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The Empire of Japan (Japanese: 大日本帝国, Hepburn: Dai Nippon Teikoku)[10] is a historical nation-state[nb 3] along with its colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the 1947 constitution and subsequent formation of modern Japan.[6]

Under the slogans of Fukoku Kyōhei (富国強兵, "Enrich the Country, Strengthen her Armed Forces") and Shokusan Kōgyō (殖産興業, "Promote Industry"), Japan underwent a period of industrialization and militarization, the Meiji Restoration being the fastest modernisation of any country to date, all of these aspects contributed to Japan's emergence as a great power and the establishment of a colonial empire following the First Sino-Japanese War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. Economic and political turmoil in the 1920s, including the Great Depression, led to the rise of militarism, nationalism and totalitarianism, eventually culminating in Japan's membership in the Axis alliance and the conquest of a large part of the Asia-Pacific in World War II.[13]

Japan's armed forces initially achieved large-scale military successes during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and the Pacific War. However, starting from 1942, particularly after the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, Japan was forced to adopt a defensive stance, and the American island hopping campaign meant that Japan was slowly losing all of the territory it had gained, and eventually, the Americans captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa Island, leaving the Japanese mainland completely unprotected. The U.S. forces had planned an invasion, but Japan surrendered following the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan on August 9, 1945, and subsequent invasion of Manchuria and other territories, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Pacific War officially came to a close on September 2, 1945. A period of occupation by the Allies followed. In 1947, with American involvement, a new constitution was enacted, officially bringing the Empire of Japan to an end, and Japan's Imperial Army was replaced with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Occupation and reconstruction continued until 1952, eventually forming the current constitutional monarchy known as Japan.

The Empire of Japan had three emperors, although it came to an end during Shōwa's reign. The emperors were given posthumous names, and the emperors are as follows: Emperor Meiji (1867–1912) (Mutsuhito), Emperor Taishō (1912–1926) (Yoshihito), and Emperor Shōwa (1926–1989) (Hirohito).

Terminology

The historical state is frequently referred to as the "Empire of Japan", the "Japanese Empire", or "Imperial Japan" in English. In Japanese it is referred to as Dai Nippon Teikoku (大日本帝国),[10] which translates to "Empire of Greater Japan" (Dai "Great", Nippon "Japanese", Teikoku "Empire"). Teikoku is itself composed of the nouns Tei "referring to an emperor" and -koku "nation, state", so literally "Imperial State" or "Imperial Realm" (compare the German Kaiserreich).

This meaning is significant in terms of geography, encompassing Japan, and its surrounding areas. The nomenclature Empire of Japan had existed since the anti-Tokugawa domains, Satsuma and Chōshū, which founded their new government during the Meiji Restoration, with the intention of forming a modern state to resist Western domination. Later the Empire emerged as a major colonial power in the world.

Due to its name in kanji characters and its flag, it was also given the exonym "Empire of the Sun".

Background

After two centuries, the seclusion policy, or sakoku, under the shōguns of the Edo period came to an end when the country was forced open to trade by the Convention of Kanagawa which came when Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan in 1854. Thus, the period known as Bakumatsu began.

The following years saw increased foreign trade and interaction; commercial treaties between the Tokugawa shogunate and Western countries were signed. In large part due to the humiliating terms of these unequal treaties, the shogunate soon faced internal hostility, which materialized into a radical, xenophobic movement, the sonnō jōi (literally "Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians").[14]

In March 1863, the Emperor issued the "order to expel barbarians." Although the shogunate had no intention of enforcing the order, it nevertheless inspired attacks against the shogunate itself and against foreigners in Japan. The Namamugi Incident during 1862 led to the murder of an Englishman, Charles Lennox Richardson, by a party of samurai from Satsuma. The British demanded reparations but were denied. While attempting to exact payment, the Royal Navy was fired on from coastal batteries near the town of Kagoshima. They responded by bombarding the port of Kagoshima in 1863. The Tokugawa government agreed to pay an indemnity for Richardson's death.[15] Shelling of foreign shipping in Shimonoseki and attacks against foreign property led to the bombardment of Shimonoseki by a multinational force in 1864.[16] The Choshu clan also launched the failed coup known as the Kinmon incident. The Satsuma-Chōshū alliance was established in 1866 to combine their efforts to overthrow the Tokugawa bakufu. In early 1867, Emperor Kōmei died of smallpox and was replaced by his son, Crown Prince Mutsuhito (Meiji).

On November 9 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned from his post and authorities to the Emperor, agreeing to "be the instrument for carrying out" imperial orders,[17] leading to the end of the Tokugawa shogunate.[18][19] However, while Yoshinobu's resignation had created a nominal void at the highest level of government, his apparatus of state continued to exist. Moreover, the shogunal government, the Tokugawa family in particular, remained a prominent force in the evolving political order and retained many executive powers,[20] a prospect hard-liners from Satsuma and Chōshū found intolerable.[21]

On January 3 1868, Satsuma-Chōshū forces seized the imperial palace in Kyoto, and the following day had the fifteen-year-old Emperor Meiji declare his own restoration to full power. Although the majority of the imperial consultative assembly was happy with the formal declaration of direct rule by the court and tended to support a continued collaboration with the Tokugawa, Saigō Takamori, leader of the Satsuma clan, threatened the assembly into abolishing the title shōgun and ordered the confiscation of Yoshinobu's lands.[22]

On January 17, 1868, Yoshinobu declared "that he would not be bound by the proclamation of the Restoration and called on the court to rescind it".[23] On January 24, Yoshinobu decided to prepare an attack on Kyoto, occupied by Satsuma and Chōshū forces. This decision was prompted by his learning of a series of arson attacks in Edo, starting with the burning of the outworks of Edo Castle, the main Tokugawa residence.

Boshin War

The Naval Battle of Hakodate, May 1869; in the foreground, Kasuga and Kōtetsu of the Imperial Japanese Navy

The Boshin War (戊辰戦争, Boshin Sensō) was fought between January 1868 and May 1869. The alliance of samurai from southern and western domains and court officials had now secured the cooperation of the young Emperor Meiji, who ordered the dissolution of the two-hundred-year-old Tokugawa shogunate. Tokugawa Yoshinobu launched a military campaign to seize the emperor's court at Kyoto. However, the tide rapidly turned in favor of the smaller but relatively modernized imperial faction and resulted in defections of many daimyōs to the Imperial side. The Battle of Toba–Fushimi was a decisive victory in which a combined army from Chōshū, Tosa, and Satsuma domains defeated the Tokugawa army.[24] A series of battles were then fought in pursuit of supporters of the Shogunate; Edo surrendered to the Imperial forces and afterwards Yoshinobu personally surrendered. Yoshinobu was stripped of all his power by Emperor Meiji and most of Japan accepted the emperor's rule.

Pro-Tokugawa remnants, however, then retreated to northern Honshū (Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei) and later to Ezo (present-day Hokkaidō), where they established the breakaway Republic of Ezo. An expeditionary force was dispatched by the new government and the Ezo Republic forces were overwhelmed. The siege of Hakodate came to an end in May 1869 and the remaining forces surrendered.[24]

Meiji era (1868–1912)

The Charter Oath was made public at the enthronement of Emperor Meiji of Japan on April 7, 1868. The Oath outlined the main aims and the course of action to be followed during Emperor Meiji's reign, setting the legal stage for Japan's modernization.[25] The Meiji leaders also aimed to boost morale and win financial support for the new government.

The Empire of Japan (Japanese: 大日本帝国, Hepburn: Dai Nippon Teikoku)[10] is a historical nation-state[nb 3] along with its colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the 1947 constitution and subsequent formation of modern Japan.[6]

Under the slogans of Fukoku Kyōhei (富国強兵, "Enrich the Country, Strengthen her Armed Forces") and Shokusan Kōgyō (殖産興業, "Promote Industry"), Japan underwent a period of industrialization and militarization, the Meiji Restoration being the fastest modernisation of any country to date, all of these aspects contributed to Japan's emergence as a great power and the establishment of a colonial empire following the First Sino-Japanese War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. Economic and political turmoil in the 1920s, including the Great Depression, led to the rise of militarism, nationalism and totalitarianism, eventually culminating in Japan's membership in the Axis alliance and the conquest of a large part of the Asia-Pacific in World War II.[13]

Japan's armed forces initially achieved large-scale military successes during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and the Pacific War. However, starting from 1942, particularly after the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, Japan was forced to adopt a defensive stance, and the American island hopping campaign meant that Japan was slowly losing all of the territory it had gained, and eventually, the Americans captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa Island, leaving the Japanese mainland completely unprotected. The U.S. forces had planned an invasion, but Japan surrendered following the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan on August 9, 1945, and subsequent invasion of Manchuria and other territories, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Pacific War officially came to a close on September 2, 1945. A period of occupation by the Allies followed. In 1947, with American involvement, a new constitution was enacted, officially bringing the Empire of Japan to an end, and Japan's Imperial Army was replaced with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Occupation and reconstruction continued until 1952, eventually forming the current constitutional monarchy known as Japan.

The Empire of Japan had three emperors, although it came to an end during Shōwa's reign. The emperors were given posthumous names, and the emperors are as follows: Emperor Meiji (1867–1912) (Mutsuhito), Emperor Taishō (1912–1926) (Yoshihito), and Emperor Shōwa (1926–1989) (Hirohito).


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