Empire of Japan


November 30, 2021

The Empire of Japan (Japanese 大 日本 帝國 (kyūjitai) / 大 日本 帝国 (shinjitai), pronounced Dai Nippon Teikoku, literally "Empire of Greater Japan") is the political regime of Japan during the period from the Meiji era in the Shōwa era and encompassing WWI and WWII. After two and a half centuries of closure to the outside world, Japan underwent a political reorganization with the end of the shogunate and transformed into a modern nation - adopting its first constitution in 1889 - as well as a world-class power. The country is also characterized by a strong expansionist and imperialist policy, which culminates during the first part of the Shōwa era and the country's participation in the Second World War. With the conclusion of the anti-Comintern pact, then the tripartite pact, the Japanese Empire ended up allying with Nazi Germany, thus joining the Axis formed with fascist Italy in the conflict against the Allies. Through the realization of the hakkō ichiu, a concept linked to the kokka shinto and which can be translated as "the meeting of the eight corners of the world under one roof", Emperor Hirohito becomes a symbol of the colonial Empire of Japan. After the defeat of Japan in 1945 and the adoption in 1947 of the new Constitution, the country is officially referred to as Nippon or Nihon, and sometimes Nippon-koku or Nihon-koku (日本国, literally the State of Japan) while retaining the monarchy by becoming a constitutional monarchy.


Meiji Era

Japan in the Meiji era is emerging as a new power in the Pacific. Long before contact with the West, Japan experienced proto-capitalist tendencies which seemed to prepare for its industrial take-off. Wealthy farmers set up craft businesses, particularly in weaving, and lend to the less fortunate, whose land they end up recovering: this is the start of a process of capital accumulation. With the opening up to international trade, the influx of manufactured products leads to a deficit that must be balanced by exporting basic products (such as rice and silk), which increases prices; on the other hand, craftsmanship faces competition from European products. Hence a social crisis which manifests itself against foreigners and against the shogunate system. Politically, the beginning of the history of imperial Japan merges with that of the Meiji era. Emperor Meiji was enthroned in 1867. In April 1868, the shogunate was abolished. The Meiji era ("enlightened government") will end with the death of the emperor in 1912, but modernization will continue under the reign of his successor Taishō Tennō (1912-1925). The Meiji revolution is a revolution from above. The emperor rules with his advisers: he is of divine right and Shintoism is declared the state religion. Through the cult of the emperor, it is the cult of the State that governs the lives of citizens that is celebrated. The first reform consists in suppressing feudalism and replacing it with the elite of merchants and the petty nobility of warriors (the samurai). The great lords (the daimyos) were deprived of their land and the rights attached to it from 1869. On July 14, 1871, prefectures officially replaced the feudal domains (廃 藩 置 県, Hai-han Chi-ken). In 1881, Itō Hirobumi was put at the head of an administration responsible for studying modern forms of government, with a view to establishing a constitution for Japan. In 1888, a draft constitution, drawn up in secret, was submitted to the emperor. The Constitution of the Empire of Japan (kyūjitai: 大 日本 帝國 憲法; shinjitai: 大 日本 帝国 憲法, Dai-Nippon Teikoku Kenpō), known as the Meiji Constitution, inspired by Prussian and American models, was approved by the emperor on February 11 1889 and enters application

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