposition to the nation’s regime. Instead of retreating back into themselves, the government cracked down harshly on these dissenters in order to maintain a uniform nation, thus allowing Japan to remain strong in the face of later global conflict.

The decades leading up to World War II was a time of imperial expansion and local restriction. The growth of Japan’s empire allowed for increased wealth for the country, but it also meant a redistribution of the ideology surrounding their social hierarchies. It was a time of advance and success for Japan as it strengthened itself economically, militarily, and ideologically before the trying and ultimately destructive times brought by the war. While Japan would recover after the war ended, it would not rise to the same level of power it had before.