Timeline of Events in Japan

1853               

United States Commodore Matthew Perry’s “black ships’ arrive in Edo Bay. 

1854               

Perry returns and negotiates Treaty of Kanagawa.  First treaty signed between Japan and the United States.  Treaty is instrumental in dismantling the two-century-old policy of isolation.

1856               

The shogunate signs Harris Treaty between U.S. and Japan opening up eight Japanese ports to American merchants and giving the U.S. “most favored nation” trade status.

1860               

First Japanese mission is sent to the United States.

1867               

Keiki, the last Tokugawa shogun, resigns, ending the Tokugawa shogunate.

1868               

Meiji period begins and the Charter Oath is written.  Shōgunate replaced with central power, old samurai class eliminated, primary education and universal military service for men becomes compulsory. Edo is renamed Tokyo.  Capital moved from Kyoto to Tokyo the following year.

1871               

Iwakura Mission departs for the West.  Aim is to observe and learn about western models and methods of civil governance.

1889               

Meiji Constitution is promulgated

1890               

First Diet convened.  The Imperial Rescript on Education is issued.

1894               

Sino-Japanese War.  Japan is victorious and asserts its first gains as an imperial power.  Korea is “turned over” (colonized) to Japan and China cedes Taiwan to Japan

1904 -1905     

Russo-Japanese War.  Japan is victorious against Czarist Russia.

1907               

The United States and Japan reach a Gentleman’s Agreement stating that the United States would neither impose nor enforce restrictions on Japanese immigration and Japan would not allow further emigration to the United States

1910               

Korea is annexed.

1912               

Emperor Meiji dies.  His eldest son, Yoshihito, ascends to throne.  Taisho period begins

1914-1918      

World War I.  Japan is allied with the U.S. and Great Britain. 

1919               

Japan fails to get Racial Equality clause inserted into the covenant of the League of Nations.

1923               

Great Kantō Earthquake - deadliest in Japan’s history.  Cities such as Tokyo re-designed after being leveled.

1924               

Johnson-Reed Immigration Act signed barring all Japanese entrance to the United States.

1925               

Universal male suffrage instituted.  The electorate increases fivefold.

Late 1920s     

Extreme nationalism takes hold in Japan.  Emphasizes preservation of traditional Japanese values and rejection of “Western” influence.

1930               

London Naval Treaty signed.

1931               

Manchuria is invaded and occupied. 

1932               

Japan renames Manchuria Manchukuo and installs a puppet regimes lead by Emperor Puyi (The Last Emperor.)

1932               

Japanese prime minister is assassinated by ultra-nationalists. Military holds increasing influence in country.

1933               

Japan withdraws from League of Nations after condemnation by the international community regarding their occupation of Manchuria and est. of Manchukuo.

1936               

November 25th: Japan sign the Anti-Comintern Pact with Nazi Germany. It concludes a similar agreement with Italy in 1937.

1937               

July 7th:  Marco Polo Bridge Incident in China initiates invasion of mainland China.  Battle of Shanghai occurs from mid August-November followed by the occupation of Beijing and the then capital city, Nanjing.

December 13,  1937 Nanjing occupied.  Height of mass violence lasts until February 1938.  Nanjing remains an occupied city throughout World War II in China.

1939               

Outbreak of World War II in Europe. With the fall of France to Nazi Germany in 1940, Japan moves to occupy French Indo-China

1940               

Axis alliance among Rome, Berlin and Tokyo is formed.

1941               

Japan attack on the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The US and its main allies declare war on Japan the following day.

1942               

Japan occupy the Philippines, Dutch East Indies, Burma and Malaya. In June, U.S. aircraft carriers defeat the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. The U.S. begins a strategy of "'island-hopping", cutting the Japanese support lines as its forces advance.

1944               

U.S. forces are near enough to Japan to start large scale bombing raids on Japanese cities.

1945               

U.S. planes drop two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima (6 August), the second on Nagasaki (9 August). Emperor Hirohito surrenders and relinquishes his divine status. Japan is placed under U.S. military government on August 15, 1945.  All Japanese military and naval forces are disbanded.

1947               

A new constitution with parliamentary system and all adults eligible to vote. Japan renounces war, pledges not to maintain land, sea or air forces for that purpose. The emperor is granted ceremonial status.

1951               

Japan signs peace treaty with the U.S. and other nations in San  Japan ending SCAP occupation of Japan.

 

This timeline is not comprehensive but dates and events selected align with the content explored in Facing History and Ourselves’ The Nanjing Atrocities:  Crimes of War.   Adapted Sources of Japanese Tradition, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Ryusaku Tsunoda, and Donald Keene,  Second Edition, Vol. 2 (New York:  Columbia University Press, 2005) pp. xli-xlii, http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/japan_modern_timeline.htm, accessed March 7, 2014 and http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-15219730, accessed April 1, 2014.

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