Reasons for Japan joining World War 2

Japan found itself on the wrong side of history during WW2 when it allied with Axis powers and invaded many countries of East Asia.

Reasons that led to Japan to enter WW2: Or reasons for rise of fascism in Japan

  • Nationalist – the Japanese coined the slogan ‘ Asia for the Asians’ as early as the Japan-Russia war of 1904-5. It was used as a justification for invading the then colonies like Indo-China.
  • Needed resources: Japan was not a nation blessed with many natural resources as was the U.S., and other enemies of that nation. In order to secure those additional raw materials, such as rubber, tin, and petroleum, among others, the war leaders decided that conquest of other nations was a solution. This led to friction between US and Japan as they were competing for influence over Asia-pacific.
  • Dictatorship – Japanese emperor all-powerful.
  • Aggrieved – Japan was an ally of Britain during WWI, but got little from the peace settlements.   The Washington Naval agreement of 1922 only allowed Japan one ship to Britain ’s 5.   Many Japanese believed it was time to even the score. It was thought that US was behind this as it did not want any competitor in Paacific.
  • Army – Japan had a military tradition, and the govt was increasingly dominated by the army. Military’s influence greatly increased after the occupation of Manchuria by Lieutenant Colonel Kanji Ishihara, as rest of he countries and League of nations couldn’t do anything about it.
  • Great Depression:  In the 1920s and 1930s the silk trade collapsed.   Thousands of peasants were impoverished.   The army’s solution was similar to Hitler’s lebensraum policy in Europe – get land for the peasants in China .
  • Social and economic crisis: In the intermediate time between the wars, the country was racked by devastating natural disasters, around a dozen earthquakes stuck it. By 1926 over three-million workers were unemployed. Communist ideology was gaining popularity. Some prominent leaders were assassinated by revolutionaries.
  • Empire – Japan had few raw materials/natural resources and wanted an empire (a ‘co-prosperity sphere’ as they called it) to secure these for Japanese industry.
  • Anti-communism – Japan saw Manchuria as a buffer against communist Russia ; already kept its Kwantung army there.
  • Emperor Hirohito: Though he was peace loving, accepted his role as a priestly figurehead who was expected to maintain a god-like dignity and not involve himself in affairs of state except in a purely ceremonial role.
  • Anti-west/US sentiment: Apart from feeling enraged Washington Naval agreement, they animosity increased after 1939 when US rescinded its commercial treaty with the Empire of Japan and began to restrict essential shipments of oil and metals. By 1941, US kept full embargo.
  • Japan joined the Tripartite Pact in October 1940, Germany and Japan were both mutually obliged to come to each other’s aid if either was attacked. It followed that if japan were provoked into a war against USA, then Germany would declare war upon USA which in fact was what happened.
  • Final choice: Japan, given a choice of withdrawing from China or be denied the resources they needed to continue their campaign, chose war.
  • Pearl Harbor: Japan attacked America in order to remove the last meaningful obstacle to turning the Pacific into a Japanese lake.

Rape of Nanking:

  • Happened during the Second Sino-Japanese War(1837-1945). It is the single worst atrocity during the World War II era. This incident still brings tears to Chinese and is one of the reasons for the animosity between China and Japan today as some of the Generals(war criminals) who participated in the Nanking Masacre are treated as war heroes by some in Japan(like present PM of Japan, Shinzō Abe )
  • In December of 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army marched into China’s capital city of Nanking and proceeded to murder 300,000 out of 600,000 civilians and soldiers in the city.
  • To the Japanese, surrender was an unthinkable act of cowardice and the ultimate violation of the rigid code of military honor drilled into them from childhood onward. Thus they looked upon Chinese POWs with utter contempt, viewing them as less than human, unworthy of life.
  • Comfort Women system was introduced which forced young Chinese women to become slave-prostitutes
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