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Part III

Study and Discussion Questions

  1. In what ways did WWI bring change to Japanese society? How did the war on the European continent affect everyday life in Japan? In what ways had the Japanese economy changed by war's end?

  2. What were the causes of growing social tensions in the countryside in the 1920s and 1930s? What strategies were employed by discontented tenant farmers to better their lot?  Did the frequency or character of tenant-landlord disputes at certain points reflect the integration of the Japanese countryside into the global economy?

  3. What were the differences between the "old middle class" and the "new middle class" at the start of the twentieth century, and how did they reflect the changing face of working life in Japan's urban areas?

  4. What factors might explain the increased participation by women in the labor disputes of the 1920s? How did contemporary assumptions about proper gender roles affect women's working lives and treatment in the workplace?

  5. What social changes did advertisers and social commentators call "bright" and "new" in the 1910s and 1920s? Who seems to have lamented these changes?  Which ones, and for what reasons?

  6. In what ways did opportunities for participation in public life expand in the 1920s—and for whom? What were some manifestations of people's increased sense of belonging to both a national and global community?

  7. Describe what is meant by the term "imperial democracy." Is this type of democracy different from what you understand to be the present-day version of representative or parliamentary democracy?

  8. How did the Diet's function in governance during the era of party government (1918–1932) differ from the role originally envisioned for it by the authors of the Meiji Constitution of 1889? To what extent did the evolution of elected politicians into powerful insiders reflect popular wishes?

  9. What differences existed in the 1920s between the platform of the Seiy_kai political party and that supported by its rival, the Kenseikai, then Minseitō, party? What similarities existed between the two platforms?

  10. The demise of "imperial democracy" may be dated to 1932 and the end of party cabinets. By this date many saw democracy as a bankrupt or ineffectual system. What changes in Japan and its empire led to this conclusion?

  11. How had Japan's relationship with the Western powers changed in the years between the 1890s and the end of World War I? How did Japan's joining the ranks of industrialized, imperialist powers affect its relations with China? Consider specifically Japan's 1915 presentation of the Twenty-One Demands to Yuan Shikai, the head of China's new Republican government.

  12. What were the causes of financial instability in Japan in the years leading up to the worldwide economic depression of 1929? How did Japan's relations with its empire affect the Japanese domestic economy?

  13. How was concern for Japanese economic and strategic advantage on the Asian continent reflected in political contention within the Japanese ruling elite in the years after WWI? How did Japanese foreign policy intersect with domestic political struggles in China?

  14. In what ways did Japanese colonial rule ignite popular nationalist movements throughout Asia? Consider independence movements after both WWI and those occurring after Japan's defeat in WWII. In the post-colonial era, in public life in Japan, what sorts of opinions have been expressed regarding the existence of such movements?

  15. In what ways did the state in the interwar period reach into the realm of everyday life to manage social and economic change?

  16. How did the bargaining tactics of organized workers change in the wake of the economic crises of the late 1920s? Do occasionally violent tactics seem to have been desperate measures or calculated provocations?

  17. What was the relationship between the military and the emperor as outlined in the Meiji constitution? In what ways, if at all, did Emperor Hirohito exercise his power over the military in the prewar and wartime years? How did Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi's decision to resign in the wake of the Kwangtung army's 1928 assassination of Chinese warlord Zhang Zuolin reflect the balance of power between military and emperor?

  18. For what reasons did figures of almost all political persuasions welcome the Manchurian takeover and the 1932 establishment of Manchukuo?

  19. Apprehension about the destructive social and economic potential of unfettered capitalism was a staple of 1930s political discourse. What actions did bureaucrats, politicians, and the army each take to curb capitalism's perceived destructive potential in these years?

  20. Was there a "logic of escalation" driving Japan's strategic maneuvering in China from 1932 and in Southeast Asia in the late 1930s? Given the momentum provided by the establishment of Manchukuo is it possible to speak of an "economic logic of escalation" or a social, cultural, and popular "logic of escalation" that drove Japanese advances into China and Southeast Asia in the years before the attack on Pearl Harbor?

  21. How should Japan's foreign policy in Asia in the years leading up the attack on Pearl Harbor be characterized? Did Japan's leaders have a blueprint for expansion into Asia? Or, did Japan "stumble into war" through a series of minor conflicts that made large-scale conflict with the United States inevitable by 1941?

  22. In what ways did the course of WWII in Europe affect Japanese domestic politics, foreign policy, and strategic considerations in Asia?

  23. What ideology formed the core of each of the New Orders (economic, labor, and political) of the 1940s? To what extent was each New Order effective? Is it possible to trace continuities between the programs implemented under the Labor New Order of wartime and postwar strategies for workplace organization?

  24. In what ways did the participants in the 1942 conference on "overcoming modernity" draw on Japanese tradition to level their critiques against the West? Given the program of national renovation promoted by bureaucratic and military leaders, what was the irony of the conference participants' attacks on rationality and modernity?

  25. Describe social conditions in urban and rural areas immediately after Japan's surrender. How did American awareness of such conditions help swing the balance in Washington away from a "hard peace" and toward a "soft peace?"

  26. In 1945, SCAP's immediate strategy for Japan's postwar reconstruction was encapsulated in two words: "demilitarize" and "democratize." In the minds of SCAP personnel, how were these goals linked? In what ways did Occupation policy tackle each of these goals?

  27. What factors explain the popular appeal of leftist ideas and political parties in the immediate postwar years? How did a shift in American policy beginning in 1947 and 1948 affect the political fortunes of the Japanese left?

  28. Discuss ways in which the impact of SCAP reforms depended upon existing balances of power and ideas in postwar Japan. Why was land reform so successful, while movements toward greater female equality continued to provoke resistance?

  29. In what ways had stability been achieved by the formal end of the Occupation? How and to what extent did Occupation-sponsored programs for change bring political, economic, and social stability to Japan over the long term?

These study and discussions questions were adapted by Craig Colbeck from the questions prepared for the website for the first edition (with some newly added).  The original questions for Parts I and II were prepared by Jeffrey Bayliss, now assistant professor at Trinity College, and those for Parts III and IV were prepared by Emer O'Dwyers, now assistant professor at Oberlin College.

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