The Early 20th Century
In 1904, Japan defeated the Russian Empire in the Russo-Japanese War. In 1910, the Japanese Empire annexed the Korean peninsula. It was a member of the Allied powers during the First World War where the country attacked German possessions in the Pacific. By 1937, the country went to war with China again and invaded Manchuria. Relations with the West were already deteriorating at this point, particularly the U.S. as Japanese fighter planes sunk the USS Panay river gunboat on the Yangtze River.
World War II
Japan was a member of the Axis Powers during the Second World War. After the Fall of France to Nazi Germany, Japan took possession of French Indochina. The Empire was subjected to an oil embargo enacted by the United States. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese also marched through the Shanghai International Settlement, placing several foreign national in captivity. While it crippled the U.S. initially, it inevitably brought the American entry into WWII. Subsequently, the Japanese would then invade European and American territories in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. While Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies easily fell, the Philippines continued to resist until May 7, 1942 with the capture of Corregidor Island. Japan then installed puppet governments on its occupied territories as part of the Japanese Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Empire's fate was sealed when the U.S. Navy sunk all of the Imperial Japanese's carriers (Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Hiryu) during the Battle of Midway in June 1942. With the lack of carriers, the Japanese were placed in the defensive as the U.S. began an island hopping campaign from 1942-1943, capturing Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Makin Atoll, and Bougainville. By 1944, the U.S. captured Saipan and retook Guam and soon began the Liberation of the Philippines, which was completed in July 1945. On August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima and three-days later on Nagasaki. The same day, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and came thundering through Imperial Japanese Army positions in Manchuria and Korea. Japan unconditionally surrendered on August 12, 1945, now known as V-J Day. A formal signing of surrendered happened on September 2, 1945 on the USS Missouri, formally ending World War II.
After the war, Japan was devastated but quickly recovered from the damages. From 1945 to 1951, the United States military occupied Japan. And it was from this that Japan can no longer militarize, its constitution rewritten in 1947 by the United States, and its emperor only now a symbolic head. The Self-Defense Forces were created as a result of majority of the U.S. forces being deployed to South Korea during the Korean War. By the 1960s and the 1970s, Japan became a rich country. In November 1970, a man named Yukio Mishima and his organization the Tatenokai (Shield Society) tried to overthrow the current government in a coup to restore the Japanese militarism. Due to the lack of support, Mishima's coup failed to materialize as he was mocked by the SDF soldiers. Mishima committed suicide soon after. The United States meanwhile, maintained their troops in the islands as a deterrence to both the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea. Japan was given a major non-NATO ally status of the United States prior to World War III.
World War III
Prior to war, the JSDF and the United States military forces were on constant high alert due to the Soviet presence in the Kuril and the Sakhalin islands. Though no direct military engagement occurred with the Soviets, U.S. and Japanese fighter jets would occasionally chase out Soviet aircraft outside Japan's airspace. Maritime Self Defense Force patrol boats and P-3 Orions began patrolling the waters around Japan for Soviet submarines.
Upon China's entry to the war in January 1990, the JSDF, USMC and USAF braced for an invasion. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force clashed with the PLA in the East China Sea. Subsequently, Japan and South Korea put aside their differences and fought the common enemy in the region. While attacked by China, the JSDF managed to send a few of its forces to the Korean peninsula, the first time since 1945. Though this was controversial to the South Koreans due to Japan's bloody history with Korea, any help to defend the Republic of Korea was gladly accepted and welcomed.
China launched air attacks on the U.S. bases in the country. Additionally, cities along the eastern coastline were shelled by the PLAN. The Soviet Union launched their first air attacks on the island of Hokkaido, eventually occupying the island on the process. Upon the invasion of Taiwan to the PRC, the Chinese then invaded Okinawa with a force of 4000 men. A joint USMC-JSDF operation successfully repelled the Chinese invasion but casualties were high on both sides. In the north, the US and Self Defense Forces counterattacked the Soviets in Hokkaido. Since Japan and the U.S. were at war, this made the reclamation of Kuril and Sakhalin fair game. Casualties were high of both sides but unexpectedly, the Soviets withdrew all of a sudden. This surprised the U.S. and Japanese troops who promptly recaptured the island.
Japan's economy bloomed again after the Third World War. Post-war Japan was marked with technological advances such as robotics, video game consoles, automobiles, etc. It would also be one of the richest countries in Asia. In 2005, the country formally apologized and compensated to the nations affected by its wartime past. This included the Chinese Federated Union and Korea, both of which were notably anti-Japanese prior to the apology. As a result of this apology, relations between China and Korea have been cordial and better compared to the past years.
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude quake struck off the coast of Tohoku. This was followed by a tsunami. This caused severe damages to the coastal towns as well as damaging the nearby Tohoku Power Plant - which released radiation to the coast. The international community quickly responded and sent aid to Japan.
In 2017, Japan, Taiwan, and the Chinese Federated Union are negotiating a possible joint-administration of the Senkaku (Diayu) Islands in the East China Sea.
Government and Politics
Japan's armed forces are called the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF). Article 9 of the Japanese constitution states that the SDF cannot be used for conquest and can only fight in a defensive war. However, there is a debate within the Diet to let the SDF respond to allies, particularly the U.S., the Philippines, and the ANZ, in a form of collective self defense in the face of a belligerent nation or a campaign against a terrorist organization.
The Self-Defense Force use a mix of locally made weapons and equipment from Howa and Mitsubishi and equipment procured from the U.S.
The following are the branches of the Self Defense Force:
- Japan Ground Self Defense Force
- Japan Maritime Self Defense Force
- Japan Air Self Defense Force
Japan has good relations with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, and other numerous states around the world. Relations with Korea and China has also warmed in the recent years since the nation formally apologized for its war crimes caused during World War II on August 15, 2005; on the 60th anniversary on VJ Day. Japan promised to provide reparations to the countries it affected during the war, which continues to this day. Nonetheless, some challenges for the relations with Taiwan, Korea, and China are some territorial disputes in the East China Sea. The nations involved are currently discussing how to resolve these issues peacefully.