Until 1868, Japan shut itself off from the rest of the world, but over the course of the next 70 years, the country went from an underdeveloped nation to an industrial and military powerhouse. Test your knowledge on Japan's growth and the people who made it possible.
In 1868, Emperor Meiji was restored to power in an event known as the Meiji Restoration. With the guidance of his Council, Emperor Meiji helped modernize Japan until his death in 1912.
Before the Emperor was restored to power, the Tokugawa Shogunate ruled over Japan. The Tokugawa came to power after the Warring States period when Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan.
The Boshin War was fought in 1868 and 1869, as the Imperial forces under the ishin shishi fought against the Tokugawa Shogunate. The Imperial forces won and abolished any remnants of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Meiji Constitution went into effect on November 29, 1890. The Constitution placed the Emperor as the head of the state, and it would be the law of the land until after World War II.
When the Meiji Constitution was approved, two houses formed the Imperial Diet. The lower house was the House of Representatives, and the upper house was the House of Peers. The House of Peers consisted of members from the Imperial family.
The Tokugawa Shogunate signed treaties with foreign nations that the new Meiji government saw as unfair. Therefore, the new Japanese government sent diplomatic leaders to western countries to renegotiate the treaties.
After the Boshin War, the caste system was ended, which eliminated the samurai class. Unemployed samurai were disgruntled, and many joined a rebellion led by Saigo Takamori.
The Satsuma samurai who fought in the Boshin War believed that the Tokugawa Shogunate was too weak when it came to foreign affairs. They supported the slogan "expel the barbarians." After the war, these samurai believed the new government was showing the same signs of weakness in foreign matters.
Although many samurai helped lead Japan through the Meiji Restoration, the Three Great Nobles were some of the most influential during this turbulent time in Japanese history.
Okubo Toshimichi was extremely influential in modernizing Japan, but after the Satsuma Rebellion, he was seen as a traitor by many samurai. On May 14, 1878, he was assassinated.
With major instability, the Korean government under the Joseon Dynasty had a difficult time suppressing a peasant rebellion. Both China and Japan sent troops to help the Joseon Dynasty, which resulted in a war between China and Japan.
After the Empire of Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War, mainly because Japan had modernized its military, Japan gained control of Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula. This gave Japan more influence over Korea.
A Chinese uprising started in 1899 over foreign intervention in China. The Chinese rebels fought against foreigners and Chinese Christians, eventually gaining the support of the Qing Dynasty. This uprising forced foreign nations like Japan to get involved in the conflict.
After the end of the Sino-Japanese War, Japan was forced to withdraw from the Liaodong Peninsula by Germany, Russia, and France. Russia took over control of the Peninsula when Japan was gone.
Japan wanted to expand its interest in Korea. In exchange, Japan was willing to give up control of Manchuria. However, Russia refused the offer, and war broke out between the two countries.
After negotiations broke down between Russia and Japan, Japan attacked Port Arthur which was controlled by Russia. The attack came before an official declaration of war was issued by Japan.
No country knew the extent of Japanese military power until Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. This victory increased Japan's influence in world affairs.
After winning the war with Russia, Japan gained full influence over Korea. In 1910, Japan finally annexed Korea with the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910, making the peninsula part of the Japanese territory.
Both Russia and Japan agreed that Theodore Roosevelt would mediate the peace negotiations between the two countries. The result was the signing of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the war.
When WWI broke out, Japan saw it as an opportunity to extend its influence over China. With the help of British troops, Japan occupied German territories throughout the Pacific.
At the end of WWI, Japan submitted a list of demands to China, which would increase Japan's control of the country. If China did not sign the document, Japan threatened to attack, and China was extremely weak at the time. Although all of the demands were not met, China eventually agreed to most of them.
Emperor Taisho succeeded Emperor Meiji on July 30, 1912, making him the 123rd Emperor of Japan. He reigned until his death on December 25, 1926.
The Japanese government staged an attack on a railway in south Manchuria. After the staged attack, Japan invaded Manchuria and established a puppet government under the last Qing emperor, Puyi.
When Japan conquered Manchuria from China in 1932, they established a puppet government called Manchukuo. The government remained in place untill after WWII.
In July of 1937, Japan attacked the Marco Polo Bridge, but the Chinese forces knew they needed to hold the bridge at all cost. With help from reinforcements, the Chinese forces were able to repel the Japanese attack.
China was divided during the onset of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Kuomintang government under the Nationalist party was being challenged for power by the Communist Party of China.
Japan knew that the country would need help from European nations as they continued to extend their influence in Asia, especially as tensions grew between Japan and the United States. Therefore, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.
For centuries, Asian countries were under direct or indirect control by Western nations. As Japan modernized, the country began to realize they were a world power and should take over imperial rule throughout Asia from these western countries.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japan captured Nanking, the capital of the Republic of China at the time, killing and raping Chinese citizens after capturing the city.
After open hostilities through much of the 1930s over land in Manchuria and Siberia, Japan and the USSR agreed to a nonaggression pact on April 13, 1941, as both countries prepared for a global war.
The relationship between the United States and Japan had been deteriorating for years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. A war between the two coutries was inevitable. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet, forcing the U.S. into WWII.
Emperor Showa was the 124th Emperor of Japan. He reigned after his father, Emperor Taisho, who died in 1926. Emperor Showa led Japan through WWII and the nation's subsequent surrender after the war.
In the Battle of Midway, the United States lost one carrier to Japan's four. The defeat of the Japanese Navy here was a turning point in the Pacific War that the Empire of Japan could not recover from.
Even though defeat was imminent, Japan refused to surrender, hoping for a victory that would give them bargaining room during negotiations to end the war. To save American lives in a drawn out war, the United States decided to drop the atomic bomb, which they knew would force Japan to surrender.
The United States occupied Japan after the war to help demilitarize the country and transform Japan into a more democratic state, which was especially important to the U.S. with the fear of Communism spreading.