The Cuases Of The Showa Restoration In Japan

3413 words - 14 pages

Sonno joi, 'Restore the Emperor and expel the Barbarians,' was the battle cry that ushered in theShowa Restoration in Japan during the 1930's.Footnote1 The Showa Restoration was a combination ofJapanese nationalism, Japanese expansionism, and Japanese militarism all carried out in the name of theShowa Emperor, Hirohito. Unlike the Meiji Restoration, the Showa Restoration was not a resurrection ofthe Emperor's powerFootnote2, instead it was aimed at restoring Japan's prestige. During the 1920's,Japan appeared to be developing a democratic and peaceful government. It had a quasi-democraticgovernmental body, the Diet,Footnote3 and voting rights were extended to all male citizens.Footnote4 Yet,underneath this seemingly placid surface, lurked momentous problems that lead to the Showa Restoration.The transition that Japan made from its parliamentary government of the 1920's to the Showa Restorationand military dictatorship of the late 1930s was not a sudden transformation. Liberal forces were nottoppled by a coup overnight. Instead, it was gradual, feed by a complex combination of internal andexternal factors.The history that links the constitutional settlement of 1889 to the Showa Restoration in the 1930s isnot an easy story to relate. The transformation in Japan's governmental structure involved; the historicalperiod between 1868 and 1912 that preceded the Showa Restoration. This period of democratic reformswas an underlying cause of the militarist reaction that lead to the Showa Restoration. The transformationwas also feed by several immediate causes; such as, the downturn in the global economy in1929Footnote5 and the invasion of Manchuria in 1931.Footnote6 It was the convergence of theseexternal, internal, underlying and immediate causes that lead to the military dictatorship in the 1930's.The historical period before the Showa Restoration, 1868-1912, shaped the political climate inwhich Japan could transform itself from a democracy to a militaristic state. This period is known as theMeiji Restoration.Footnote7 The Meiji Restoration of 1868 completely dismantled the Tokugawa politicalorder and replaced it with a centralized system of government headed by the Emperor who served as afigure head.Footnote8 However, the Emperor instead of being a source of power for the MeijiGovernment, became its undoing. The Emperor was placed in the mystic position of demi-god by theleaders of the Meiji Restoration. Parliamentarians justified the new quasi-democratic government of Japan,as being the 'Emperor's Will.' The ultra-nationalist and militaristic groups took advantage of the Emperor'sstatus and claimed to speak for the Emperor.Footnote9 These then groups turned the tables on theparliamentarians by claiming that they, not the civil government, represented the 'Imperial Will.' Theparliamentarians, confronted with this perversion of their own policy, failed to unite against the militaristsand nationalists. Instead, the parliamentarians compromised with the...

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