King's College History Department
The Twentieth Century

This is my history website of Japan

World War I | World War II | Meiji Restoration | Samurai | MacArthur and Constitution

Korea War | Aesthetics | Deming | Yakuza | Baseball

In A.D.500 Japan’s history began to emerge from the mists of great legends. It is around this time that Buddhism came into Japan from China. This religion helped to bring about the T’ang Dynasty. The legends of the old or beginning Japan have been passed down for centuries mostly by word of mouth. These legends helped to shape the Japanese values and beliefs. A popular belief involves Jimmu Tenno who is said to be the direct descendant of the Sun Goddess Amaterasu Jimmu supposedly founded the entire Japanese empire in b.c.660. All the emperors that have come into power since the time of Jimmu have traced their ancestry all the way back to Jimmu.

In about 500a.d Japan began to become interested in China and it sent promising Japanese youths to China. They were selected by the Government to study the Chinese and their rich culture. They studied China’s arts, sciences, philosophy, laws, architecture, governmental structure, and even urban organization. At that time the Japanese had a great thirst for learning and they wanted to acquire more knowledge. They also wanted to adopt and adapt new ideas and techniques. Probably the most important thing that was brought from China was Buddhism.

Japan entered into the Golden Age around 900a.d. and the emperor Daigo ascended to the throne. Poetry had been around since about 300a.d. But by 1961, a special poetry Bureau had to be created for the management of poetry contests. Amateur poets would compete before judges. In 1000a.d. the first great novel was written by a women named Lady Murasaki. The name of this novel is the Tale of Genji.

The Feudal Period brought about the reign of the powerful and well respected samurai. The common people as well as the lords that they served respected the samurai. This period lasted for the next seven hundred years. This feudal system that was used can be viewed as the system that was used in Western Europe until the sixteenth century. The samurai was almost like a knight and he protected the lands of his lord. There was a great loyalty to the daimyo or feudal lord. Fiefs or pieces of land were given to the noble samurai warriors for their military duties. The samurai developed a code of conduct called Bushido, which can be compared to chivalry in the time of the knights and kings in the medieval Europe. This code demanded that the samurai would die fighting and have loyalty and honor.

The Japanese had their first contact with the west in 1542 when they were visited by the Portuguese. At first they came as traders and then as missionaries to spread Christianity. The Portuguese brought the smoothbore musket. The Japanese began to manufacture this weapon. This gave a rise to a new military power. The Japanese maintained their Isolation, peace, and art during this time.

In the mid 19th century, Japan was a highly organized, relatively prosperous and educated country with 30 million people. At this time Japan only wanted to be left alone. This period has been said to be the happiest in Japan’s long life. Unfortunately there was some disturbing news coming from China. They began to relay the news that imperialist-minded Europeans, with their steamships and powerful cannon, had subdued and humiliated the forces of the creaking Manchu Empire in the Opium war of 1840. The Japanese also learned how China would now be forced to trade and it was already being divided up between different nations. The Japanese began to worry because they knew that they would be unable to cope with the weapons and technology of the 19th century imperialist. It was because of this the Japanese watched as Commodore Mathew Perry and his "black ships" steamed into Tokyo Bay in July 1853.

This began the famous period called the Meiji restoration. Commodore Perry’s first objective was to open the Japanese ports. His visit basically ended the reign of the samurai. He signed a treaty to open the ports of Shimoda and Haleodate to American ships. The Japanese were then forced into many other treaties, which they did not want to enter into. The Japanese had almost no choice but to westernize and modernize. They sent selected young students to acquire as much knowledge as possible of countries like Germany and the U.S. This westernization helped Japan to grow in military as well as other aspects.

World War I presented itself as a way for the Japanese to show their power in the world. There was also the problem of misunderstandings and mistranslations. Japan lost World War one and this loss shaped Japan in different ways. Then came World War II. To this day the Japanese have had a hard time dealing with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the U.S. still continues to debate whether or not we should have dropped the nuclear bomb.

Today, probably one of the most important results of Japan's great growth in industry and urbanization has been the huge development in democracy. Even though Japan is very democratic we can see that there system of democracy is very different from the system that we have here in the U.S. We can see this in Japan's school systems, working world, and in the family life and life style. These are very different from what we have here in the U.S. The school system is held to a very high standard and Japan's students go through much more training than students go through here in the U.S. The working world in Japan is much different than what people in the U.S. are used to. Workers are expected to put in an average of about twelve hours a day.

The U.S. and Japan have gained very close relationships. The goals of the U.S. and Japan have been said to be very similar. Both the U.S. and Japan want a free democratic society. Both also use a free enterprise system. Japan is of equal importance to the U.S. as the U.S. is to Japan.

Japan has and continues to go through many political and social reforms. It has gone through some economic problems as well. Since Japan was not allowed to build a military power they focused on industry and they have flourished in that area. They continue to have success in the Industrial area and they have developed close ties with other nations through their trade and business.


Runkle, Scott F. An Introduction To Japanese History. Japan: International Society for Educational Information Press, Inc., 1976.



Ten great books on Japan

Brzezinski, Zbigniew. The Fragile Blossom. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1972.

This book talks about the social patterns, economic patterns and security and status of Japan. It looks at how the Japanese interact with each other as well as with other countries or peoples. The book also goes into the economy of Japan and how they make decisions and how they have been successful. It is a very personal and up close outlook on Japan.

Fingleton, Eamonn. Blindside. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995.

In this book we learn about the economics of the people and the general structure of the Japanese economy. It also talks about how other nations sometimes look at Japan and exaggerate its weaknesses and sometimes belittle its strengths. It takes a big look on how Japan is on track to take over the U.S.

Frank, Isaiah, ed. The Japanese Economy In International Perspective. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.

This book talks about the changing American and Japanese security roles in Asia. It then goes into farming, politics, economy, investment, and International Corporation of Japan. This book goes in depth on how in 1973 the Japanese economy began a new and troubled phase in its economy.

Friday, F. Karl. Hired Swords. California: Stanford University Press, 1992.

This book takes a look back on Japan from as early as the 8th Century. It focuses on the time period of Japan’s samurai. It talks about the emperors and warriors of Japan. It also concentrates on the classical age of Japan on an in depth look.

Halliday, Jon. A Political History of Japanese Capitalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1975.

This book goes into the Meiji restoration when Japan first began to westernize. It also goes into great detail about the different wars such as the pacific war and the sino-Japanese war. It goes into the changes that Japan has made since then. It looks at the changes in the political parties, education, and the economy.

Halliday, Jon., and McCormack Gavan. Japanese Imperialism Today. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973.

This book takes a close look at all the aspects of Japan. It goes in depth on the import needs of Japan and it looks at Japan’s capitalist economy. It also talks about the trading agreements of Japan and how it deals with the other nations of the world in trade and some other areas.

Leupp, Gary P. Servants, Shophands, and Laborers in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992.

The main focus of this book is on the labor of Japan. It looks at the urban workers, domestic servants, manual laborers, and manufacturing hands of Japan. It also looks at the transition of Japan to capitalism. It also looks at the wages and jobs of the workers.

Mourdoukoutas, Panos. Japan’s Turn. New York: University Press of America, 1993.

This book takes a look at the economy and government of Japan. It then goes very in depth into the investments that Japan has in the U.S. and it also looks at the leadership of Japan in the 21st Century and how it is unusual. We also learn about employment relations and the huge investments that Japan has made in new technologies.

Norbeck, Edward. Takashima. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1954.

This book takes an in depth look on Japan as a fishing community. It looks at religion, the life cycle, house life and livelihood of Japan. Besides fishing the book also goes into farming and how it is hard to acquire farmland unless it is inherited. It also goes into detail on how Gods play a role in fishing and the beliefs of the seas.

Wray, Harry., and Conroy, Hilary. Japan Examined. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983.

This book talks about the many changes of Japan by posing questions about the issues of Japan. It asks questions such as: when does modern Japan begin? It looks at the modernization of Japan during the Meiji restoration and it asks if it was a good thing to make Japan modernize.




World War I | World War II | Meiji Restoration | Samurai | MacArthur and Constitution

Korea War | Aesthetics | Deming | Yakuza | Baseball


Ten great websites on Japan

Business Culture. Com, 2000, Title Business Culture, URL: accessed on 2/18

This website has reports about doing business in Japan with reflections on culture, practices, protocol , and etiquette. There are also reports on business negotiating tactics and there are articles on business customs and resources.

Indian express newspapers (Bombay), 1998, Title: Japan economy seen shrinking 1.60% Ltd., URL: accessed on 2/18

This website talks about Japan’s shrinking economy and it gives some economist’s predictions and views of the problem.

Thomas, Professor Lairson, Title: Political Economy of Japan, URL:$j$apan/index.html accessed on 2/18

This website talks about Japan’s beginning economy and how it started from almost nothing and grew to something big. It also talks about Japan’s trade and how it exports today.

Elington, Lucien, Title: Japan’s Economy: 21st Century Challenges, May 1995, URL: accessed on 2/18

This website talks about Japan’s economy and the challenges or problems that it will be facing in the 21st century.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Official Website., Title: Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1995-2000, URL: accessed on 2/18

This website talks about Japan’s foreign pollicies, economic affairs, and regional affairs. There are also some announcements from press conferences, press releases and different speeches.

JETC, Title: Japan Export and Trade Consultants, 1997, URL: accessed on 2/18

This website talks about business tips on how Japan does it’s business with the world. It also talks about Japan’s trading and Industry in Japan.

Japan Information Network, Title: "The Japan of Today", URL: accessed on 2/18

This website talks about Japan’s government, diplomacy, economy, science, technology, society, and culture.

Whitener, Barbara, updated on 7/22/99, Title: Japan: Economy, Industry business and labor, URL: accessed on 2/18

This website deals with Japan’s chamber of commerce, business, economics, trade practices, stock exchange, and trade organizations.

Whitener, Barbara, updated on 5/27/99, Title: WWII: Japan, URL: accessed on 2/18

Nathaniel, Bolin, updated on October 20, 1999, Title: "The United States-Japan Foundation". URL: accessed on 2/18

This website deals with the United States-Japan Foundation. It talks about how it was founded. It also talks about the Japan-America Young leaders Project and how they are trying to create closer ties of communication among a new generation of young Japanese and American leaders.




Here are 10 small topics on Japan




WWI began in July and August of 1914 and it was first called the great war. The war itself had huge feelings of nationalism and militarism. Japan wanted to show that it was a pacific power to be reckoned with and it wanted to have power in the pacific. This is part of the reason that Japan joined the allies with Russia, Great Britain, France, and Serbia. Japan also saw WWI as a way to advance its Imperialism on China. Japan wanted to control Manchuria, eastern Inner Mongolia, and the Shantung Peninsula. In the end the allies won the war and President Wilson introduced his 14 points. The other allies were a little upset that they could not take Germany. The Japanese did not play a huge part in this war but the war itself gave the Japanese some experience and help to prepare them for the second world war.  They knew now what to prepare for and expect.

Annotated Bibliography

This website goes into the different specials that ABC news has done. This specific one is on WWI. They talk about the problems of WWI and they get very in depth on the amount of casualties and all the other problems of the war.

This website talks about the problems and issues from WWI. It goes into the casualties and some specifics of the war.





WWII began in 1937 and it lasted until 1945. Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. Japan invaded China and took over Manchuria and renamed it Manchukuo. The Chinese appealed to the League of Nations but the League basically did nothing. There were two separate wars in the beginning of the war. Japan and China had their own war. There were many reasons for its beginnings. There was  nationalism, militarism, imperialism, isolationism and capitalism. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This seemed like a great victory for the Japanese. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor angered the U.S. and it meant that we would not give up. The U.S. bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and them Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. We bombed those two cities specifically because they had basically remained untouched during the war. The Japanese surrendered on August 14th. The U.S. used the atomic bomb, which caused great damage. The Japanese people will most likely never resolve the issue of the atomic bomb because of its significance. The two cities were filled with civilians and left an enormous amount of casualties. To this day they have not resolved this issue.

Annotated Bibliography

This website goes into WWII. It talks about its origins and the problems that came about from the war. It goes into the different things that happened to each country that was involved in the war.

This website talks about WWI in a very in depth way. It goes into Japan and it really only talks about Japan and its roles.



The Meiji Restoration


In July 1853 Commodore Mathew Perry and his ships steamed right into Tokyo. This began the Meiji restoration. Commodore Perry's first objective was to open the Japanese ports. He signed a treaty with the Japanese Tokugawa government in 1854. This treaty opened the Shimoda and Hakodate ports. As the ports were opened to the U.S. they soon became open to other nations such as the British and the Russians. They also wanted and demanded treaty ports. Japan had no choice but to give them ports. In order to westernize and modernize, the Japanese government sent out students to learn the ways of the developed nations such as the U.S. and Germany. These students studied abroad and brought back with them their findings of the world outside of Japan. Japan used the different ideas and technological advances and adapted them. These advances helped them to become the nation that they are today.

Annotated Bibliography

This website goes very in depth on the Meiji Restoration. It talks about how the Japanese dealt with the visit of Commodore Perry and how they lived after his visit. It goes into education and the religions of Japan.

This website talks about Commodore Perry's visit to Japan and the way that Japan was restructured after that. It also goes into how the Japanese had to modernize. This site is not greatly in depth.



The Samurai


The Samurai was the original military class of Japan. They were warriors. The Samurai was very important during the Heian Period of Japan. They were hired to protect the lands of the wealthy and powerful landowners. The Samurai followed a very strict code called Bushido, the way of the warrior. This code is viewed as the code of chivalry that knights followed. Their code embodied principles such as courage, benevolence, trust, honor, veracity, sincerity, duty, self-control, and obedience. They usually lived very short lives. If they were shamed or lost in battle they committed a suicide named seppuku. It involved opening your stomach and releasing organs from the body. The Samurai always related to the cherry blossom because they are beautiful but they have a very short life span. The Samurai knew that they would have a short life. Today we look at the Japanese businessman to be the modern Samurai. The government has tried to stop the many suicides committed by Japanese businessmen who follow the Bushido codes. They now have a reasonable handle on it but it is still a major issue.

Annotated Bibliography

This website goes very in depth into the way of the Samurai. It talks about the shogun and the different families that were in power. It also goes into the code of Bushido. It also talks about the ritual suicides of the Samurai. This website is very up close and personal into the life of the Samurai.

This website also talks about the Samurai and how they looked forward to death and often embraced it. It goes into how important death was to the Samurai and how they used suicide.



The Japanese Constitution


The new Japanese Constitution was invented in 1946 and it was actually put into use on May 3, 1947. The constitution was made by the Supreme Commander for the allied powers or SCAP. SCAP is led by General MacArthur. The Constitution basically changed the Meiji Constitution from 1890. Article 9 says that Japan can not have a military and it says that Japan can not become involved in war. With this new Constitution we see that the people are in control. The citizens are given the right to enjoy human freedoms. There is also equality for males and females. These rights are now guaranteed in this Constitution. This Constitution also states that citizens must work, send their children to school, and they must pay their taxed. This Constitution gives the Japanese their human rights, which we here in the U.S. have had for a while now.

Annotated Bibliography

This website talks about the Japanese Constitution. It goes very in depth as to what the constitution basically says and does for the Japanese. It goes into the rights that it now gives.

This website also talks about the Japanese Constitution and the rights that it gives to the Japanese people today. It also talks about how this Constitution has replaced the Meiji Constitution.




The Korean War


After the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, Japan surrendered. The Soviet Union saw this as a great opportunity to take over Japan. So the Soviets plowed through Manchuria and North Korea and took over these Japanese provinces. The U.S. stepped in and stopped this. As the Soviet Union pressed communism on North Korea, the U.S. pressed democracy on South Korea. This created a great difference in the political preference. In 1948 the Korean elections were held. This election plus the division of Korea set a stage for a civil war. By 1950 it was very obvious that the war was basically inevitable. Japan basically came out of the war as the big winner. Japan went from an enemy to a friend. Japan cooperated with the western efforts and then was able to enhance its military and economic capabilities. Japan had an economic boom because of the need for military technology.

Annotated Bibliography

This website goes into the exact origins of the Korean War. It talks about how the Soviet Union saw a window of opportunity and acted on it. It goes in depth into everything that happened in the Korean War.

This website talks about the Japan and Korea relations. It talks about their economic dealings with each other and how they cooperate. It also goes into the great cultural exchange that Japan and Korea have.



Japanese Aesthetics


Japan is continually absorbing new ideas and technologies. This is why it is absolutely amazing that Japan is able to keep its Asthetics. Asthetics is the field of study that was introduced to Japan from the west in the Meiji period. There are three basic key elements of Japanese Asthetics. They are Wabi, Sabi and Shibui. Wabi is the beauty of poverty. It says that there should be a beauty to things such as old farmhouses because they are plain, dry, and natural. Sabi is the beauty of loneliness. An object embodies Sabi when it is seasoned, sturdy, and expressive. The last key Asthetic is Shibui, which is the beauty with a bite. It is rich in quality and opposites of something that is tacky and loud. It is amazing that these principles remain the same and are still used today.

Annotated Bibliography

This website talks about the traditional and new cultures of Japan. It goes into how this culture has adapted to the times but has still managed to remain as a traditionally strong culture.

This website talks in depth on the different aspects of the Japanese culture. It talks about how the Japanese think of themselves as one and a group. It basically talks about how their culture is today.





            Before WWII Japan was known as having bad quality products that were very cheap as well.  This is the period that set the stage for W. Edwards Deming.  He was originally ignored here in the U.S.  But being that Japan was battered from the war they took an interest in his methods and ideas.  He promised that if the Japanese people would listen, they would be able to take over the world.  He said that if you put good stuff in, you get good stuff.  He helped the Japanese to make high quality products especially with cars.  Today the most cherished award is the Deming Prize for quality control.  It is the highest award that a Japanese Company can receive.  The award ceremony is broadcast on national Television.  Some of his tips to improve work quality were to eliminate quotas and numerical goals, poster ad slogans that command workers to produce more and to drive out fear.

Annotated Bibliography


This website goes really in depth into Deming's Principles for total quality management (TQM).  It talks about teams and leaders and the process of constantly learning.  It also talks about the reward that one reaps from this system.


This website talks about Deming's system for management.  It talks about how he has greatly helped Japan to be what it is today.  It goes into seminars that he has attended and books that he has written.




The Yakuza


The Yakuza is viewed as the Japanese mob. It is said to be older than the Sicilian Mafia. The name Yakuza is from a Japanese card game called Oicho-Kabu. The Oyabun (Father) has the most power in the Yakuza. The Robun (Children) are the people that follow. There are many different Yakuza families. Each one has about 200 members. The Yakuza only uses men. Women are not involved. There are four basic groups of the Yakuza: The Tekiya, Bakuto, Uyoku, and Gurentai. The Tekiya have protection rackets and make money by harboring fugitives. The Bakuto are the gamblers of the group. The Uyoku are used by the Japanese politicians for illegal actions. Finally the Gurentai are the most violent. The Gurentai are manly used by the major corporations for illegal actions. The Yakuza is the Japanese organized crime group. Today the government is trying to rid Japan of this group but the problem is that the Yakuza has become accepted as a part of society. To get rid of them would be like taking away a part of themselves because as far back as anyone can remember they have been there.

Annotated Bibliography

This website talks about the Yakuza in a very up close look. It talks about the different groups within the Yakuza. It also goes into how the Yakuza is viewed today and how the citizens of Japan view the Yakuza.

This website also talks about the Yakuza and how they are involved in Japanese business today. It also goes into how the group is continuing to rise today.



Japanese Baseball


Japanese baseball is very different from the baseball here in the U.S. For starters we can look at the fans. They are absolutely faithful to their teams and the crowd is persistent in its team support. Instead of having a hotdog they eat foods like sushi and rice while at a stadium. There is a huge emphasis on the team as a whole working together. All the batters have the same stance and they often spend hours to make sure that their stance is exactly the same as everyone else on the team. The Japanese do not like to embarrass people so they often try to end each game in a tie so that the other team does not look bad. Many U.S. baseball players who are brought to Japan to play baseball have a hard time understanding this. In U.S. baseball a homerun is more valuable than a bunt. In Japan it is opposite because you are making a sacrifice for the team. Japanese baseball reflects the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the Japanese today because it reflects how they live. There is a huge emphasis on the group and everyone works together.

Annotated Bibliography

This website talks about professional Japanese baseball. It also goes into the current standings and the stats of the Japanese teams. You can also learn about different foreign players.

This website talks about the different baseball seasons of Japan. It also gives records and yearly standings for teams.





World War I | World War II | Meiji Restoration | Samurai | MacArthur and Constitution

Korea War | Aesthetics | Deming | Yakuza | Baseball

20th Century
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First posted:  2000 April 11
Last Revision:  2000 April 12
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