Empire of Japan

The Empire of Japan,[lower-alpha 3] also known as the Japanese Empire or Imperial Japan, was a historical nation-state[lower-alpha 4] and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 until the enactment of the post-World War II 1947 constitution and subsequent formation of modern Japan.[8] It encompassed the Japanese archipelago and several colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories.

Empire of Japan
  • 大日本帝國
  • Dai Nippon Teikoku or Dai Nihon Teikoku
"Kimigayo" (君が代)
"His Imperial Majesty's Reign"[1][2][lower-alpha 1]
The Empire of Japan at its peak in 1942:
  •   Japan
  •   Colonies (Korea, Taiwan, Karafuto) / Mandates
Largest city
  • Tokyo City (1868–1943)
  • Tokyo (1943–1947)
Official languagesJapanese
Recognised regional languages
GovernmentUnitary absolute monarchy

Unitary parliamentary semi-constitutional monarchy

Prime Minister 
 1885–1888 (first)
Itō Hirobumi
 1946–1947 (last)
Shigeru Yoshida
LegislatureNone (rule by decree) (1868-1871)
House of Peers (1871-1889)
Imperial Diet (since 1889)
House of Peers (1889-1947)
House of Representatives (from 1890)
Historical eraMeiji  Taishō  Shōwa
3 January 1868[9]
11 February 1889
25 July 1894
8 February 1904
23 August 1914
18 September 1931
7 July 1937
7 December 1941
2 September 1945
3 May 1947[8]
1938[10]1,984,000 km2 (766,000 sq mi)
1942[11]7,400,000 km2 (2,900,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tokugawa shogunate
Republic of Ezo
Occupied Japan
  1. 56.0 million lived in Japan proper.[12]
  2. 73.1 million lived in Japan proper.[12]
Japanese Empire
Japanese name
Japanese Empire
Japanese name
Official Term name
Official TermJapanese Empire
Literal Translation name
Literal TranslationImperial State of Greater Japan

Under the slogans of fukoku kyōhei[lower-alpha 5] and shokusan kōgyō,[lower-alpha 6] Japan underwent a period of industrialization and militarization, the Meiji Restoration being the fastest modernisation of any country to date, all of these aspects contributed to Japan's emergence as a great power and the establishment of a colonial empire following the First Sino-Japanese War, the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese War, and World War I. Economic and political turmoil in the 1920s, including the Great Depression, led to the rise of militarism, nationalism and totalitarianism as embodied in the Showa Statism ideology, eventually culminating in Japan's membership in the Axis alliance and the conquest of a large part of the Asia-Pacific in World War II.[16]

Japan's armed forces initially achieved large-scale military successes during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and the Pacific War. However, starting from 1942, particularly after the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal, Japan was forced to adopt a defensive stance, and the American island hopping campaign meant that Japan was slowly losing all of the territory it had gained, and eventually, the Americans captured Iwo Jima and Okinawa Island, leaving the Japanese mainland completely unprotected. The U.S. forces had planned an invasion, but Japan surrendered following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the nearly simultaneous Soviet declaration of war on August 9, 1945, and subsequent invasion of Manchuria and other territories. The Pacific War officially came to a close on September 2, 1945. A period of occupation by the Allies followed. In 1947, with American involvement, a new constitution was enacted, officially bringing the Empire of Japan to an end, and Japan's Imperial Army was replaced with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Occupation and reconstruction continued until 1952, eventually forming the current constitutional monarchy known as Japan.

The Empire of Japan had three emperors, although it came to an end partway through Shōwa's reign. The emperors were given posthumous names, and the emperors are as follows: Meiji, Taisho, and Shōwa.

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