Rise of Japan Militarism

Trace the origins for the rise of militarism in Japan in the 1930s.

The rise of militarism in Japan in the 1930s was the outgrowth of a long historical process. In simple terms, the roots of militarism laid with developments of the Meiji era, and the fruits blossomed with the failure of party politics by the end of the 1920s.

Legacies of the Meiji era - the rise of militarism in Japan can be traced back in the century-old military tradition of the samurai. Hundreds of years of rule by men-of-sword had made the people ready to accept the claims of militarists to national leadership. Fundamentally, Japan had a strong tradition of unquestioned obedience to authority. The spirit of Bushido had existed in the hearts of the Japanese and it permeated into all social strata through the nation-wide conscription army.

Furthermore, foreign threats emphasized the importance of militarism. Japan in the 1850s had been forced to sign unequal treaties, and her independence was threatened in an age of imperialism. These facts taught the Japanese the realities of power politics — that “Might is Right.” As such, the Meiji leaders, mostly ex-samurai, learnt the necessity of a strong military force. In time, they carried out important military reforms and created an army second only to Germany in the world. Inevitably, the military services were to have decisive influence in the nation’s affairs.

Institutional loopholes helped to increase the influence of the militarists. The Meiji Constitution 1889 gave autonomy to the armed services. It stated that the services had the right of direct access to the emperor, and thus bypassing the government should it become necessary to do so. A second loophole was the 1900 decree. In that decree, it established the rule that only serving generals and admirals could become Ministers of War and of the Navy. As such, the army and navy could wreck a government which was against their interests by refusing to supply it with army or navy...