Japan: History of the Japanese

About the history of Japan, its various wars for control in the region including the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese War.


How Created--Official legends of Imperial Japan claimed that Jimmu Tenno, a descendant of the Sun Goddess, established the Japanese nation in 660 B.C. Nevertheless, his supposed descendants, members of the House of Yamato, unified the islands in about 200 A.D. The current Emperor, Hirohito, descends directly from that dynasty.

In 1192 a shogun (military governor) seized power from the Yamato dynasty, establishing a feudal system which lasted for nearly 700 years. Japan was able to avoid conquest by Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan in the 13th century when a typhoon destroyed his armada.

In 1542 the 1st European traders, who were Portuguese, landed in Japan. To prevent European domination in 1637 the Tokugawa Shogunate barred trade and contact with the outside world.

But the long, isolated regime of the Tokugawas could not withstand the European onslaught, and exposure to modern civilization stimulated a social revolution in Japan. In 1867-1868, Mutsohito, a member of the House of Yamato, regained power as Emperor, and assumed the name of "Meiji" (meaning "enlightened government"). In 1871 he abolished Japan's feudal system. In 1889 he and his supporters created a modern constitutional government.

The early rule of Meiji, known as the Meiji Restoration, marked the birth of the modern Japanese nation.

In 1894-1895 Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War, annexing Formosa (Taiwan), the Pescadores Islands, and the Liaotung peninsula in southern Manchuria.

In 1904-1905 Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, stimulating a near-revolution in Czarist Russia and winning Teddy Roosevelt the Nobel Peace Prize. Japan annexed half the island of Sakhalin, on its northern border, and won control over Russian concessions in China.

In 1910 Japan annexed Korea and in 1931 it seized Manchuria from China, establishing the puppet state of Manchukuo. Throughout the 1930s Japan waged an undeclared war against China, seizing much of the Chinese coast, but never winning control over the interior.

In 1940 Japan joined the Axis alliance of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. While Germany occupied France, Japan moved into French Indochina.

At its peak, the Japanese Empire included the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies, Indochina, Malaya, Burma, Thailand (as a collaborator), and a number of Pacific islands. In 1944 the U.S., allied with England, Australia, and indigenous Asian liberation movements, began to drive the Japanese back. As a result of losing W.W. II, Japan lost all of its recently acquired possessions and kept only the home islands.

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