Japan in the 20th Century

The renewal (from 1868)

Emperor Mutsuhito gave his reign the name “Meiji” (Enlightened Government) and in 1869 moved his seat to the new capital of Japan, renamed in 1868 from Edo in Tokyo (“Eastern Capital”). The circle of progressive advisors around him, some of whom were on temporary studies abroad (USA and Europe), set in motion a series of far-reaching reforms, which can be summarized as the Meiji renewal (also Meiji restoration). The social and economic order, the legal system, the administration, the currency, the army and the calendar (1873 Gregorian calendar) were modernized, the general compulsory education, the modern postal system, the railway and other technical innovations were introduced. Only in 1877 did the government encounter significant military resistance. In the eight-month Satsuma uprising, the opponents of the renewal rallied. The social transformation culminated in the introduction of the significantly by Itō Hirobumi Constitution of February 11, 1889, based on the Prussian model, which formally made Japan a constitutional monarchy. Although the first parliament was convened in 1890, the parliamentary form of government could change due to the strong position of non-constitutional bodies such as B. the council of elders (Genrōin) not enforce. In addition, the military established itself as a power independent of the executive and legislative branches, subordinate directly to the emperor as the supreme sovereign.

In terms of foreign policy, Japan sought a revision of the unequal treaties it had concluded with the Western powers since 1854. These negotiations had been successful since 1894, to which Japan’s military successes in the Sino-Japanese War (1894/95) contributed. After the peace of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895, China had to recognize the independence of Korea, cede Formosa and the Pescadores to Japan and pay high war compensation. Now a colonial power in East Asia itself, Japan had to forego the Liaodong peninsula with Port Arthur because of opposition from Russia, Germany and France. In 1899 Japan achieved the abolition of the last extra-territorial rights, but had been claiming such for some time, e.g. B. towards Korea. In 1900 Japan stood at the prostration of the Boxer uprising in China on the side of the great powers.

After it had secured diplomatic backing for itself through the alliance with Great Britain in 1902, Japan began the war against Russia in February 1904 with the attack on the Russian fleet in Port Arthur, with which it had been in negotiations since 1903 over Manchuria (Russian-Japanese War 1904–1905). The Peace of Portsmouth of September 5, 1905 left Japan without financial war compensation; But it received the Russian lease rights to the Guangdong area with the southern Manchurian railway zone and the southern half of Sakhalin.

Korea, which had placed it under its protectorate in 1905, was fully annexed in 1910 and remained a Japanese colony until 1945. At the same time, Japan and Russia agreed on the division of Manchuria into a (northern) Russian and a (southern) Japanese sphere of interest. Japan had become a great power in East Asia before the First World War, claiming supremacy in this region under the pretext of “protecting Asia from the West”. Mutsuhito died on July 30, 1912 after 45 years of reign; under the motto “Taishō” (Great Justice) his son Yoshihito (* 1879, † 1926) ascended the throne.

Japan in the 20th Century

Japan in the 21st Century

In March 2011, the country was hit by a severe earthquake and tsunami disaster. Almost 16,000 people died. The double natural disaster also led to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and thus triggered the worst nuclear accident in Japan to date.

According to homosociety, the Japanese nuclear authority placed the accident on April 12, 2011 on the scale for nuclear accidents at the highest level seven, which had previously only been achieved in Chernobyl. During large-scale demonstrations in numerous cities over the course of the year, many thousands of Japanese called for the country to phase out nuclear power. On June 2, 2011, a vote of no confidence in Kan failed with 293 to 152 votes in parliament. At the same time, Kan had also lost the political backing of his own party. He finally resigned on August 26, 2011. His successor as head of government and chairman of the DPJ was the previous finance minister, Y. Noda (* 1957). Disputes over a controversial increase in consumption tax in the ruling party put a strain on the domestic political climate in summer 2012. These developments and the pressure of the opposition finally led to early elections on December 16, 2012, in which the LDP became the strongest party with 294 seats. The DJP, which had won 308 seats in the 2009 elections, was punished by the voters and only got 57 seats.

In August 2016, Emperor Akihito hinted at a possible abdication in a televised address that had previously been speculated about. Such a step was controversially discussed, as it was not provided for in the Act of Succession to the throne and was not legally permissible until then. It was not until September 2017 that parliament passed a corresponding special law that only applies to Akihito. A committee responsible for this set the date of abdication on December 2nd, 2019 as April 30th, 2019. On May 1st, 2019 the Crown Prince Naruhito was enthroned, with his reign the Reiwa era begins, the »era of beautiful harmony«.