The Empire of Japan (Kyūjitai: 大日本帝國; Shinjitai: 大日本帝国; Romaji: Dai Nippon Teikoku; literally Greater Japanese Empire; officially Great Japan or Empire of Great Japan; commonly as Imperial Japan or the Japanese Empire) is the name of the state of Japan that existed from the Meiji Restoration on 3 January 1868 to the enactment of the post-World War II Constitution of Japan on 3 May 1947.
Imperial Japan's rapid industrialization and militarization under the slogan Fukoku Kyōhei (富国強兵?, "Enrich the Country, Strengthen the Army") led to its emergence as a world power, eventually culminating in its membership in the Axis alliance and the conquest of a large part of the Asia-Pacific region. At the height of its power in 1942, the Japanese Empire ruled over a land area spanning 7,400,000 square kilometres (2,857,000 sq mi), making it one of the largest maritime empires in history.
After several large-scale military successes during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and the Pacific War, the Empire of Japan also gained notoriety for its war crimes against the peoples of the countries it conquered. After suffering many defeats and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, the Empire of Japan surrendered to the Allies on 2 September 1945. A period of occupation by the Allies followed the surrender, and a new constitution was created with American involvement. The constitution came into force on 3 May 1947, officially dissolving the Empire. American occupation and reconstruction of the country continued well into the 1950s, eventually forming the current nation-state whose title is simply that ("the nation of Japan" Nippon-koku) or just "Japan" .
The Emperors during this time, which spanned the entire Meiji and Taishō, and the lesser part of the Shōwa eras, are now known in Japan by their posthumous names, which coincide with those era names: Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito), Emperor Taishō (Yoshihito), and Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito).
Imperial Japan was founded, de jure, after the 1889 signing of Constitution of the Empire of Japan. The constitution formalized much of the Empire's political structure and gave many responsibilities and powers to the Emperor.
Article 4. The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in Himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution.
Article 6. The Emperor gives sanction to laws, and orders them to be promulgated and executed.
Article 11. The Emperor has the supreme command of the Army and Navy.
Although it was in this constitution that the title Empire of Japan was officially used for the first time, it was not until 1936 that this title was legalized. Until then, the names "Nippon" (日本; Japan), "Dai-Nippon" (大日本; Greater Japan), "Dai-Nippon/-Nihon Koku" (日本國; literally State of Japan), "Nihon Teikoku" (日本帝國; Empire of Japan) were all used.
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The process of modernization was closely monitored and heavily subsidized by the Meiji government, enhancing the power of the great zaibatsu firms such as Mitsui and Mitsubishi. Hand in hand, the zaibatsu and government guided the nation, borrowing technology from the West. Japan gradually took control of much of Asia's market for manufactured goods, beginning with textiles. The economic structure became very mercantilistic, importing raw materials and exporting finished products — a reflection of Japan's relative scarcity of raw materials.
Economic reforms included a unified modern currency based on the yen, banking, commercial and tax laws, stock exchanges, and a communications network. Establishment of a modern institutional framework conducive to an advanced capitalist economy took time but was completed by the 1890s. By this time, the government had largely relinquished direct control of the modernization process, primarily for budgetary reasons. Many of the former daimyo, whose pensions had been paid in a lump sum, benefited greatly through investments they made in emerging industries.
The government was initially involved in economic modernization, providing a number of "model factories" to facilitate the transition to the modern period. After the first twenty years of the Meiji period, the industrial economy expanded rapidly until about 1920 with inputs of advanced Western technology and large private investments.
Japan emerged from the Tokugawa-Meiji transition as the first Asian industrialized nation. From the onset, the Meiji rulers embraced the concept of a market economy and adopted British and North American forms of free enterprise capitalism. Rapid growth and structural change characterized Japan's two periods of economic development after 1868. Initially, the economy grew only moderately and relied heavily on traditional Japanese agriculture to finance modern industrial infrastructure. By the time the Russo-Japanese War began in 1904, 65% of employment and 38% of the gross domestic product (GDP) were still based on agriculture, but modern industry had begun to expand substantially. By the late 1920s, manufacturing and mining amounted to 23% of GDP, compared with 21% for all of agriculture. Transportation and communications developed to sustain heavy industrial development.
From 1894, Japan built an extensive empire that included Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, and parts of northern China. The Japanese regarded this sphere of influence as a political and economic necessity, which prevented foreign states from strangling Japan by blocking its access to raw materials and crucial sea-lanes. Japan's large military force was regarded as essential to the empire's defense and prosperity by obtaining natural resources that the Japanese islands lacked.
The military of Imperial Japan was divided into two main branches under Imperial General Headquarters responsible for the overall conduct of operations including prominent military leaders and commanders
After the Manchurian Incident of 1931, the curriculum of the national educational system became increasingly nationalistic and after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the curriculum became increasingly militaristic and was influenced by ultranationalist Education Minister Sadao Araki.
In 1941, elementary schools were renamed National People's Schools (國民學校 Kokumin Gakkō?) and students were required to attend Youth Schools (青年学校 Seinen Gakkō?) vocational training schools on graduation, which mixed vocational and basic military training (for boys) and home economics (for girls). The Seinen Gakkō also conducted classes at night for working boys and girls.
Normal schools were renamed Specialized Schools (専門学校 Senmon Gakkō?), and were often affiliated with a university. The Senmon Gakkō taught medicine, law, economics, commerce, agricultural science, engineering or business management. The aim of the Senmon Gakkō was to produce a professional class, rather than intellectual elite. In the pre-war period, all higher school for women were Senmon Gakkō.
After the start of the Pacific War in 1941, nationalistic and militaristic indoctrination were further strengthened. Textbooks such as the Kokutai no Hongi became required reading. The principal educational objective was teaching the traditional national political values, religion and morality. This had prevailed from the Meiji period. The Japanese state modernized organizationally, but preserved its national idiosyncrasies. Emphasis was laid on the Emperor worship cult, and loyalty to the most important values of the nation, and the importance of ancient military virtues.