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From WMC our Five College Radio in Amherst Massachusetts we present Japan 1868 through 968 this year has been officially designated as the centennial of the beginning of the modernization of Japan and this is the fourth of a series of broadcasts titled Japan 1868 through 1968 with John M. Markey professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of today's broadcast is the reign of the Emperor Tai show Professor Maki. The three names of the only three emperors who have occupied the imperial throne in Japan during the past century are schol and show up. As I indicated in the previous broadcast it was the Emperor Meiji who occupied the throne from 1867 and thrown in one thousand sixty eight down
to two thousand nine hundred twelve. Me means enlightened rule. And there is no question but that this was an extremely appropriate name for the period during which he was the well in a very real sense the leader of Japan as well as the Emperor. The ring name of the current Emperor is sure. And an approximate translation of show is shining piece. Now as I believe you're all aware for roughly the first 20 years of his reign shining peace seem to be a great irony. On the other hand what is developed in Japan since 1945 certainly has made show an extremely appropriate range name as well. Now between these two emperors there reigned the Emperor. And Thais show translated again approximately means great righteousness. Now
there was nothing particularly well unrighteous about the reign of the second of the modern emperors on the other hand it certainly was not precisely descriptive of either the period or what the emperor stood for during his reign. The Emperor Kai show was born on August 30 first 1879. He succeeded to the throne on July 30th of 1912 at the death of his illustrious father and was ceremonially unthroned on November 10 thousand nine hundred fifteen. And finally he died on December 25th one thousand twenty six. And so his rule covering parts of 15 years was by far the shortest of the three of the modern emperors on the other hand it is even shorter than would appear
from the date of the Emperor titles death in one thousand twenty six. Because he was succeeded by the Prince Regent in late November of 1921 and the reason for the Regency sheds a great deal of light on the man as well as on the nature of his rule. Actually the Emperor was mentally deranged or to use the homely synonym he was simply crazy. He was apparently in ill health from childhood. There were signs of mental unbalance from his early adulthood. And there is no question but that in the final years of life he was almost completely insane. So though technically he continued to reign until his death in one thousand twenty six the actual Well reins of government were in the hands of his
son the present Emperor. Photographs of the Emperor tie show do not well indicate that he was mentally unbalanced but he certainly was a man of distinguished appearance. To put it mildly. You know the type show period covered. Well from the late nineteen from the summer of one thousand twelve I should say until late one thousand twenty six. Now what was the carry of this brief period in Japan's modern century. Well I think it can be said that certainly by comparison with the Meiji period and the current period it was uneventful. On the other hand it was a period not without significance in the development of modern Japan. First of all I think that it could be said that in general what happened during this brief period was that there was
continued development of this process of modernization in Japan on the foundation. But as I emphasized earlier it was well built during the Meiji period. You know I suppose that in general terms the most significant single event or perhaps more precisely process or development during this period was Japan's participation in the first world war. Of course on the side of the allies and from the beginning in 1914 until the end in 1918 I shall return to this very important development in a moment. But one of the important consequences of Japan's involvement in the First World War was the fact that as a result Japan was accepted beyond question as a
major power by again the end of the war in 1918. Now what was the impact of the First World War on the development of modern Japan. Well in the first place these four years witnessed in Japan the build up of great military strength. Now what happened very briefly was this. As I said Japan was a full participant in all of the four years of that war. On the other hand its involvement in that war was very minor as compared with the involvement of the other major powers or perhaps better major participants in that war. Japan was involved only very briefly in any of the land campaigns of that war and that involvement was across the way in China. And I shall return to that in a moment. But on the other hand Japan's naval activities
were fairly extensive Not that it was involved in any great naval battles but in Japan being a naval power to naturally emphasize the building up of its naval strength and also became involved quite extensively in the patrolling of the Seas patrolling the seas of course primarily against the threat of German surface Raiders. Now in spite of this limited involvement the Japanese emphasized a very great deal of the building up of their land armies and of course as I just said their naval strength. And so by one thousand eighteen. Japan was beyond any question regarded as one of the great naval powers. Now going right along with this build up of military strength was a parallel internal development namely the growth of the Japanese economy. Now as I indicated earlier the foundation for
Japan's modern industrialization was well constructed during the period. Now the significance of the First World War was simply that in order to carry out this build up of the military strength both the land armies and the Navy it was necessary to accelerate a very great deal and development of Japan's heavy industry. Now this was done. But within the context of what you might describe as a general economic development and so in the period of four years you had an enormous expansion of Japanese industry in almost every respect but of course with major emphasis again on the heavy industry sector and of course heavy industry has become or already was I should say synonymous with the industrial growth and economic development in general. So what Japan
experienced was a very considerable degree of internal prosperity as well as industrial development in what you might describe as the general sense. As a matter of fact the Japanese felt that in terms of employment in terms of national income and above all in terms of the number of millionaires that mushroom very rapidly inside Japan in this period they felt to use one of the current idioms that they had had it made. Economically speaking. But nevertheless this general economic development was typical of this period brief period of the reign of the Emperor type show. Now also as a result a direct outgrowth I should say of the First World War. Japan intensified its pressures on China a very great
deal. As I pointed out earlier one of the significant developments of the Meiji period was Japan's first modern war the modern war that took place with Imperial China in 1894 95 and resulted in a Japanese victory. Now this could be described this victory in 1894 5 could be described as the beginning of Japan's career of aggression. Because as you might expect the result was not simply a demonstration of Japanese military strength relative to China but in the treaty of peace that followed this rather minor war the Japanese succeeded in gaining developing I should say a far greater far stronger economic position inside China and also obviously exerting a great deal of diplomatic pressure as a result
of the military victory. Now one of the reasons for Japan's victory in that war of 1894 5 was obviously the weakness of China. As a matter of fact it was the Japanese victory that made clear beyond any question to the entire world and incidentally to many if not most of the Chinese the extent to which the power of the Chinese Empire had declined. And from 1895 onward external pressures the pressures of the Western powers as well as of Japan steadily increased simultaneously the effectiveness of the Chinese government declined. And so finally in 1911 right at the end of one thousand eleven the old imperial government collapsed completely and was succeeded with what was hopefully
called the Chinese Republic. You know one of the problems that had affected China a very great deal was the foreign presence in China. A foreign presence the presence of the Western powers particularly that had begun back in the early 1840s and had continued with steadily mounting pressures throughout the rest of the 19th century. Now one automatic result of the situation was the development of friction and competition between Japan which had begun its major penetration in 1894 95. And what we might refer to as the entrenched Western powers in China. No I shall not go into the extremely complicated situation that developed as a result of that. For our purposes here it is sufficient to say
simply that one of the major reasons why Japan decided to go to war on the side of the allies and against Germany was simply the fact that the old German Empire had established a strong position relatively strong position inside China a position that made Imperial Germany automatically a rival of Japan. Inside China. And so it was the Japanese desire to reject the Germans from China that led to the declaration of war against Germany in August of 1914 and also in the very brief a matter of a few weeks Japanese lend campaign inside China against Germany. Now what the Japanese did was to overrun the German position inside China and the result was that Germany never played a major role in Chinese affairs indeed in
Asia after. Well roughly the fall of 1015. No the Japanese then had demonstrated in the early stages of the First World War that they were possessed of a considerable degree of military strength but also the Japanese saw all very clearly that the new government inside China was a government in name only. So one of the results of this well realisation on the part of Japan was the present ation to this new Chinese government. What immediately became known as the 21 demands. These 21 demands. If they had been accepted by the Chinese government at the time it would have made China into a virtual protectorate of Japan. And this is precisely what Japan wanted to do. Very briefly if these 21 demands
had been accepted the Japanese would have had a far greater economic position inside China. And again one which could be utilized at the expense expense of China. The Japanese would have had an extremely strong military position inside China and in addition the Japanese would have had direct control over the existing government of China. Now the Japanese were quite confident that the Chinese could not on their own resist these demands and so consequently in a very unusual diplomatic maneuver the Japanese warned the leaders of China in no uncertain terms that they had to keep these demands absolutely secret until they were all accepted. And of course put into operation in favor of Japan. The leaders of China did the only thing that they could do in order to defend themselves
in this situation. Namely they violated this pledge of secrecy that they had been forced to give the Japanese and permitted the news of these 21 demands to leak out. As things developed this tactic on the part of the Chinese was successful because what happened was that the United States government which was not involved in the war at all at that time and was not to be until the spring of 1017 put very strong diplomatic pressure on Japan with the result that the Japanese failed to achieve the acceptance of all of the 21 demands. The American role in these 21 demands that I have touched on so very briefly was actually representative of. One of the most important developments of this title
period namely the beginning of the real confrontation between the United States and Japan a confrontation that was to continue throughout the decade of the 1920s become steadily more intense during the decade of the 1930s. And finally reached a climax of course in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Now I'd like to take just a moment to describe in broad general terms the nature of this confrontation between the United States and Japan which reached an initial climax in the confrontation over the 21 demands. Very briefly what had happened was this. The United States had entered into formal diplomatic relations with the Imperial Government of China back in
1844. Although the American relations commercial relations of course with China went clear back into 1784 when the first ship American training ship out of New England called in Canton in south China and initiated not only American trade but American relations with China. So consequently by the time of this first war between China and Japan the United States had had half a century of relations with China. Now the United States at that time during this half century of course was not by any definition of the Times a major power. On the other hand by the 1890s the United States head developed diplomatic relations with China economic relations with China and cultural relations with China particularly of course in the form of the Christian missionary effort. So by the time of the war
between China and Japan the United States felt that it had very considerable interest inside China. And obviously the United States felt that these interests were being threatened by the growth of Japanese power and above all by the growth of Japanese pressure on China. No behind this development of rivalry between the United States and Japan inside China was the still broader issue of the growth both of the United States and of Japan as emerging world powers. And by again 1500 or perhaps more accurately simply the early years of this century it was perfectly clear that Japan as a result of its victory over China and 10 years later over Russia was a factor in world politics that had to be
taken into account by all major governments and it was also very clear that the United States was emerging as a great world power. Now also there was the obvious fact that both of these emerging powers Japan and the United States were Pacific powers Japan in the western Pacific. The United States in the eastern Pacific. And so consequently this confrontation over the issue of the 21 d bans was simply another well very serious indicator of the nature of the developing rivalry between the two countries. You know on the international diplomatic scene during this period one of the more significant developments was the so-called Washington conference in one thousand twenty one thousand nine hundred twenty two at the end of one thousand twenty one and the beginning of one thousand twenty two.
No what happened was that although the far east eastern Asia had been involved in the First World War this involvement was very minor. That World War as you all know was basically a European war. Now when that war was brought to an end by the Treaty of her sight. The issues in Asia were barely touched upon in the treaty of peace. The only thing really that affected Asia or specifically China was the statement in the treaty of peace that Germany formally gave up any rights that it might have possessed in China. Now primarily as a result of this rivalry between the United States and Japan which as you will recall grew out of the Collapse of China at least in
part or was centered on the weakness of China growing out of the Chinese collapse. It was felt by many governments that a serious diplomatic situation had developed in relation to Asia centering around this issue of the rivalry between Japan and the United States. Now the United States government took the position or decided I should say a policy to try one way or another to solve what seemed to be a serious situation in Asia not simply this problem of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan but the whole question of China and what the weakness of China was doing to create a situation of instability which might be indeed in the fears of some lead to either to a war
between the United States and Japan eventually or a broader breakdown of international peace and security. The result was that the United States did call this Washington conference and the Washington conference did result in what came to be known as the Washington settlement which was supposed to solve the double issues of the tension between the United States and Japan and the unstable situation in China. I'll mention only two of the important agreements that came out of this Washington conference. One was the so-called five power pact. Our naval Limitation Treaty. The signatories of this treaty were the three great naval powers of the time Great Britain Japan and the United States and the two secondary naval powers France and Italy. Now for our
purposes the significant feature of this naval Limitation Treaty was that it was designed to bring about an end of the what was referred to as the naval race the building up of the navies of the major powers and particularly to stop the build up of the navies of the United States and Japan. The assumption was that if naval strengths were limited possibilities of war would be reduced because well strategically and even in a certain mechanical sense it would be impossible for the two countries to come to blows. On the surface of the Seas and specifically of course the Pacific. Now by far the most important element in the settlement at Washington was the so-called nine power pact. Very briefly this 9 power pact was designed to try to give China what was
referred to as the fullest and most unembarrassed opportunity to solve its internal problems with the objective of creating conditions of internal stability that would make it impossible for foreign governments and specifically Japan and the United States to continue their rivalry inside China with the consequent development of tensions between those two governments. Tensions again which might lead to war. Now Japan participated fully in this conference and fully accepted these the five and the nine power pact treaties and other agreements which again were designed to reduce the tensions in Asia which have been created directly or indirectly by the First World War. Now I would like to shift briefly from this concentration on some of the external issues
relating to this type period and take a brief look at some of the economic developments that followed the end of the First World War in 1918. One of the significant things was that the depression inside Japan began almost immediately at the after the end of the First World War and was almost as spectacular as the economic prosperity that had carried the course of the war itself. No this was significant in two senses. One was that it did bring out or emphasize what might be described as the unevenness of the economic development of Japan. Certainly the surface economic strength of Japan was very great as of 1918 but on the other hand this was built on the artificial foundation of the war itself and with the collapse
of the war there was a collapse of the well arms industry in Japan with the consequent very bad effects. Now in addition to that Japan suffered in nineteen twenty three great natural disaster which had an immediate but on the other hand short term economic effect and that was the great earthquake of September 1st. Nineteen twenty three. Perhaps the greatest natural disaster of the 20th century. Now he in other words by the end of the reign of the Emperor Tai shoal in one thousand twenty six Japan was being confronted with growing internal problems. You have just heard a broadcast on the topic the reign of the Emperor Tai show on the fourth of a series titled Japan eight hundred sixty eight through nine hundred sixty eight with John M. Markey a professor of government and vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Massachusetts. The title of the next broadcast in the
Japan: 1868-1968
The Reign of the Emperor Taisho
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WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Four College Radio
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Producing Organization: WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Producing Organization: Four College Radio
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-35-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:25
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Chicago: “Japan: 1868-1968; The Reign of the Emperor Taisho,” 1968-09-30, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 18, 2022,
MLA: “Japan: 1868-1968; The Reign of the Emperor Taisho.” 1968-09-30. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 18, 2022. <>.
APA: Japan: 1868-1968; The Reign of the Emperor Taisho. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from