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Unformatted text preview: robably the single most shocking event to the Japanese before World
War II was the revelation in 1910 of an anarchist plot to assassinate the
Meiji emperor. Scores of arrests were made and twelve men, most of
whom were not actually privy to the plot, were executed. The severity of
the government’s “anti-radical” action at this time effectively stifled all
left-wing activities, and it was not until after World War I that they were
Japan’s participation in World War I on the side of the Allies was minimal; yet, as a result, it was able to enlarge its empire through the acquisition both of Germany’s island possessions in the Pacific and of the
former German interests in North China. World War I also brought an
unprecedented economic boom to Japan, which took over most of the Far
Eastern markets temporarily abandoned by the European belligerents.
Many economists, in fact, judge that it was about this time that Japan
finally achieved economic modernity. However such modernity may be
defined, Japan by World War I had obviously become a capitalist state of
a highly monopolistic character. Much of the country’s industry and commerce was controlled by a small number of financial combines or zaibatsu, whose managing families were plutocratically associated through
marriage and other ties with leading members of the Japanese bureaucracy and political parties.
The Allies claimed to have fought the war “to make the world safe for
democracy.” And although Wilsonian idealism was largely ignored by the
authors of the Versailles Treaty, who were mainly intent upon punishing
Germany and furthering their own national interests, the postwar period
was a time when Western-style democracy seemed clearly to be in the
ascendant in the world. At the same time, the successful Communist revolution in Russia gave new hope to radicals and revolutionaries everywhere. Partly in response to this, and even as Taishò democracy flourished, the long-dormant left wing became once again active in Japan.
Probably the leading theoretician of Taishò democracy and what it
might have been was Yoshino Sakuzò (1878–1933). An early convert to
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13