After the First World War, Japan found herself alone.  Countries like Soviet Union, Germany and China grudged Japan because she had deprived them of their territories.  The victor Allies had also lost their faith in Japan, therefore, they emphasized upon Japan to sign the nine power treaty in 1922 A.D.  Rapid industrialization of Japan also caused problems for the Japanese.  There were strikes, lock-outs and demonstration in Japan in 1921 A.D. which enhanced the miseries and hardships of the peasants and workers.  During the post-World War I period agrarian production slowed down and the tenancy agreement became focus of rising tension which resulted in the formation of tenants unions.

In contrast to the 1920’s which was an era of intellectual liberalism in Japan, the 1930’s are known in the history of Japan a period of militarism.  In fact lack of faith in representative institutions, past traditions, impact of depression, popular swing in support of military armed forces contributed a lot to the rise of militarism in Japan.

The autonomous status of the armed forces also facilitated the growth of militarism in Japan.  The armed forces also facilitated the growth of militarism in Japan.  The armed forces were supposed to be the personal army or navy of the Emperor in Japan and were given status equal to civil employees.  Both the army and the navy enjoyed considerable independence in relations the cabinet and often took place that the army and navy ministers were active officers of high rand and subject to military discipline.  Their services to the cabinet were subjected to the approval of army or navy.  The armed forces were powerful enough to destroy the cabinet through effective use of their power.  They also could prevent the undesirable leaders to hold the change of the office of Premiership.  Thus the army could act not only independent of civil government but in fact enjoyed veto power over the cabinet.


The army officer displaying their independence in stated action in Manchuria on the pretext that the Chinese forces had made an attempt to blow up the South Manchurian railway and crush Manchuria.  In the mean time the Japanese naval forces after a sanguinary fight established their control on the Chinese portion of Shanghai.  This military action of Japan was criticized by the League of Nations and the United States but Japan paid no heed to it.  On the other she withdrew herself from the membership of the League of Nations.

The business class, the bureaucrats as well as the people of Japan praised the military action of the navy though it was not an authorized invasion.  The government of Japan at once declared that had been no war in Manchuria and told it merely an incident to make their position safe.

At the same the militarists resorted to political murders.  On May 15, 1932, a group of young naval officers and cadets killed Inukai, the Premier on the pretext that they wanted to free the emperor from the clutches of civil advisers.  They selected Viscount Admiral Saito, a professional naval officer to act as Premier of National Government.  He was supported by bureaucrats, political parties and the armed forces.  Thus there was a balance of civil and armed forces in the cabinet.  But playing more effective role in the making of the policies of government they also gradually minimized the powers of Diet but they did not abolish it completely because was legacy of the Meiji Emperor.


The militarists had no faith in the foreigners.  They continued to make propaganda against them and made the people realize that they were the spies of their government.  They also assured the people of Japan that their chief aim was to free the countries of Asia from the rule of the foreigners.

Undoubtedly the rise of militarism in Japan was very dangerous.  Their dominance of the government increased their intervention in the administrati9on which set in motion the vicious circle and drew Japan onward towards war.  Despite several impediments, the militarists and the nationalist continued to strengthen their hold on Japan and lot the politicians dance on their own tune.


The militarists of Japan following the example of Manchurian incident picked up a conflict with China on a very insignificant ground.  The civil government meekly supported the action of militarists and the Japanese forces established their control on Peking and Tientsin immediately and conquered North China and Mongolia.  War was also fought in Shanghai, which continued for some time due to tough resistance of the Chinese.  In spite of several services and losses the Chinese continued it.  This was ultimately merged into the Second World War.

In the meantime, Japan made an Anti-communist Treaty with Germany in 1936 A.D.  Italy also subscribed in this pact after a year.  Japan taking advantage of collapse of France in 1940 A.D. began to intervene into the French Indo-China.  Seeking the achievements of Germany and Japan, America also decided to take part in war against Japan.  USA hit on the economic resources of Japan very hard and frozen her assets abroad.

Japan had now only two options because of these new developments:

  • To end war with China giving her generous concessions.
  • To break the economic blockade by war against the western democracies.

It was very difficult for Japan to make choice of either of two because of the influence of militarists and war became evident with the west in 1941 A.D. due to some further developments.  The leadership of General Tajo after resignation of Prince Konoe dragged the country towards war.  After watching the pros and cons it was decided by the Japanese to join the war on the side of Germans, hoping that there were greater opportunities of success of Japan by which she could be able to form the most populous empire in the world.

The Japanese with their enemy in war made an invasion on Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 A.D. in order to cripple the navy of America.  As a result America also joined war on the side of the Allies to crush the Japanese as well as the Germans.  The vast resources and productive power helped the Allies tremendously and they stood victorious.  Thus the era of militarism came to an end with the defeat of Japan and government passed into the hands of moderate bureaucrats.