Essays and Articles

Japanese Historical Chronology - Showa Period

Friday, October 23, 2015

SHOWA PERIOD: AD 1926-1989

Shōwa period, corresponds to the reign of the emperor Hirohito. "The two Chinese characters (kanji) in the name Shōwa translate as “Bright Peace” in Japanese. However, a more nuanced interpretation is “Enlightened Harmony”—with the added significance that the second character (wa) is commonly used in words that describe Japan or things Japanese.

The first part of the Shōwa, from Hirohito’s enthronement in 1926 to the end of World War II in 1945, is known as the early Shōwa period. It is noted principally for the rise of militarism in Japan, Japanese aggression in China and elsewhere in East and Southeast Asia, and the country’s wartime defeat. The postwar Shōwa decades were marked by Japan’s spectacular recovery and its rise as a global economic powerhouse second only to the United States, its former enemy and subsequent closest ally.

Unlike the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912)—corresponding to the rule of the Meiji emperor and synonymous among historians with Japan’s emergence as a modern country—none of the three succeeding ruling periods is widely used to designate the 20th-century history of Japan. The term Shōwa literature, however, does denote a distinct phase in Japanese literature from about 1924 until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, which was particularly severe in Japan, is referred to as the Shōwa Depression there"

Ref: Excerpt obtained from Britannica


Japanese Historical Chronology - Taisho Period

Friday, October 16, 2015


"The period in Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Taishō emperor, Yoshihito (1879–1926). It followed the Meiji period and represented a continuation of Japan's rise on the international scene and liberalism at home. Politically, the country moved toward broader representational government. The tax qualification for voting was reduced, enfranchising more voters, and was eliminated in 1925. Party politics flourished, and legislation favourable to labour was passed. Japan continued to push China for economic and political concessions and entered into treaties with Western nations that acknowledged its interests in Korea, Manchuria and the rest of China. Rural Japan did not fare as well as urban Japan, and an economic depression at the end of the Taishō period caused much suffering".

Ref: Excerpt obtained from Britannica



Japanese Historical Chronology - Meiji Period

Friday, October 09, 2015

MEIJI PERIOD: AD 1868-1912

"Direct imperial rule was restored in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. The name of the new era, Meiji ('Enlightened rule'), was chosen by the 16-year-old Emperor Mutsuhito (reigned 1867-1912). He moved his capital from Kyoto to Edo, renaming it Tokyo ('Eastern capital') to emphasize the abolition of the shogunate.

During the Meiji period, Japan made the transition to a modern industrial state and world power. Mutsuhito made a 'Charter Oath' promising that evil customs of the past would be abandoned. Reform and innovation were encouraged in every sphere. Taxation, education and defence were modernized and telegraph, postal and railway systems were introduced. New industries were established which by 1900 were competing with agriculture.

The country's arts, literature and science were strongly influenced by the West. Novelists, such as Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916), experimented with romanticism and naturalism using a new, colloquial style. Many painters went to study in Paris. Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924), who returned to Japan in 1893, was particularly influential. The changing trends were reflected in the Tokyo Art College. Western teachers inaugurated science departments in Universities".

Ref: Excerpt obtained from The British Museum


Japanese Historical Chronology - Edo Period

Friday, October 02, 2015

EDO PERIOD: AD 1600-1868

"The Edo period is also known as the Tokugawa period, as for over 250 years the country was ruled by the Shoguns of the Tokugawa family. Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) finally unified Japan by defeating his enemies at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He was made Shogun in 1603 and set up his headquarters at Edo (modern Tokyo), at that time a small castle town situated on Edo Bay in the east of the country.

From 1639 the Shogunate ordered that contacts with the outside world be severely limited, for reasons of national security. Japan's only regular contacts were with the Dutch, Chinese and Koreans. During this period of relative peace, Japan developed a vigorous native culture, which more and more reflected the values of a growing merchant class with money to spend.

Nonetheless, the Tokugawa Shoguns administered most of central Japan directly, while the rest of the country was divided into provinces headed by daimyō (feudal lords), who were forced to spend alternate years in Edo with their retainers. Their families were left behind in Edo as hostages in their absence. Society at large was divided according to official ideology into four hierarchical classes: at the top the samurai, then farmers, artisans and, at the bottom of the scale, merchants. The city of Edo attracted resident artisans and merchants from throughout the country, because the military needed their goods and services. It was perhaps the largest city in the world during the eighteenth century with a population of over one million".

Ref: Excerpt obtained from The British Museum