Nationalism in Japan: An Overview

1. Nationalism in the Context of the Japanese: An Overview

The rise of nationalism in Japan is often attributed to the Meiji period, when a number of Western political ideologies were adopted in an effort to encourage national unity and loyalty. However, nationalism has been a part of Japanese society long before the Meiji period, and it continued to play an important role in the country during the Taisho, Showa, and post-war eras. While there have been many different interpretations of nationalism in Japan over the years, state-oriented nationalism and cultural nationalism have been the two most dominant strains.

State-oriented nationalism, also known as “imperialism”, emerged during the Meiji period as a response to growing international pressure on Japan. This form of nationalism posits that the state is more important than the individual, and that Japan must work to strengthen itself militarily and economically in order to survive in a hostile world. This way of thinking eventually led to Japan’s involvement in World War II, as the country sought to expand its territory and resources.

Cultural nationalism, on the other hand, began to take hold during the Taisho period. This form of nationalism emphasizes Japanese culture and tradition, and calls for a return to traditional values. It was partly a response to the growing number of Western influences in Japan, as well as a reaction against state-oriented nationalism. Cultural nationalists believed that Japan should focus on its own unique strengths, rather than try to imitate the West.

Nationalism has often been used as a tool by those in power to manipulate public opinion. During times of crisis, such as economic recession or military defeat, nationalist sentiment can be used to rally support for politicians or regimes. In some cases, this can lead to extreme forms of nationalism, such as ultranationalism or jingoism. It is important to remember that not all forms of nationalism are negative; pride in one’s country and culture can be a positive force if it is not taken to extremes.

2. The Meiji Era: A Time of Change

The Meiji period (1868-1912) was a time of great change for Japan. Following centuries of isolationism, the country suddenly opened its doors to foreigners and began adopting many Western ideas and technologies. This process of modernization was met with mixed reactions from the Japanese people; some welcomed it eagerly, while others felt that it threatened their traditional way of life.

In an effort to unify the country and build support for his regime, Emperor Meiji turned to nationalism. He encouraged his subjects to think of themselves first and foremost as Japanese, rather than members of their respective clans or regions. To further promote national identity, he commissioned a number of patriotic songs and poems which were taught in schools across the country. The Meiji era also saw the rise of state-oriented nationalism, as Japan worked to build up its military strength and expand its territory. This eventually led to conflict with China (in 1894-95) and Russia (in 1904-05), both of which were defeated by Japan.

3. The Taisho Era: A Return to Traditional Values

The Taisho period (1912-26) was marked by a return to traditional values after the tumultuous Meiji era. With Emperor Meiji’s death in 1912, his son Taisho ascended to the throne. Taisho was less interested in politics than his father had been, and he delegated much of the day-to-day running of the government to his advisors. This allowed for a greater degree of democracy than had existed during the Meiji period.

The Taisho period was also a time of great social change. With the rise of new technologies, such as the telephone and the automobile, traditional ways of life were beginning to change. This led to a growing sense of unease among many Japanese, who longed for a return to simpler times. Cultural nationalism began to take hold during the Taisho period, as more and more people looked to traditional culture for guidance and inspiration.

4. The Showa Era: Nationalism gone Mad

The Showa period (1926-89) was a time of great political upheaval in Japan. The country underwent a rapid process of modernization during this time, which led to rising tensions between those who favored traditional values and those who embraced Westernization. This tension came to a head with the outbreak of World War II, as Japan sought to expand its empire by conquering territories in East Asia and the Pacific.

The war ended in defeat for Japan, and the country was occupied by Allied forces from 1945 until 1952. During this time, Japan was forced to give up all of its overseas territories and to demilitarize itself. These humiliating defeats led to a resurgence of nationalism in Japan, as many people sought to restore the country’s honor and prestige. This extreme form of nationalism eventually led to the rise of ultranationalist groups, such as the Empire Loyalists’ Association, which advocated for a return to military rule.

5. The Post-War Era: Rebuilding and Internationalization

The post-war era (1952-present) has been a time of rebuilding and internationalization for Japan. Following its defeat in World War II, the country embarked on a process of democratization and economic reform. It also began to open itself up to the outside world, forging close economic ties with other countries in Asia and becoming a leading member of the international community.

while nationalism has often been used as a tool by politicians or regimes In an effort Nevertheless, pride in one’s country and culture can be positive if it is not taken to extremes.

6. Conclusion

Nationalism has been a part of Japanese society for centuries and has taken many different forms over the years. The Meiji period saw the rise of state-oriented nationalism, while the Taisho and Showa periods saw the rise of cultural nationalism. The post-war period has been a time of rebuilding and internationalization for Japan. While nationalism can be a positive force, it can also be used to manipulate public opinion and lead to extreme nationalism.


Nationalism is a political, social, and economic system characterized by the promotion of the interests of one group above those of others.

The origins of Japanese nationalism can be traced back to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when Japan began to modernize and westernize its society.

Nationalism has been used in Japan throughout history as a way to unify the country and promote its interests both domestically and internationally.

Today, nationalism continues to play an important role in Japanese society, shaping public opinion on issues such as education, foreign policy, and economic development.

There are a variety of different views on patriotism and national identity within Japan, with some groups emphasizing tradition and history while others focus on more modern concepts such as individual rights or international cooperation.

It is difficult to predict the future of nationalist movements in Japan, but it is possible that they may take on new forms in response to changes in the domestic and global political landscape.