Causes Of The Showa Restoration

.. parliament, transformed this sense of a national crisis into a total shift in foreign policy. These “restorationists” in the military and in the public stepped up the crisis by convincing the nation that there were two enemies, the foreign powers and people within Japan.Footnote33 The militarists identified the Japanese “Bureaucratic Elite” and the expanding merchant class, the “Zaibutsu” as responsible for Japan’s loss of grandeur. It was the Bureaucratic Elite who had capitulated to the Western powers in the Washington Conference and in subsequent agreements, that decreased the size of the Japanese military,Footnote34 and made Japan dependent of trade with other nations. The independence of the Japanese military allowed them to feed this nationalist sense of crisis and thus transform Japanese foreign policy.

On September 18, 1931 a group of army officers with the approval of their superiors who were angry at the government for its passage of the Five Powers Treaty, bombed a section of the South Manchurian Railway and blamed it on unnamed Chinese terrorists. Footnote35 Citing the explosion as a security concern, the Japanese military invaded Manchuria and within six months had set up the Puppet State of Manchukuo in February, 1932.Footnote36 Following the invasion of Manchuria, Japanese nationalism overwhelmed Japan. The Japanese public and military continued to blame the former quasi-parliamentarians for the economic woes and for capitulating to the Western. The Japanese populace saw the military and its nationalist leaders as strong, willing to stand up to Western power and restore the grandeur of Japan. Unlike the parliamentarian leaders, these new nationalist leaders backed by the military, had a vision and the public flocked to their side.Footnote37 This new mood in Japan brought an end to party cabinets and the authority of the quasi-democratic government. It seemed now that the parliamentary democracy of the TaishoFootnote38 and Meiji eras had been fully usurped by the independent military. Nationalism swept through Japan after the invasion of Manchuria, thus further strengthening the hand of the military.

In the invasion of Manchuria and its aftermath, all the discontent with the Meiji system of government come together and combined with the military claim to leadership ordained by the power of the Emperor. With this convergence of events, the shallow roots of democracy and the liberal reformism of the Meiji Restoration were uprooted and replaced with a combination of nationalism and militarism embodied under the idea of the Showa Restoration. When League of Nations condemned Japan for the Manchurian invasion, Japan, now controlled by the military, simply walked out of the conference.Footnote39 The parliamentary cabinet of the 1930’s became known as “national unity” cabinets and the parliament took on more and more of a symbolic role as the military gradually gained the upper hand over policies. The Japanese Parliament continued in operation and the major democratic parties continued to win elections in 1932, 1936 and 1937. But parliamentary control was waning as the military virtually controlled foreign policy.Footnote40 Japan’s political journey from its nearly democratic government of the 1920’s to its radical nationalism of the mid 1930’s, the collapse of democratic institutions, and the eventual military state was not an overnight transformation. There was no coup d’etat, no march on Rome, no storming of the Bastille, no parliamentary vote whereby the anti-democratic militaristic elements overthrew the democratic institutions of the Meiji Era.

Instead, it was a political journey that allowed a semi-democratic nation to transform itself into a military dictatorship. The forces that aided in this transformation were the failed promises of the Meiji Restoration that were represented in the stagnation of the Japanese economy, the perceived capitulation of the Japanese parliamentary leaders to the western powers, and an independent military. Japanese militarism promised to restore the grandeur of Japan, a Showa Restoration. — Footnote1 Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum And The Sword (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989) 76. Footnote2 Marius B. Jansen Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1971) 147-164.

Marius B. Jansen makes clear in this book that the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) was a movement centered around returning the Meiji Emperor to power. Only later did the Meiji Restoration come to embody liberal reformism. Footnote3 Frank Gibney Japan the Fragile Superpower (New York: Meridian, 1985) 158-159. Footnote4 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 121.

In 1925 universal male suffrage was enacted. Footnote5 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 113. Footnote6 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987) 170-171. Footnote7 Karel van Wolferen The Enigma of Japanese Power (New York: Random House, 1990) 375-376. During the Meiji Restoration Japan saw its mission to be to catch up with the already industrialized Western powers.

Footnote8 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987)125. Footnote9 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 115. Footnote10 Edwin O. Reischauer The Japanese Today (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988) 98.

Footnote11 Frank Gibney Japan the Fragile Superpower (New York: Meridian, 1985) 165-166. Footnote12 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987) 119. During the Meiji Restoration Samurais were stripped of their positions and even prohibited from wearing the Samurai Sword in 1869. Footnote13 Frank K, Upham Law and Social Change in Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987) 49. The Japanese constitution was adopted in 1889. It set up a British type parliament. The constitution did not provide the parliamentary government with power over the military branch.

Footnote14 Karel van Wolferen The Enigma of Japanese Power (New York: Random House, 1990) 38. At the turn of the century Japan had started its colonizing effort in China and other parts of Asia. It was these efforts at Colonization that developed into the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). After winning the war Japan continued with even more gusto to snatch up colonies in Asia. Footnote15 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 121.

In 1925 universal male suffrage was enacted although in most elections ballots were only made available to the urban elite. Footnote16 Edwin O. Reischauer The Japanese Today (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988) 96. Footnote17 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987) 150. Footnote18 James B. Crawley Japan’s Quest For Autonomy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966) 270-280. Footnote19 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 128.

Footnote20 Karel van Wolferen The Enigma of Japanese Power (New York: Random House, 1990) 380-381. In her Book Karel van Wolferen writes, “The Success of the Meiji oligarchy in stimulating economic development was followed by a further great boost for Japanese industry deriving from the First World War. This good fortune came to an end in 1920, and a ‘chain of panics’ caused successive recessions and business dislocation”. Footnote21 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987) 117. Reischauer makes the point in his book that external factors significantly hurt Japan’s economy. Unlike a nation like the United States which had vast reserves of natural resources when projectionist trade laws were implemented around the world Japan suffered significantly because it lacked raw materials and markets.

Japan’s economy which was guided during the Meiji Era to be primarily an export based economy. Footnote22 Nakamura Takafusa Economic Growth in Prewar Japan (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983) 151-158. Nakamura Takafusa states that Japan was growing at vastly different rates between the urban areas and rural areas. Footnote23 Frank Gibney Japan the Fragile Superpower (New York: Meridian, 1985) 165-166. Footnote24 James B. Crawley Japan’s Quest For Autonomy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966) 270-280.

Footnote25 David M. Reimers Still the Golden Door: The Third World Comes to America (New York: Columbia Press, 1992) 27. Footnote26 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 128. “The exclusion of Japanese Immigrants by the United States in 1924 and the growth of mechanized Soviet Power on the Asian continent all confirmed in the Japanese public eye the impending confrontation with the west.” Testsuo views the rise of Japanese nationalism and militarization resulting in the Showa Restoration to be to a large degree the fault of the west for its maltreatment of Japan diplomatically. Tetsuo also views the Showa Restoration to be largely caused by external factors that in consequence unbalanced the fragile Japanese political system. Footnote27 Robert Story The Double Patriots (London: Chatto and Windus, 1957) 138.

Footnote28 Karel van Wolferen The Enigma of Japanese Power (New York: Random House, 1990) 380-381. Footnote29 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 114. One of the famous political leaders of the time Miyake Setsurei called for a new Japan that had “truth, goodness, and beauty”. Footnote30 James Morley Dilemmas of Growth in Prewar Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1971) 378-411. Footnote31 Peter Duus The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976).

Many of the nationalists of this period claimed the West had tricked Japan into giving up its colonies in Asia so it could take them. The Nationalists also claimed that renewed Japanese expansionism would liberate the Asians of their European Colonizers. Footnote32 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 130. The Imperial Way Faction was a right wing political party that called for the Showa Restoration. It was lead by Kita Ikki, Gondo Seikei, and Inoue Nissho. Footnote33 Karel van Wolferen The Enigma of Japanese Power (New York: Random House, 1990) 381-382. Footnote34 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 128.

Footnote35 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 138. Historians such as Testuo Najita cite this incident as the turning point in the military role in Japan. For after this incident the Military realized that the parliamentary government did not have the will or the power to stop the military power. Footnote36 Edwin O. Reischauer The Japanese Today (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988) 96.

Footnote37 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987) 171. Edwin O Reischauer writes in his book, “There could be no doubt that the Japanese army in Manchuria had been eminently successful, The people as a whole accepted this act of unauthorized and certainly unjustified warfare with whole hearted admiration”. Footnote38 Peter Duus The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976) 156. The period preceding the Showa Restoration and coming after the Meiji Era is known as the Taisho Era. It is named after the Taisho Emperor who was mentally incompetent and thus the parliamentarians during this time had control of the government.

His reign lasted only a decade compared to the Meiji Emperor’s 44 year reign. Footnote39 Edwin O. Reischauer Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1987) 171. Footnote40 Tetsuo Najita Japan The Intellectual Foundations of Modern Japanese Politics (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1980) 138.