The Rise of Militarism in Japan During the 1930s
Japanese militarism reached the peaké«˜å³° in 1932-45. This era
was called the "Dark Valleyé»‘æš—çš„æ·±æ·µ" in Japanese history. In its simplest
meaning, militarism means prestige and greatness of Japan at the
expenseçŠ§ç‰² of other countries, an aggressive foreign policy,
dominanceä¸»å°Ž and overall political control by military officers, a huge
military budget, an intensiveåŠ å¼·çš„ armament programme as well as
militarist attitudes of the people as a whole. The rise of Japanese
militarism in the 1930s was due to many factors.
Firstly, the emergence of Shintoismç¥žé“æ•™ in the late Tokugawa era
provided Japanese militarism with the ideological foundation. Japanese
people were the offspringå¾Œä»£ of Sun Goddesså¤©ç…§å¤§ç¥ž. Hence they were
racially superior to other nations. Since Sun Goddess was the direct
ancestorç¥–å…ˆ of the Japanese royal family, so the tennoå¤©çš‡ was the centre
of loyalty. Anyone who could influence the emperor was thus able to
command the whole state.
Japan's insularå³¶å¶¼æ€§ position and its separation from the Asian
continent as well as the seclusionéŽ–åœ‹policy of over 200 years had
contributed to the uniquenessç¨ä¸€ç„¡äºŒ of Japan's national identity and
culture. In addition, foreign imperialist aggression and the
subsequent unequal treaties during the late Tokugawa and early Meiji
periods added to Japanese patriotismæ„›åœ‹ä¸»ç¾© and taught the Japanese that
"mightåŠ›é‡ is right". The traditional high social status of military
personnel was further enhancedæé«˜.
Some reform items of Meiji Modernization also helped spread militarism
throughout the country. In 1871 feudalism and class distinctions were
abolished. Japan became a centralized unitaryå–®ä¸€ nation-state.
Compulsory education was introduced in 1871. Feudal samurai were
disbandedè§£æ•£ in 1876. All the people paid loyalty to the emperor only.
Conscriptionå¾µå…µåˆ¶ was implemented in 1873, which spread Bushidoæ¦å£«é“ to
males of all sectionsç•Œåˆ¥ of the population.
Militarism derived its constitutional foundation from the 1889 Meiji
Constitution. The Army and Navy were personal forces of the Emperor,
in no way responsible to the Dietåœ‹æœƒ. The Army and Navy
Chiefs-of-Staffç¸½åƒè¬€é•· had direct accessç›´æŽ¥è¦²è¦‹ to the Emperor. The Diet had
no say in military appointments and the military budget. Furthermore,
a decreeè©”ä»¤ of 1900 stated that only in-serviceç¾å½¹ army generals and
navy admiralså°‡è» could be appointed Ministers of War and Navyé™¸ã€æµ·è»å¤§è‡£.
Hence, the Cabinet could not be formed unless the Army and Navy
provided nomineesè¢«æåäºº for those ministerial postséƒ¨é•·è·ä½. In other words,
the Army and Navy could blackmailå‹’ç´¢ civilian politiciansæ–‡äººæ”¿å®¢ to carry
out their warlikeå¥½æˆ°çš„ policies.