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Imperial Japan 1919-1941 . Flag of Japan today. Rising Sun flag = military flag/Imperial Japanese Army war flag of Japan. Photo of Emperor Meiji in the 1890’s. Japan forcibly opened to western trade by the U.S. navy in 1854 Emperor Meiji decided to modernize and industrialize Japan

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Imperial Japan 1919-1941

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imperial japan 1919 1941

Imperial Japan 1919-1941

Flag of Japan today

Rising Sun flag= military flag/Imperial Japanese Army war flag of Japan

Photo of Emperor Meiji in the 1890’s

Japan forcibly opened to western trade by the U.S. navy in 1854

Emperor Meiji decided to modernize and industrialize Japan

Emperor was head of the Shinto religion (supposedly descended from the sun goddess Amaterasu) as well as the political leader of Japan



chrysanthemum symbol of emperor 16 pedals

Chrysanthemum-symbol of emperor, 16 pedals

Sun goddess- Amaterasu





Constitution required members of army and navy in government, had veto power

  • Meiji married his 1st cousin and had an insane son, Taisho
  • Taisho reached the throne in 1912, amidst ritual suicides
  • Taisho was supposed to address the Diet (Japanese legislature) in 1913; he instead rolled up his speech and looked at the Diet like it was a telescope
  • Military takes over government from incompetent Taisho in 1926
  • Taisho’s son Hirohitobecomes emperor in 1926

Emperor Taisho (left) & Emperor Hirohito (right)

foreign policy

Flag of the Qing dynasty (China);1890-1912

Foreign Policy
  • Japan has almost no natural resources; Japan began attacking her neighbors trying to obtain their natural resources
  • First Sino-Japanese War took place in1895; Japan beat China and became the top regional(local) power
  • Allied countries made Japan give back most of the gains they took from China which humiliated Japan

First Sino- Japanese war map of battles

japan defeated russia in 1905 during the russo japanese war
Japan defeated Russia in 1905 during theRusso-Japanese War

Andreevsky flag ensign of the Russian Navy

  • Japanese started with a sneak attack on Port Arthur (no declaration of war)
  • Japanese use suicide sailors to sink ships in front of harbor at Port Arthur, crews sink vessels, then come ashore and charge Russian forts and die
  • Tsushima Straits 20 Russian ships sunk, 5 captured, 5 escaped
  • Japanese lost 3 ships

Painting of Russo-Japanese War

Russo-Japanese War map


Was founded as a criminal organization

  • Became interested in Japanese expansion into Siberia and Manchuria, opium traders, assassins of political opponents
  • Supported Nationalists under Sun Yat-sen (below left) and Chiang Kai-shek (below right) to overthrow Manchu dynasty, succeeded in 1911, Manchu’s dynasty opposed drug trafficking
  • Made Korea colony in 1910
  • Fought on allied side in WWI, limited fighting in German owned islands in the Pacific
  • Allies refused to accept “Racial Equality Clause” in Treaty of Versailles
  • Seemed to be on way to democracy by the 1920’s

Manchu (Ding) Dynasty flag

Black Dragon Society

early 1920 s japan
Early 1920’s Japan
  • 4 giant Zaibatsu (giant, powerful Japanese business conglomerates)
  • Mitsui (Finance), Yasuda (Finance), Sumitomo (Mining), Mitsubishi (Military transport) dominated trade and industry, used by Japan to produce goods for war
  • 1924, U.S. pass Exclusion Act banning Japanese immigration
  • Army ruled by samurai- military nobility
  • Code of bushido “The Way of the Warrior”- code of conduct for Samurai, includes honor until death – no surrender
  • The Japanese believed if you died fighting for the emperor you would be rewarded in heaven, or be re-incarnated to serve the emperor again under better circumstances in your next life


Samurai sword

The seven codes of Bushido should befollowed by the Samurai every day


Kanji symbol for Bushido(left)


Japan began to see herself as the rightful ruler of Asia, wanted to replace western powers as imperial power in Asia

  • Nationalist movement became strong, opponents in politics were assassinated
  • Japanese policy led to China, first Manchuria, iron, coal, steel
  • China was trying to modernize, was ruled by warlords
  • Japanese spymaster in Manchuria
  • Achieved position by selling his young sister to a high Japanese official
  • Operated brothels and opium dens to entrap Chinese officials
  • Prostitutes paid 1 free pipe for each one sold to Chinese, executed if addicted Japanese
  • Proceeds used to fund Japanese army in Manchuria
  • Assassinated warlord of Manchuria by blowing up his train

Flag of Manchuria; 1922 & Kenji Doihara


Kenji Doihara


Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek, his army is called theKuomintang

  • Communists led by Mao Tse-tung(aka Zedong)
  • Spy Eastern Jewel hired Chinese gangs to burglarize Japanese merchants and destroy homes in Shanghai, Japanese then invade until west opposes as obvious plot

Eastern Jewel, dressed like a man



Mukden Incident

  • September 18, 1931, Japanese army acted without orders
  • Japanese fake an attempt to blow up their railroad in Manchuria, place charge far from tracks so not to blow up any of the rails, blamed the Chinese and use it as excuse to take Manchuria, attacked Chinese barracks without warning(Japan lost 2 soldiers, and wonManchuria)

Japanese experts inspect the scene of the 'railway sabotage' on South Manchurian Railway, leading to the Mukden Incident and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria


Japanese troops entering Shenyang during the MukdenIncident

Japanese troops enter Chinese city after Mukden Incident

The Mukden Incident Museum (literally, "September 18th History Museum") in Shenyang

Republic of China


Japan set up a puppet state of Manchukuo, February 18, 1932, with former Chinese emperor Henry Pu-Yin charge

  • The Japanese wanted to convince Pu-Yi to move to Mukden and take the throne, and then authorize Japanese troops
  • Doihara sent Pu-Yi’s relative, Eastern Jewel, to seduce him, which failed
  • Eastern Jewel then “found” a poisonous snake in his bed
  • Eastern Jewel “found” a bomb in a gift fruit basket, bombs “identified” as coming from enemy warlords
  • Crowds hired by Doihara protested the Pu-Yi dynasty , Doihara then sent the army to “fight them to the death”
  • Doihara hired thugs to attack Pu-Yi’s bodyguards, finally accepted and became a prisoner of the Japanese after he authorized their troops, tried and convicted for collaboration by Chinese after war
  • Eastern Jewel got fat and suffered from numerous venereal diseases, beheaded by Chinese after war
  • League of Nations asks Japan to leave Manchuria, Japan leaves the League in1933
  • Japan takes the rest of northern China by 1933
  • Mao and Chiang fight each other, did not work together until 1937

Henry Pu-Yi & Flag of Manchukuo


Japan broke Washington Naval Conference and began building a powerful navy, created 2 of the largest battleships in world history, Yamato and Musashi (a third was converted to a giant aircraft carrier, the Shinano)

Above: Diagram of Yamato battle ship

Below: Picture of



Above: Musashi Below: IJN Shinano aircraft carrier


Clash at Marco Polo Bridge:

  • Fight between Japanese and Chinese troops on July 7, 1937
  • Japanese enter Chinese territory claiming to search for a “missing soldier”
  • Chinese resisted and the Japanese army attacked and invaded the rest of China
  • President Roosevelt calls for quarantine of Germany, Italy, and Japan
  • The Marco Polo Bridge (Lugouqiao), a key access to Beijing
  • The Double Seventh Incident (the 7th day of the 7th month) signaled the beginning of the Japanese all-out invasion of northern China

Guardian lions decorate the Marco Polo Bridge

Marco Polo Bridge


1st: Marco Bridge; 2007 2nd: On July 7, 1937, Japanese troops launched bombarded (Marco Polo Bridge) the Lugougiao Bridge 3rd: Chinese National Revolutionary Army Troops at the Marco Polo Bridge in 1937

Damage from the Japanese shells on the wall of Wanping Fortress is marked with a memorial plaque now. The text on the stone drums below summarizes the history of the war that followed the incident


Above (left) Kanji symbols of Banzai (Ten thousand years) in front ofJapan's national flag

Above (right): Japanese aggressor cavalry troops passing through the Marco Polo Bridge

Below (right): Soldiers of the Imperial Japanesenavy celebrating at the Marco Polo Bridge by doing banzai cheer


Rape of Nanking, winter (1937- 38), authorized slaughter of civilians, rape, bayonet and grenade practice, set afire with gasoline

Above: Japanese soldier beheads a prisoner at Nanking

Below: The Quintessential Photo ofNanking a Wounded Child Who has Lost His Parents


Field of Bones

Nanking Massacre:

(Japanese Troops) and heads of beheaded victims

Japanese soldiers at Work in Nanking


IrisChang would never be the same after researching and writing the Rape of Nanking. Traumatized by what she had learned and burdened by the weight of what she had taken on, she killed herself on November 9th 2004.

Memorial Site for Victims of 1937 Nanking Massacre


Panay Incident:

  • Japanese dive bomber pilot sinks USS Panay December 12, 1937, ship was on the Yangtze River near Nanking to intimidate Japanese, 2 killed
  • Japanese bombers and fighter planes bombed and strafed (attack by low-flying aircraft) the ship, sank it, machine gunned the survivors in the water

Survivor’s of the Panay Incident

Newspaper Headline the day after the bombing of the USS Panay


A Japanese ship followed and machine gunned the survivors near the shore

  • Japanese troops marched along the shore apparently hoping to capture the survivors
  • Japanese sailors boarded the ship just before it sank, perhaps in hopes of finding secret papers, equipment, or codes
  • Attack was partially filmed by news crews, but FDR ordered the film censored to edit out Japanese pilots’ faces
  • Japan claims it thought the ship was Chinese (even though it was clearly marked with two large U.S. flags) apologizes and pays $2 million damages, but awards pilot with a medal
  • Japan not capable of completing conquest of China

USS Panay

Japan began to regulate society more in 1937:

(Censorship, rationing, police surveillance)

In 1938, Japan announces:

Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

Japan plans to control resources in her Southeast Asian Empire

Japanese illustration of the “Cooperation” of Asian countries in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

Kempeitai(Imperial Japanese Army Military Police), able to use forced confessions in court, used to make sure everyone was loyal to the war, ran prisoner of war camps, participated in human experiments

The Kempeitai also provided, “Comfort Women”, women from territories occupied by Japan forced into sex slavery by the Japanese (Used for keeping moral support high for Japanese soldiers during WW2)


Kingdom of Italy, Nazi Germany, and Empire of Japan

  • Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis(September 1940): military alliance between the three countries
  • U.S. does not use trade sanctions against Japan (Great Depression) until (1940-41)
  • Embargo on war materials including oil, aviation gasoline, scrap iron, steel
  • U.S. had begun preparing for war in the 1930’s, buildings aircraft carriers

Pro-Axis German postcard

dictator s

1st: Mussolini (Rome) 2nd: Hitler (Berlin) 3rd: Emperor Hirohito (Toyko)

1. Hideki Tojo, (pictured left with all the medals) was Minister of War, soldier, and became prime minister October 1941-July 19, 1944 (resigned 10 days after fall of Saipan)



Signing of the Tripartite Pact on September 27, 1940 in Berlin. Seated on the left starting with Saburo Kurusu (Empire of Japan), Galeazzo Ciano (Kingdom of Italy) and Adolf Hitler (German Reich slumped in chair).

Yosuke Matsuoka, Japan’s Foreign Minister visits Adolf Hitler in Berlin on March 1941


"Grotesque Italian, German, and Japanese characters" artist unknown; possibly September 1940

Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito