Published on July 5, 2016
The Empire of Japan (大日本帝國 Dai Nippon Teikoku?, literally “Greater Japanese Empire”) was the historical Japanese nation-state that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.
Imperial Japan’s rapid industrialization and militarization under the slogan Fukoku Kyōhei (富國強兵?, “Enrich the Country, Strengthen the Armed forces”) led to its emergence as a world power and the establishment of a colonial empire. Economic and political turmoil in the 1920s led to the rise of militarism, eventually culminating in Japan’s membership in the Axis alliance and the conquest of a large part of the Asia-Pacific region. At the height of its power in 1942, the Empire ruled over a land area spanning 7,400,000 square kilometres (2,857,000 sq mi), making it one of the largest maritime empires in history.
After several large-scale military successes during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and the Pacific War, the Empire also gained notoriety for its war crimes against the peoples it conquered. After suffering many defeats and following the Soviet Union’s declaration of war against Japan and invasion of Manchuria, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, however, the Empire surrendered to the Allies on August 15, 1945. A period of occupation by the Allies followed the surrender, and a new constitution was created with American involvement in 1947, officially dissolving the Empire. Occupation and reconstruction continued well into the 1950s, eventually forming the current nation-state whose full title is the “State of Japan” or simply rendered “Japan” in English.
The Emperors during this time, which spanned the entire Meiji and Taishō, and the lesser part of the Shōwa eras, are now known in Japan by their posthumous names, which coincide with those era names: Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito), Emperor Taishō (Yoshihito), and Emperor Shōwa (Hirohito).