Read the stories of two diplomats who chose to use their status to rescue Jews from the Nazis during World War II.
Japan’s efforts to build a modern nation considered both its history and adaptation of Western practices. This exposure to other nations paved the way for a new openness with the rest of the world and allowed for the emergence of a group of intellectuals who believed that adopting aspects of Western culture would only strengthen Japan. Kido Takayoshi (1833–1877), one delegate on the Iwakura Mission, wrote to his friend Sugiyama Takatoshi in 1873 and discussed the critical role of education in the United States.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Japan began to develop its own imperial ambitions. With its growing population and need for natural resources, it began to pursue its expansionist ambitions more aggressively. It established a military draft in 1872, forcing all able-bodied males between the ages of 17 or 18 and 35, regardless of class, to serve a mandatory term of three years in the reserves and subjecting them to the military draft at age 20. Many Japanese, including peasants and samurai, opposed mandatory military service. For the samurai it signaled the end of their social standing, as they were now sharing military service with what they called “dirt farmers.” For the peasants, the expectation of military service was viewed as a “blood tax” since the idea of dying for Japan, the nation that gave them so little, was not welcomed.