Research: Historical Globalization in Japan

The country I chose for my ‘The World In 25 People’ project, Japan, was not exactly a country that was colonized, but a country that did the colonizing. In the 1870’s and 1880’s Japan first started by colonizing the islands around Japan. They overtook the Nanpō, Ryukyu, and Kurile islands, as well as established more control over the home islands. In 1895 Japan then went on to pursue colonizing their first oversea country, Taiwan. However, fifty years later after the defeat of Japan in World War II, Japan lost their colony to China. Meanwhile in 1876 Japan turned to gunboat diplomacy to pressure Korea to sign the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876. This treaty allowed Japanese citizens to travel to Korea and opened three ports in Korea to the Japanese for trade. In 1910 Korea officially became a part of the Empire of Japan until 1945 during the Surrender of Japan. In 1914, during World War I, Japan declared war against the German Empire and took over the German Empire’s islands in the Pacific Oceans. During the 1930’s these islands served Japan well, as they were a good defence for their home island. However, during military action between 1943 and 1945 these islands were taken by the United States. Japan also had colonial power over Manchuria, which was previously under Russian influence until the Japanese win in the Russo-Japanese war. The Japanese-aligned puppet state of Manchukuo was created. The economy of Machukuo rapidly grew as their steel production exceeded Japan’s in the late 1930’s. Manchukuo was also used as a base to invade China. Before Japan could pursue this a border dispute broke out between them and the Mongolian’s People’s Republic, leading to the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. During this battle Soviet Army and Mongolian forces defeated the Japanese army. The 1.5 million Japanese people living there were sent back to Japan after World War II. Japan was able to gain control over many countries, but failed to hold military power against other countries.


Japan was never colonized by any western imperial powers, but kept themselves isolated from world trade until the 1850’s, as the United States of America, led by Commodore Matthew Perry forced them to open their doors. This opened Japan’s eyes to see that in order to become a world power they must become more modern. It learned from western imperial powers and gained many new ideas, technology, and trends. However, historical Japanese traditions and practices are still followed today. Ninety-nine percent of the population’s first language is also Japanese. Japan is one of a few countries that have adapted to western ways while still keeping their history and culture alive. In 1997 Japan also recognized the 25,000 Ainu people living today, who are indigenous to Japan. They also created the Ainu Culture Law, which opposed the Ainu Protection Act, an act that opposed Ainu people. This act caused many Ainu people to assimilate, which was a dramatic loss in culture for the indigenous peoples of Japan. The Ainu language now currently has less than 100 speakers, which is both a result of assimilation and due to the fact they had no system of writing. The Yamato people, also indigenous, are the most dominant aboriginal group in Japan today. Although the indigenous groups in Japan have lost a dramatic amount of culture and history they are slowly working towards bringing back their ways of life.


Japan is quite different from the countries we have studied, as Japan mainly colonized other countries and were not colonized by European countries, despite the United States of America forcing open their doors for trade. Japan is also different because majority of the time they weren’t able to keep the land they had colonized as they lacked the military advancement the western countries had developed. Japan has also remained rich in culture and has not been changed by imperialism and western imperial forces, compared to our own country. Today, Japan has one of the highest skilled workforces and is among the most educated countries in the world. It also has a more advanced and modern military, which holds self-defence and peacekeeping roles. Japan’s future is uncertain due to North Korea’s unpredictable path but is currently working with other countries to keep the peace. In modern day, Japan has become a leading country and a good military force.