Military history of Japan

From Academic Kids

Template:Mergefrom The Military history of Japan, like that of most nations, is characterized by a long and fierce period of feudal wars, followed by a long period of domestic stability. However, Japan's military history is somewhat unique in that, unless one counts the American Occupation following World War II, Japan has never been successfully invaded.



Until recently, these periods were believed to be completely absent of war, up until the Emperor became the ruler of Japan and succession wars began to be fought. Recent archaeological digs, however, uncovered traces of wars even as far back as the Jomon period. In the Yayoi period, a series of wars occurred in the Korean peninsula continuing until the Silla Dynasty unified Korea in the 7th century. Japan allied with southern Korean kingdoms until they collapsed in the 7th century.

Jomon Period

Near the end of the Jomon period, villages and towns became surrounded by moats and wooden fences. Some remains were found with head and arrow injuries. Battles were fought with weapons like the sword, sling, spear, and bow and arrow.

Yayoi Period

The invasion of 新羅 (Shiragi believed to be actual pronunciation, Silla in modern Korean) in Korean Peninsula in 14 AD is the earliest Japanese military action recorded in Samguk Sagi. According to Samuguk Sagi, Wa sent hundred ships and sacked the coastal area of Shiragi. The Japanese were driven off by the Korean army.

Ancient/Classical Japan

The early Yamato period had seen a continual engagement in Korean Peninsula until Japan finally withdrew, along with the remaining forces of the Baekje Kingdom. Several battles occurred in these periods as the Emperor's succession gained importance. By the Nara period, Honshu was completely under the control of the Yamato clan. Near the end of the Heian period, samurai became a powerful political force, thus starting the feudal period.

Yamato Period

The Battle of Hakusukinoe (白村江) occurred in the Korean peninsula in 663. Japan sent 32,000 troops to Korea to support the declining Dynasty of Kudara or 百斉 (Baekje in modern Korean). They were defeated by the combined armies of the Tang Dynasty of China and Silla Dynasty of Korea.

Nara Period

In nearly all of the ways that matter, the Nara period was the beginning of Japanese culture becoming what we today think of as Japanese. It was in this period that Japan first gained Buddhism, the Chinese writing system, and tea ceremony. The country was united and centrally governed for the first time, and much of the basics of the feudal system were set down.

While much of the discipline, weapons, armor, and technique of the samurai was, probably, not developed yet, the skeleton of the Japanese feudal warrior began here. Mounted archers, swordsmen, and spearmen fought with weapons not too different from those of any other culture, across the world, who had the same level of technology.

Succession disputes were prevalent here, just as in most of the later periods, and the Nara period also saw the first Shogun, Otomo no Yakamochi.

Heian Period

The Heian Period, militarily, consisted mainly of conflicts and battles between samurai clans over political power and influence, especially fought over control over the line of succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne. The Imperial family fights against the control of the Fujiwara clan, which almost exclusively monopolized the post of regent. The feudal conflicts over land, political power, and influence eventually culminated in the Genpei War, between the Taira and Minamoto clans, and a large number of smaller clans that allied with one side or the other. The end of the Genpei War brought the beginning of the Kamakura period, and the end of the Heian.

During this period, samurai were still, largely, archers first and foremost, before swordsmen. Nearly all duels and battles began with an exchange of arrowfire, before single combat was entered, with sword and dagger.

Feudal Japan

This period is marked by the departure from tournament-like battles, and a move to massive clashes of clans for the control of Japan. In the Kamakura period, Japan successfully repulsed Mongol invasions and this started a change to conscripted armies with a core of samurai as an elite force and as commanders. The Muromachi period was a brief period of peace but traditional aristocrats completely lost power as the samurai continued to grow in importance.

Kamakura Period

The Mongols, in command of China at the time, under the Yuan Dynasty, attempted to invade Japan twice in 1200s. The Battle of Bun'ei on began on early October 1274 with a combined force of Mongols and Koreans massacring inhabitants of the Tsushima islands. On 19 October, they lost many battle ships due to typhoon and the remaining troops retreated. The Battle of Kouan was the second invasion attempt. Unable to land, they lost many ships due to typhoons once again and retreated.

Muromachi Period

The forces of the Joseon Dynasty of Korea invaded Tsushima in 1419. They were successefully repulsed and the Korean troops retreated on 3 July.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period

This period, named for the castle-cities which became increasingly important, is marked with the introduction of firearms, after contact with the Portuguese, and a complete disappearance of personal braveries as the factor in a battle. After series of fierce battles, Buddhist monks were stripped of their domains and they became a purely religious authority.

The Battle of Bunroku (文禄の役) Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi organized a 160,000 men army and the navy for the conquest of Korea and the Chinese Dynasty of Ming in 1592. A truce was signed in January 1593 reinstating the Korean king's rule. The Battle of Keicho (慶長の役) began by Japan remobilizing their soilders from 1597 to 1598 into Korea. After Hideyoshi's death, a retreat from Korea on October was ordered by retainers of Toyotomi Hideyori.

Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Hideyoshi's generals, took control of most of the former leader's forces and attempted to do what Hideyoshi, who was from the peasantry, could never do; obtain the legitimacy of Shogun from the emperor. This he did when, in 1600, the outcome of Battle of Sekigahara solidified his rule as the de facto ruler of Japan.

Edo Period

This period was one of relative peace under the authority of the Bakufu (Shogunate); It would remain so until the Meiji Revolution and Restoration of Imperial Power and all the strife during that process.

Two major events occurred during the decades following the Battle of Sekigahara:

Modern Period

After a long peace, Japan rearmed by importing, then manufacturing western weapons, and finally manufacturing weapons of their own designs. Japan became the first Asian nation to win a war against a European nation winning Russo-Japanese War. It was also the first Asian nation to sign an mutual defence plan with an European nation, United Kingdom. Japan was the last nation to enter the race to colonize the world. Severely hampered by still developing industries, Japan started its last major war against United States with less than a tenth of industrial capabilities. Japan has never participated in a major war as a combatant after losing World War II. Even today, Japan remains a military power but remains hampered by political and ideological infightings that prevents export of military hardwares as well as purchases of oversea capabilities. Currently, Japan is the only nation with a self space exploration capacity but without nuclear arms.

Meiji Period

Modern Army Established

In 1873, the Imperial government enacted the conscription law and established the Imperial Japanese Army. Samurai lost their status as the only class with military obligations.

Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)

The Sino-Japanese War was fought against the forces of the Qing Dynasty of China in the Korean peninsula and the coast of China. Japan conquered Seoul in 23 July and won the Battle of Houtou on 25 July. The Ryohtoh peninsula in China was conquered in November.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki (Japanese: 下関条約) was signed between Japan and China at the end of war. Through this treaty, Japan forced China to open ports for international entry and trade and ceded the southern portion of China's Fengtien province as well as the island of Taiwan to Japan. China also had to pay a war indemnity of 200 million Kuping taels. The end of this war also saw Korea's independence from China. Japan became a world power with this victory, proving to the Western nations that they had the strength, and the ingenuity, to defeat the strongest non-Western power in the world.

Russo-Japanese War and WWI

The Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 marked the first time in modern history that a non-Western power defeated a Western one. Japan proved that they could apply Western technology, discipline, strategy and tactics as well as the West, if not better.

1914: Japan was a member of the Allies during World War I and was rewarded with control of German colonies in the Pacific. A small group of Japanese cruisers and destroyers also participated in various missions in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

Taisho Period

Showa Period - World War II

Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, following the Manchuria Incident, in which they claimed to have had territory attacked by the Chinese. In 1937, Japan and China (Republic of China) began undeclared war against each other.

In September of 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan had allied under the Tripartite Pact. In July of 1940, the US banned the shipment of aviation gasoline to Japan, and by 1941, shipments of scrap iron, steel, gasoline, and other materials had practically ceased. Meanwhile, American economic support to China began to increase.

In April of 1941, Japan and Russia signed a neutrality pact and Japan increased pressure on the French and Dutch colonies, in Southeast Asia, to cooperate in economic matters. On 22 July 1941, Japanese forces occupied the naval and air bases of southern Indochina in French colonies.

The Pacific War begins with the Attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

Over the course of World War II, Japan displayed many great advances in military technology, strategy, and tactics. Sensuikan Toku Submarine bomber carriers, Kamikaze bombers, the Mitsubishi Zero fighters, and the Yamato class battleship are just a few examples.

The Atlantis

It is sometimes argued that the Japanese decision to attack the Allies was, in large part, influenced by the capture of British documents with regards to British forces, the defenses of Singapore, codes, and information on Australia and New Zealand, as well as an appraisal of Japanese intentions. These documents were captured by the German Hilfskreuzer (cruiser) Atlantis, on November 11, 1940.

Post-World War II

Following World War II and the American Occupation, Japan regained its independence as a nation forbidden, by its own Constitution, to have a standing army. Although the Japanese constitution says "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained," the Japan Self-Defense Forces, or jieitai (自衛隊) were created shortly after the end of US occupation. The Jieitai is among the most technologically advanced armed forces in the world. Japan is second only to the United States in real military expenditures, but when purchasing power parity is considered, Japan falls to seventh. For the most part, as per the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security signed in 1960, Japan relies on the United States for defense, and hosts a number of American military bases on its land, most in Okinawa.

The Diet of Japan is currently deliberating an amendment to the Constitution which would repeal Article Nine, and allow Japan to once again have a proper military.

That said, however, it should be noted that the Japanese government claims it is no longer the militarist power it was 60 years ago. Japan has deployed the Jieitai to aid in a number of defensive missions, especially those involving humanitarian aid, such as aiding the victims of the 1995 Kobe earthquake, and, currently, helping to rebuild Iraq. Japan wishes to have its own military because they fear the growing power of China and the hostility of North Korea. It has been claimed that the United States has failed to properly address these issues, and so Japan seeks to grant itself the power to defend itself. In addition, Kofi Annan recently announced a planned expansion of the number of permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council, and Japan seeks to gain one of these positions. Despite their economic power and political influence, it is debatable whether or not a country with no standing military can be considered a 'world power,' enough so to be granted a permanent seat on the UNSC. Recent disputes over territory and the textbook controversy have complicated this process, however.

See also


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