Japanese Imperialism

In 1850s, US sent warships under Commodore Perry, and forced the Japanese to open their country for the American shipping and trade. This was known as Gun-boat Diplomacy. Later Japan had similar agreements with Britain, Holland, France and Russia. However, Japan itself emerged as an Imperialist country after the Meiji Restoration.

Japan imperialism

Meiji Restoration

It was a political revolution under which the erstwhile Tokugawa Shogunate, which was a feudal-military government, was replaced with a new imperial government under the Emperor Meiji. Japan adopted the slogan- ‘Wealthy country and strong arms’ and sought to create a nation-state capable of standing equal among western powers. The government took a number of reforms:


  • Capital shifted from Edo to Tokyo;
  • A Bicameral Parliament, called Diet;
  • Dismantling of the old feudal regime, and introduction of the prefecture system of administration;
  • Centralization of administration;
  • Modern civil services;
  • Modern banking and fiscal system;
  • Modern industrial enterprises, railways, telegraphs;
  • Universal primary education; and,
  • Modern army and navy, and adoption of western military technology.

All these reforms made Japan, within a few decades, one of the most industrialized countries of the world. However, Japan had few raw material to support her industries. Thus, She also needed new lands for material and markets. This encouraged Japan’s imperialist expansion. China provided ample opportunities for Japan’s imperialist designs.

Anglo-Japanese Alliance

It took place between Britain and Japan, to assist one another in safeguarding their respect interests in China and Korea. It remained as a cornerstone of British and Japanese policy in Asia until after World War I. This alliance recognized Japan as a power of equal standing with great European powers. Also, during the Russo-Japanese War, France did not intervene from Russian side, fearing that Britain would intervene from Japan’s side. This helped Japan win the war.

Russo-Japanese War

Under the Sphere of influence, Russia was building railroads in Manchuria. But after the Sino-Japan War, China was defeated and handed over certain parts of Southern Manchuria to Japan. Both Russia and Japan wanted to dominate Korea and Manchuria. This contestation led to the Russo-Japanese war, which led to the defeat of the mighty Russia.

After the war, US President Theodore Roosevelt served as mediator between the warring parties. A peace treaty was signed whereby, Russia handed over Port Arthur and the South Manchuria railroad to Japan; and also half of Sakhalin Island to Japan. Russia also agreed to evacuate southern Manchuria, and also recognized Japan’s control over Korea.

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