History of Japan

Taishō period
The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. ©Anonymous
1912 Jul 30 - 1926 Dec 25

Taishō period

Tokyo, Japan

The Taishō era in Japan (1912-1926) marked a significant period of political and social transformation, moving towards stronger democratic institutions. The era opened with the Taishō political crisis of 1912-13,[87] which led to the resignation of Prime Minister Katsura Tarō and increased the influence of political parties like the Seiyūkai and Minseitō. Universal male suffrage was introduced in 1925, although the Peace Preservation Law passed the same year, suppressing political dissidents.[88] Japan's participation in World War I as part of the Allies led to unprecedented economic growth and international recognition, including Japan becoming a permanent member of the Council of the League of Nations.[89]


Culturally, the Taishō period saw a flourishing of literature and the arts, with figures like Ryūnosuke Akutagawa and Jun'ichirō Tanizaki making significant contributions. However, the era was also marked by tragedies such as the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923, which killed over 100,000 people[90] and led to the Kantō Massacre, where thousands of Koreans were unjustly killed.[91] The period was marked by social unrest, including protests for universal suffrage and the assassination of Prime Minister Hara Takashi in 1921, giving way to unstable coalitions and nonparty governments.


Internationally, Japan was recognized as one of the "Big Five" at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. However, its aspirations in China, including territorial gains in Shandong, led to anti-Japanese sentiments. In 1921-22, Japan took part in the Washington Conference, producing a series of treaties that established a new order in the Pacific and terminated the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Despite initial aspirations for democratic governance and international cooperation, Japan faced domestic economic challenges, like the severe depression triggered in 1930, and foreign policy challenges, including growing anti-Japanese sentiment in China and rivalry with the United States.


Communism also made its mark during this period, with the Japanese Communist Party being founded in 1922. The Peace Preservation Law of 1925 and subsequent legislation in 1928 were aimed at suppressing communist and socialist activities, forcing the party underground by the late 1920s. Japan's right-wing politics, represented by groups like the Gen'yōsha and Kokuryūkai, also grew in prominence, focusing on domestic issues and promoting nationalism.


In summary, the Taishō era was a complex period of transition for Japan, balancing between democratization and authoritarian tendencies, economic growth and challenges, and global recognition and international conflict. While it moved towards a democratic system and achieved international prominence, the nation also struggled with internal social and economic issues, setting the stage for the increasing militarization and authoritarianism of the 1930s.


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Last Updated: : Fri Oct 20 2023