- Taishō period
The nihongo|Taishō period|大正時代|Taishō-jidai|extra="period of great righteousness", or Taishō era, is a period in the
history of Japandating from July 30, 1912to December 25, 1926, coinciding with the reign of the Taishō Emperor. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of elder statesmen (or " genrō") to the Diet of Japanand the democratic parties. Thus, the era is considered the time of the liberal movement known as the "Taishō democracy" in Japan; it is usually distinguished from the preceding chaotic Meiji periodand the following militarism-driven first half of the Shōwa period.
July 30, 1912, the Meiji Emperordied and Crown Prince Yoshihito became the new emperor of Japanand succeeded to the throne, beginning the Taishō period. The end of the Meiji period was marked by huge government domestic and overseas investments and defense programs, nearly exhausted credit, and a lack of foreign reserves to pay debts.
The influence of western culture experienced in the Meiji period continued.
Kobayashi Kiyochikaadopted western painting styles while continuing to work in " ukiyo-e". Okakura Kakuzōkept an interest in traditional Japanese painting. Mori Ōgaiand Natsume Sōsekistudied in the West and introduced a more modern view of human life.
The events flowing from the
Meiji Restorationin 1868 had seen not only the fulfillment of many domestic and foreign economic and political objectives—without Japan suffering the colonial fate of other Asian nations–but also a new intellectual ferment, in a time when there was worldwide interest in socialismand an urban proletariatwas developing. Universal male suffrage, social welfare, workers' rights, and nonviolent protests were ideals of the early leftist movement. Government suppression of leftist activities, however, led to more radical leftist action and even more suppression, resulting in the dissolution of the Japan Socialist Party (日本社会党 "Nihon Shakaitō") only a year after its 1906 founding and the general failure of the socialist movement.
The beginning of the Taishō period was marked by the Taisho political crisis in 1912-13 that interrupted the earlier politics of compromise. When
Saionji Kinmochitried to cut the military budget, the army minister resigned, bringing down the Rikken Seiyukaicabinet. Both Yamagata Aritomoand Saionji refused to resume office, and the " genrō" were unable to find a solution. Public outrage over the military manipulation of the cabinet and the recall of Katsura Tarōfor a third term led to still more demands for an end to "genrō" politics. Despite old guard opposition, the conservative forces formed a party of their own in 1913, the " Rikken Dōshikai", a party that won a majority in the House over the Seiyūkai in late 1914.
February 12, 1913 Yamamoto Gonnohyōesucceeded Katsura as prime minister. In April 1914, Ōkuma Shigenobureplaced Yamamoto.
World War I and hegemony in China
Seizing the opportunity of
Berlin's distraction with the European War (which would become World War I) and wanting to expand its sphere of influence in China, Japan declared war on Germanyon August 23, 1914, and quickly occupied German-leased territories in China's Shandong Provinceand the Mariana, Caroline, and Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean. On November 7, Jiaozhou surrendered to Japan.
With its Western allies heavily involved in the war in Europe, Japan sought further to consolidate its position in China by presenting the
Twenty-One Demands(Japanese: 対華二十一ヶ条要求; Chinese: 二十一条) to China in January 1915. Besides expanding its control over German holdings, Manchuriaand Inner Mongolia, Japan also sought joint ownership of a major mining and metallurgical complex in central China, prohibitions on China's ceding or leasing any coastal areas to a third power, and miscellaneous other political, economic and military controls, which, if achieved, would have reduced China to a Japanese protectorate. In the face of slow negotiations with the Chinese government, widespread anti-Japanese sentiments in China and international condemnation forced Japan to withdraw the final group of demands and treaties were signed in May 1915.
Japan's hegemony in northern China and other parts of Asia was facilitated through other international agreements. One with
Russiain 1916 helped further secure Japan's influence in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, and agreements with France, Britain, and the United Statesin 1917 recognized Japan's territorial gains in China and the Pacific. The Nishihara Loans (named after Nishihara Kamezo, Tokyo's representative in Beijing) of 1917 and 1918, while aiding the Chinese government, put China still deeper into Japan's debt. Toward the end of the war, Japan increasingly filled orders for its European allies' needed war material, thus helping to diversify the country's industry, increase its exports, and transform Japan from a debtor to a creditor nation for the first time.
Japan's power in Asia grew with the demise of the
tsarist regime in Russia and the disorder of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Siberia. Wanting to seize the opportunity, the Japanese army planned to occupy Siberia as far west as Lake Baikal. To do so, Japan had to negotiate an agreement with China allowing the transit of Japanese troops through Chinese territory. Although the force was scaled back to avoid antagonizing the United States, more than 70,000 Japanese troops joined the much smaller units of the Allied Expeditionary Forcesent to Siberia in 1918.
World War I permitted Japan, which fought on the side of the victorious
Allies, to expand its influence in Asia and its territorial holdings in the Pacific. Acting virtually independently of the civil government, the Imperial Japanese Navyseized Germany's Micronesian colonies.
October 9, 1916, Terauchi Masataketook over as prime minister from Ōkuma Shigenobu. On November 2, 1917, the Lansing-Ishii Agreementnoted the recognization of Japan's interests in China and pledges of keeping an " Open Door Policy" (門戸開放政策). In July 1918, the Siberian Expedition was launched with the deployment of 75,000 Japanese troops. In August 1918, riceriots erupted in towns and cities throughout Japan.
Japan after World War I: Taishō Democracy
The postwar era brought Japan unprecedented prosperity. Japan went to the peace conference at
Versaillesin 1919 as one of the great military and industrial powers of the world and received official recognition as one of the " Big Five" of the new international order. Tokyo was granted a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nationsand the peace treaty confirmed the transfer to Japan of Germany's rights in Shandong, a provision that led to anti-Japanese riots and a mass political movement throughout China. Similarly, Germany's former Pacific islands were put under a Japanese mandate. Japan was also involved in the post-war Allied intervention in Russia and was the last Allied power to withdraw (doing so in 1925). Despite its small role in World War I(and the Western powers' rejection of its bid for a racial equality clause in the peace treaty), Japan emerged as a major actor in international politics at the close of the war.
The two-party political system that had been developing in Japan since the turn of the century finally came of age after World War I, giving rise to the nickname for the period, "Taishō Democracy." In 1918,
Hara Takashi, a protege of Saionji and a major influence in the prewar Seiyūkai cabinets, had become the first commoner to serve as prime minister. He took advantage of long-standing relationships he had throughout the government, won the support of the surviving "genrō" and the House of Peers, and brought into his cabinet as army minister Tanaka Giichi, who had a greater appreciation of favorable civil-military relations than his predecessors. Nevertheless, major problems confronted Hara: inflation, the need to adjust the Japanese economy to postwar circumstances, the influx of foreign ideas, and an emerging labor movement. Prewar solutions were applied by the cabinet to these postwar problems, and little was done to reform the government. Hara worked to ensure a Seiyūkai majority through time-tested methods, such as new election laws and electoral redistricting, and embarked on major government-funded public works programs.
The public grew disillusioned with the growing national debt and the new election laws, which retained the old minimum tax qualifications for voters. Calls were raised for universal suffrage and the dismantling of the old political party network. Students, university professors, and journalists, bolstered by labor unions and inspired by a variety of democratic, socialist, communist, anarchist and other Western schools of thought, mounted large but orderly public demonstrations in favor of universal male suffrage in 1919 and 1920. New elections brought still another Seiyūkai majority, but barely so. In the political milieu of the day, there was a proliferation of new parties, including socialist and communist parties.
In the midst of this political ferment, Hara was assassinated by a disenchanted railroad worker in 1921. Hara was followed by a succession of nonparty prime ministers and coalition cabinets. Fear of a broader electorate, left-wing power and the growing social change engendered by the influx of Western popular culture (illustrated in the popular 1970s
mangaand anime Haikara-san ga Tōru) together led to the passage of the Peace Preservation Lawin 1925, which forbade any change in the political structure or the abolition of private property.
Unstable coalitions and divisiveness in the Diet led the Kenseikai (憲政会 "Constitutional Government Association") and the Seiyū Hontō (政友本党 "True Seiyūkai") to merge as the Rikken Minseitō (立憲民政党 "Constitutional Democratic Party") in 1927. The Rikken Minseitō platform was committed to the parliamentary system, democratic politics and world peace. Thereafter, until 1932, the Seiyūkai and the Rikken Minseitō alternated in power.
Despite the political realignments and hope for more orderly government, domestic economic crises plagued whichever party held power. Fiscal austerity programs and appeals for public support of such conservative government policies as the Peace Preservation Law—including reminders of the moral obligation to make sacrifices for the emperor and the state—were attempted as solutions. Although the worldwide depression of the late 1920s and early 1930s had minimal effects on Japan—indeed, Japanese exports grew substantially during this period—there was a sense of rising discontent that was heightened with the assault upon Rikken Minseitō prime minister
Osachi Hamaguchiin 1930. Though Hamaguchi survived the attack and tried to continue in office despite the severity of his wounds, he was forced to resign the following year and died not long afterwards.
Communism and the response
The victory of the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 and their hopes for a
world revolutionled to the establishment of the Comintern. The Comintern realized the importance of Japan in achieving successful revolution in East Asia and actively worked to form the Japanese Communist Party, which was founded in July 1922. The announced goals of the Japanese Communist Party in 1923 were an end to feudalism, abolition of the monarchy, recognition of the Soviet Union and withdrawal of Japanese troops from Siberia, Sakhalin, China, Korea and Taiwan. A brutal suppression of the party followed. Radicals responded with an assassination attempt on Prince Regent Hirohito. The 1925 Peace Preservation Law was a direct response to the "dangerous thoughts" perpetrated by communist elements in Japan.
The liberalization of election laws with the
General Election Lawin 1925, benefited communist candidates, even though the Japan Communist Party itself was banned. A new Peace Preservation Lawin 1928, however, further impeded communist efforts by banning the parties they had infiltrated. The police apparatus of the day was ubiquitous and quite thorough in attempting to control the socialist movement. By 1926, the Japan Communist Party had been forced underground, by the summer of 1929 the party leadership had been virtually destroyed, and by 1933 the party had largely disintegrated. Ultra-nationalismwas characteristic of right-wing politicsand conservative militarism since the inception of the Meiji Restoration, contributing greatly to the pro-war politics of the 1870s. Disenchanted former samuraihad established patriotic societies and intelligence-gathering organizations, such as the Gen'yōsha (玄洋社 "Black Ocean Society", founded in 1881) and its later offshoot, the Kokuryūkai (黒竜会 "Black Dragon Society" or "Amur River Society", founded in 1901). These groups became active in domestic and foreign politics, helped foment prowar sentiments, and supported ultra-nationalist causes through the end of World War II. After Japan's victories over China and Russia, the ultranationalists concentrated on domestic issues and perceived domestic threats, such as socialism and communism.
Taishō foreign policy
Emerging Chinese nationalism, the victory of the communists in Russia and the growing presence of the United States in East Asia all worked against Japan's postwar foreign policy interests. The four-year Siberian expedition and activities in China, combined with big domestic spending programs, had depleted Japan's wartime earnings. Only through more competitive business practices, supported by further economic development and industrial modernization, all accommodated by the growth of the "
zaibatsu", could Japan hope to become dominant in Asia. The United States, long a source of many imported goods and loans needed for development, was seen as becoming a major impediment to this goal because of its policies of containing Japanese imperialism.
An international turning point in military diplomacy was the Washington Conference of 1921–22, which produced a series of agreements that effected a new order in the Pacific region. Japan's economic problems made a naval buildup nearly impossible and, realizing the need to compete with the United States on an economic rather than a military basis, rapprochement became inevitable. Japan adopted a more neutral attitude toward the civil war in China, dropped efforts to expand its hegemony into China proper, and joined the United States, Britain and France in encouraging Chinese self-development.
In the Four Power Treaty on Insular Possessions signed on
December 13, 1921, Japan, the United States, Britain and France agreed to recognize the status quo in the Pacific, and Japan and Britain agreed to terminate formally their Treaty of Alliance. The Five Power Naval Disarmament Treaty agreed to on February 6, 1922established an international capital ship ratio for the United States, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy (5, 5, 3, 1.75, and 1.75, respectively) and limited the size and armaments of capital ships already built or under construction. In a move that gave the Japanese Imperial Navy greater freedom in the Pacific, Washington and London agreed not to build any new military bases between Singapore and Hawaii.
The goal of the Nine Power Treaty also signed on
February 6, 1922, by Belgium, China, the Netherlands and Portugal, along with the original five powers, was the prevention of war in the Pacific. The signatories agreed to respect China's independence and integrity, not to interfere in Chinese attempts to establish a stable government, to refrain from seeking special privileges in China or threatening the positions of other nations there, to support a policy of equal opportunity for commerce and industry of all nations in China, and to reexamine extraterritoriality and tariff autonomy policies. Japan also agreed to withdraw its troops from Shandong, relinquishing all but purely economic rights there, and to evacuate its troops from Siberia.
End of the Taishō Democracy
Overall, during the 1920s, Japan changed its direction toward a democratic system of government. However,
parliamentary governmentwas not rooted deeply enough to withstand the economic and political pressures of the 1930s, during which military leaders became increasingly influential. These shifts in power were made possible by the ambiguity and imprecision of the Meiji constitution, particularly as regarded the position of the Emperor in relation to the constitution.
* 1912: The Taishō Emperor assumes the throne (
July 30). General Katsura Tarōbecomes prime minister for a third term ( December 21).
* 1913: Katsura is forced to resign, and Admiral
Yamamoto Gonnohyōebecomes prime minister ( February 20).
Ōkuma Shigenobubecomes prime minister for a second term ( April 16). Japan declares war on Germany, joining the Alliesside ( August 23).
* 1915: Japan sends the
Twenty-One Demandsto China ( January 18).
Terauchi Masatakebecomes prime minister ( October 9).
Lansing-Ishii Agreementgoes into effect ( November 2).
* 1918: Siberian expedition launched (July).
Hara Takashibecomes prime minister ( September 29).
March 1st Movementbegins against colonial rule in Korea ( March 1).
* 1920: Japan helps found the
League of Nations.
* 1921: Hara is assassinated and
Takahashi Korekiyobecomes prime minister ( November 4). Hirohitobecomes regent ( November 29). Four Power Treaty is signed ( December 13).
* 1922: Five Power Naval Disarmament Treaty is signed (
February 6). Admiral Katō Tomosaburōbecomes prime minister ( June 12). Japan withdraws troops from Siberia( August 28).
* 1923: The Great Kantō earthquake devastates
Tokyo( September 1). Yamamoto becomes prime minister for a second term ( September 2).
Kiyoura Keigobecomes prime minister ( January 7). Prince Hirohito(the future Emperor Shōwa) marries Nagako Kuniyoshi (the future Empress Kōjun) ( January 26). Katō Takaakibecomes prime minister ( June 11).
General Election Lawwas passed, all men above age 25 gained the right to vote ( May 5). Besides, Peace Preservation Lawis passed. Princess Shigeko, Hirohito's first daughter, is born ( December 9).
* 1926: Emperor Taishō dies; Hirohito becomes emperor (
By coincidence, Taishō year numbering justhappens to be the same that of the Juche calendarof
North Korea, and the Minguo calendarof the Republic of China(Taiwan).
*loc - [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/jptoc.html Japan]
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period — /pear ee euhd/, n. 1. a rather large interval of time that is meaningful in the life of a person, in history, etc., because of its particular characteristics: a period of illness; a period of great profitability for a company; a period of social… … Universalium
Taisho — /tuy shaw /, n. Japanese Hist. the designation of the period of the reign of Emperor Yoshihito, 1912 26. [ < Japn taisho < MChin, equiv. to Chin dà great + zhèng right(ness)] * * * ▪ emperor of Japan in full Taishō Tennō , personal name… … Universalium
Taisho Democracy — A term associated with the reign of the Taisho Emperor Yoshihito and used to symbolize the wave of liberal reform that swept Japan in the early twentieth century. Although Yoshihito occupied the throne only between 1912 and 1925, “Taisho… … Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914
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