The History of Japan

Modern Japan

Modern Japan (1868~1912) starts with the Meiji Era, when Emperor Meiji had his power restored. This period begins with the Japanese capital being moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1869. Many new social and political changes happened, starting with lifting the ban on Christianity, the abolition of the class structure, the adaptation of the Gregorian Calendar, and the replacement of feudal domains by prefectures.

Railways and telegraph lines were built, and the Meiji Government promoted Westernization by employing hundreds of foreign advisors in many different fields, such as law, education, banking, military affairs, mining, and many more. People also started to wear Western clothing and have Western hairstyles.

All of this made Japan rapidly transition into an industrial economy, mostly exporting manufactured goods by the end of the era. This made the population live longer and grow exponentially.

Japan launched a military expedition in 1874 after shipwrecked Ryukyuan sailors were massacred in Taiwan. Believing that the Japan needed to acquire colonies like other Western countries, Japan started to consolidate its control over Hokkaido and annexing the Ryukyu Kingdom, modern-day Okinawa.

Following that, Japan attacked Korea, China, and Russia, expanding its territory over Asia until the Taisho Era, where Japan received new colonies in the South-Pacific after participating in World War I on the side of the Allies. This resulted in a flourishing economy and growth of population.

Next on the throne was Emperor Hirohito who reigned for 63 years, the longest in Japanese history. Japan continued to expand its territories and wage wars on mainland China, expanding its territory considerably by 1939. The USA opposed to this and increased economic sanctions on Japan to limit their resources. This led Japan to retaliate by allying themselves with Germany and Italy in 1940.

The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the USA into World War II. Japan then invaded Asian colonies, and won victory after victory. This changed when Japan lost the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Guadalcanal.

After losing the Battle of Okinawa, bloodiest of all, the USA dropped an atomic bomb over Hiroshima, and a second one over Nagasaki, which lead to the unconditional surrender of Japan, and its subsequent seven-year occupation.

The end of the war marks the beginning of Contemporary Japan, where it grew to become the major world economic power it is today.