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Japan during World War I

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Japan participated in World War I from 1914 to 1918 in an alliance with Entente Powers and played an important role in securing the sea lanes in the West Pacific and Indian Oceans against the Imperial German Navy as the member of the Allies. Politically, the Japanese Empire seized the opportunity to expand its sphere of influence in China, and to gain recognition as a great power in postwar geopolitics.

Japan's military, taking advantage of the great distances and Imperial Germany's preoccupation with the war in Europe, seized German possessions in the Pacific and East Asia, but there was no large-scale mobilization of the economy.[1] Foreign Minister Katō Takaaki and Prime Minister Ōkuma Shigenobu wanted to use the opportunity to expand Japanese influence in China. They enlisted Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925), then in exile in Japan, but they had little success.[2] The Imperial Japanese Navy, a nearly autonomous bureaucratic institution, made its own decision to undertake expansion in the Pacific. It captured Germany's Micronesian territories north of the equator, and ruled the islands until they were transitioned to civilian control in 1921. The operation gave the Navy a rationale for enlarging its budget to double the Army budget and expanding the fleet. The Navy thus gained significant political influence over national and international affairs.[3]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The Ally From The Far East - Japan in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special
  • ✪ Japan in World War I | The 20th century | World history | Khan Academy
  • ✪ Japan's War in Colour (Complete Documentary)
  • ✪ Playing the Victim | Historical Revisionism and Japan
  • ✪ Imperial Japan's INSANE Plans for World Domination. WWII Alternate History


It was far from Europe, and yet Japan still helped a lot with the global Allied war effort, but what was going on in japan itself? And what had been going on in the years leading up to the war? That’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to a Great War special episode about Japan and the First World War. A Civil War in Japan in 1867 resulted in the restoration of Imperial Rule the following year, which was the beginning of Japan’s modern age. The feudal domains, with which the people identified, were abolished in 1871 to help begin to foster a national identity, in the person of the young Meiji emperor and the new government. Japan’s modern military, the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy - IJA and IJN - really began in the 1870s. For the new Meiji state, it was vital that these forces be controlled by the emperor and by extension the new state, and not in any way beholden to any faction representing the old order. There was, initially, influence from samurai clans, but over a couple of decades that influence faded as a new national identity was formed. So the military was a cornerstone of the Meiji State and was even instrumental in physically protecting the government in the early days. The Conscription Law of 1873 brought in young men from age 20 and up for three years of service, though after the military’s first overseas expedition to Taiwan in 1874, the next large-scale deployment was not until war with China in 1894. The new national government began a sweeping program of reforms. Industrializing, and developing the country’s economic and military capabilities would hopefully insure that Japan was independent and free of foreign influence. The Meiji constitution of 1889 - Asia’s first - established a system of government that would last until 1945. The emperor shared sovereignty with a number of state organs. There was the imperial council, the cabinet, the imperial Diet - a Parliament with two houses, the judiciary, the Privy Council, and the military. These all had independence and rough equality except the military reported to and was only answerable to the Emperor. Within the cabinet the ministers were also responsible to the emperor, so it was often tough for the Prime Minister to maintain cabinet unity. Establishing a Parliament really changed the political landscape of Meiji Japan, because this created a new group of political rivals and contenders, in the form of political parties, to the Meiji elite, or genro. Some genro, such as Yamagata Aritomo, were opponents of political parties and saw monarchy as the best government for japan and while he was Prime Minister in the late 1890s he passed reforms to limit the influence of political parties in the military and the bureaucracy. Now only active Generals and Admirals could serve as war or navy ministers, which gave the military a veto in government affairs. The 1890s, actually, was the coming of age decade for modern Japan. This was really when Japan began to transform from an agrarian to an industrial society. The architects of Meiji Japan wanted to achieve two more things, a powerful military and an empire, so this was also the decade when Japan began to project its power on to mainland Asia. First, Japan wanted to block any foreign power from dominating or annexing Korea, which lay just 100 miles across the Sea of Japan. That foreign power had been China for hundreds of years, and disagreements over Korea led to the war with China I mentioned, which was a resounding Japanese victory. It also resulted in a big wave of nationalism. Japanese celebration was cut short, though, by French, Russian, and German intervention, which reversed most of what Japan had imposed on China. This really highlighted Japanese diplomatic isolation and prompted the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs to write, “At present Japan must keep calm and sit tight... during this time the foundations of her national power must be consolidated; and we must watch and wait for the opportunity in the Orient that will surely come one day. When this day arrives Japan will decide her own fate; and she will be able not only to put into place the powers who seek to meddle in her affairs; she will even be able, should this be necessary, to meddle in their affairs.” Japanese military spending tripled by 1903. Japan had, by then, been part of the eight-nation alliance that responded to China’s Boxer Rebellion and had provided the majority of the alliance forces. In 1902, the first Anglo-Japanese alliance was signed, which was a defensive alliance, with particular focus on Russian ambitions in Asia. The real test for the Japanese military was soon to follow; the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05, a war that was fought mainly in Manchuria, and a war that Japan won, to much of the world’s surprise. The IJA mobilized over a million men and took over 100,000 casualties in 18 months of war. The IJN delivered one of the biggest defeats of the war in the Battle of Tsushima Strait. Korea fell firmly into Japanese orbit and would be annexed in 1910, and the question of defense now revolved around Manchuria. An important military development I gotta mention here was in 1907 The Aims of Imperial National Defense. This document was a compromise between the two branches of service that defined the “cordon of sovereignty” and the “cordon of advantage”. The former was, at its most basic, the home islands; the la tter was the line of defense to protect the# former. This seems pretty rational, but it had a flaw; it did not account for the expansion of the empire. Once Korea w as annexed, it was no longer an overseas territory like Taiwan, but part of Japan and part of the “cordon of sovereignty”. This moved the “cordon of advantage” from the Korean Peninsula to Manchuria, and as the Empire eventually expanded in Asia, the “cordon of advantage” did as well, pulling the military with it, and bringing Japan into conflict with nations further and further from home. Anyhow, in 1912, the Anglo-Japanese alliance was renewed for another 10 years and that same year the Meiji emperor passed away, triggering a few years of government instability. When the First World War broke out and Japan joined the Entente, the IJA and IJN worked together to take the German administered territory of Tsingtao. The 5,000 enemy troops there held out against 28,000 IJA troops for a few weeks before surrendering and becoming POWs. This was the only battle fought during the war by the IJA until the Siberian intervention of 1918. The IJN, in addition to transport and blockade duties, cooperated with the British navy to destroy German raiders in the Pacific, and occupied German Micronesia. They would eventually take over convoy protection and naval patrols in that part of the world from the British. In May 1917, the IJN was deployed to the Mediterranean to assist the allies in convoy protection, anti-submarine warfare, and other operations, remaining committed there until the end of the war. The IJA was never sent to Europe because virtually no one in Japan was enthusiastic about a war of attrition halfway across the globe for little or no gain. The Mesopotamian front would have been more feasible, but the British had concerns over giving Japan too much influence there postwar, and of course the IJA was not equipped for that climate anyhow. The IJA did send military observers to Europe, though. And they were heavily involved - after the Russian Revolution - in the Siberian Intervention beginning August 1918, which intended to stabilize the Russian Far East and helped evacuate the Czechoslovak Legion through Vladivostok. 70,000 IJA troops operated from there to Lake Baikal, an enormous area, and the final units were not withdrawn until 1922. This whole affair was supposed by many to be the advance for Japanese domination of the Russian Far East. This turned out to be a fantasy. The most well-known, or notorious, Japanese foreign policy move during the First World War was the 21 points, delivered to China in 1915, which we talked about in our China special. The 21 points were an attempt to achieve commercial dominance and reinforce Japan’s position in China, and though they are a pretty naked attempt to secure Japanese power in China, they were pretty moderate compared to the empire building plans of many in the government at the time. When the Great War ended, Japan sat at the Paris Conference as part of “the big five” and for the first time in its history was a major world power. The war had seen the birth of modern labor movements in Japan, a wartime economic boom that created a middle class, and an increase in imperial possessions and influence in Asia. The Japanese military had operated globally, from the Mediterranean to Lake Baikal to China. The war also saw the final transformation of japan into the industrialized urban society that it is today. This, as you can see, was just a brief look at an enormously complex topic, and as always I urge you to look it up for yourselves to go deeper into it.


Events of 1914

Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya (1913)
Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya (1913)
Japanese troops landing near Tsingtao.
Japanese troops landing near Tsingtao.

In the first week of World War I Japan proposed to the United Kingdom, its ally since 1902, that Japan would enter the war if it could take Germany's Pacific territories.[4] On 7 August 1914, the British government officially asked Japan for assistance in destroying the raiders from the Imperial German Navy in and around Chinese waters. Japan sent Germany an ultimatum on 23 August 1914, which went unanswered; Japan then formally declared war on Germany on 23 August 1914 in the name of the Emperor Taishō.[5] As Vienna refused to withdraw the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth from Qingdao, Japan declared war on Austria-Hungary, too, on 25 August 1914.[6]

Japanese forces quickly occupied German-leased territories in the Far East. On 2 September 1914, Japanese forces landed on China's Shandong province and surrounded the German settlement at Tsingtao (Qingdao). During October, acting virtually independently of the civil government, the Imperial Japanese Navy seized several of Germany's island colonies in the Pacific - the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall Islands - with virtually no resistance. The Japanese Navy conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids against German-held land targets in Shandong province and ships in Qiaozhou Bay from the seaplane-carrier Wakamiya. On 6 September 1914 a seaplane launched by Wakamiya unsuccessfully attacked the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth and the German gunboat Jaguar with bombs.[7]

The Siege of Tsingtao concluded with the surrender of German colonial forces on 7 November 1914.

Events of 1915–1916

In February 1915, marines from the Imperial Japanese Navy ships based in Singapore helped suppress a mutiny by Indian troops against the British government. With Japan's European allies heavily involved in the war in Europe, Japan sought further to consolidate its position in China by presenting the Twenty-One Demands to Chinese President Yuan Shikai in January 1915. If achieved, the Twenty-One Demands would have essentially reduced China to a Japanese protectorate, and at the expense of numerous privileges already enjoyed by the European powers in their respective spheres of influence within China. In the face of slow negotiations with the Chinese government, widespread and increasing anti-Japanese sentiments, and international condemnation (particularly from the United States), Japan withdrew the final group of demands, and a treaty was signed by China on 25 May 1915.

Throughout 1915–1916, German efforts to negotiate a separate peace with Japan failed. On 3 July 1916, Japan and Russia signed a treaty whereby each pledged not to make a separate peace with Germany, and agreed to consultation and common action should the territory or interests of each in China be threatened by an outside third party. Although Russia had a claim to Chinese territory by the Kyakhta and other treaties, Japan discouraged Russia from annexing Heilongjiang and began to slowly push the other powers out, such as the Germans in the Twenty-One Demands (1915). The delineating line between Russian (north) and Japanese (south) spheres of influences in China was the Chinese Eastern Railway.[8]

Events of 1917

On 18 December 1916 the British Admiralty again requested naval assistance from Japan. Two of the four cruisers of the First Special Squadron at Singapore were sent to Cape Town, South Africa, and four destroyers were sent to the Mediterranean for basing out of Malta. Rear-Admiral Sato Kozo on the cruiser Akashi and 10th and 11th destroyer units (eight destroyers) arrived in Malta on 13 April 1917 via Colombo and Port Said. Eventually this Second Special Squadron totalled during the war 3 cruisers (Akashi, Izumo, Nisshin), 14 destroyers (8 Kaba-class, 4 Momo-class, 2 ex-British Acorn-class), 2 sloops, 1 tender (Kanto).

The Second Special Squadron carried out escort duties for troop transports and anti-submarine operations. No ship was lost, but on 11 June 1917 a Kaba-class destroyer (Sakaki) was hit by a torpedo from an Austro-Hungarian submarine (U 27) off Crete; 59 Japanese sailors died. The Japanese squadron made a total of 348 escort sorties from Malta, escorting 788 ships containing around 700,000 soldiers, thus contributing greatly to the war effort, for a total loss of 72 Japanese sailors killed in action. A further 7,075 people were rescued from damaged and sinking ships. In return for this assistance, Great Britain recognized Japan's territorial gains in Shantung and in the Pacific islands north of the equator.

With the American entry into World War I on 6 April 1917, the United States and Japan found themselves on the same side, despite their increasingly acrimonious relations over China and competition for influence in the Pacific. This led to the Lansing–Ishii Agreement of 2 November 1917 to help reduce tensions.

On July 9, Commander Kyōsuke Eto, military attaché with the Royal Navy, was killed in the HMS Vanguard disaster.

In late 1917, Japan exported 12 Arabe-class destroyers, based on Kaba-class design, to France.

Events of 1918

In 1918, Japan continued to extend its influence and privileges in China via the Nishihara Loans. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, Japan and the United States sent forces to Siberia in 1918 to bolster the armies of the White movement leader Admiral Alexander Kolchak against the Bolshevik Red Army. In this Siberian Intervention, the Imperial Japanese Army initially planned to send more than 70,000 troops to occupy Siberia as far west as Lake Baikal. The plan was scaled back considerably due to opposition from the United States.[9]

Toward the end of the war, Japan increasingly filled orders for needed war material for its European allies. The wartime boom helped to diversify the country's industry, increase its exports, and transform Japan from a debtor to a creditor nation for the first time. Exports quadrupled from 1913 to 1918. The massive capital influx into Japan and the subsequent industrial boom led to rapid inflation. In August 1918, rice riots caused by this inflation erupted in towns and cities throughout Japan.[10]

Events of 1919

The year 1919 saw Japan's representative Saionji Kinmochi sitting alongside the "Big Four" (Lloyd George, Wilson, Clemenceau, Orlando) leaders at the Versailles Peace Conference. Tokyo gained a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations, and the Paris Peace Conference confirmed the transfer to Japan of Germany's rights in Shandong. Similarly, Germany's more northerly Pacific islands came under a Japanese mandate, called the South Pacific Mandate. Despite Japan’s prowess on a global scale, and its sizable contribution to the allied war effort in response to British pleas for assistance in the Mediterranean and East Asia, the Western powers present at the Treaty of Versailles rejected Japan's bid for a racial equality clause in subsequent Treaty of Versailles. Japan nevertheless was not doubted to have emerged as a great power in international politics by the close of the war.

The prosperity brought on by World War I did not last. Although Japan's light industry had secured a share of the world market, Japan returned to debtor-nation status soon after the end of the war. The ease of Japan’s victory, the negative impact of the Showa recession in 1926, and internal political instabilities helped contribute to the rise of Japanese militarism in the late 1920s to 1930s.

Further reading

  • Best, Antony, and Oliviero Frattolillo, eds. Japan and the Great War (Springer, 2015) online.
  • Dickinson, Frederick R. War and National Reinvention: Japan in the Great War, 1914-1919 (Harvard U. Asia Center, 1999). 363pp
  • Duus, Peter, ed. The Cambridge history of Japan: The twentieth century (Cambridge University Press, 1989).
  • Saxon, Timothy D. "Anglo-Japanese Naval Cooperation, 1914–1918." Naval War College Review, 53, 1 (2000): 62–92.
  • Strachan, Hew. The First World War: Volume I: To Arms (Oxford University Press, 2003) 455-94.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Frederick R. Dickinson, War and National Reinvention: Japan in the Great War, 1913–1919 (1999)
  2. ^ Albert A. Altman and Harold Z. Schiffrin, "Sun Yat-Sen and the Japanese, 1914–16", Modern Asian Studies, (July 1972) 6#4 pp 385–400
  3. ^ J. C. Schencking, "Bureaucratic Politics, Military Budgets and Japan's Southern Advance: The Imperial Navy’s Seizure of German Micronesia in the First World War", War in History, (July 1998) 5#3 pp 308–326
  4. ^ O'Neill, Robert (1993). "Churchill, Japan, and British Security in the Pacific 1904–1942". In Blake, Robert B.; Louis, William Roger. Churchill. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 276. ISBN 978-0-19-820626-2.
  5. ^ "宣戦の詔書 [Sensen no shōsho, Imperial Rescript on Declaration of War] (Aug. 23, 1914), Kanpō, Extra ed., Aug. 23, 1914" (PDF).
  6. ^ Mizokami, Kyle, "Japan’s baptism of fire: World War I put country on a collision course with West", The Japan Times, 27 July 2014
  7. ^ Donko, Wilhelm M. (2013), Österreichs Kriegsmarine in Fernost: Alle Fahrten von Schiffen der k.(u.)k. Kriegsmarine nach Ostasien, Australien und Ozeanien von 1820 bis 1914, Berlin: epubli, pp. 4, 156–162, 427
  8. ^ Price, Ernest Batson. "The Russo-Japanese Treaties of 1907–1916 concerning Manchuria and Mongolia". Review by: A. E. Hindmarsh. Harvard Law Review Vol. 47, No. 3 (Jan., 1934) , pp. 547–550
  9. ^ Paul E. Dunscomb (2012). Japan's Siberian Intervention, 1918–1922: 'A Great Disobedience Against the People'. Lexington Books. pp. 5, 83. ISBN 9780739146019.
  10. ^ Smitka, Michael (1998). Japanese Prewar Growth (Japanese Economic History 1600–1960). Routledge. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-8153-2705-9.
This page was last edited on 23 February 2019, at 18:25
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