Japanese Imperialism Research Paper

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Prior to 1858 and the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry to the shores of Japan, the Japanese had maintained a policy of strict isolation from foreign influences. Since the beginning of the Tokugawa period in the early 17th century the Japanese had been involved in no foreign wars and had experienced relative internal peace. Though ostensibly ruled by the shogun* and the figurehead of the emperor, Japan was divided into numerous provinces governed by feudal lords, called daimyo. This system served to loosely centralize the country but most Japanese, from the peasant to the samurai, swore loyalty to their own local daimyo rather than to the national figure of the shogun. Under this localized system, a sense of Japanese nationalism was never …show more content…

It is surprising, therefore, that the martial arts themselves have received relatively little blame for their role in the rise of nationalism in pre-war Japan. The claim made, for example, by anthropologist and kendo practitioner John Donohue that “the excesses of Japanese expansionism could in no way be attributed to budo itself” (Donohue, 1999: 28) is quite common. In reality the modern martial arts, those commonly classified as budo (martial way), did play a significant role in the development of Japanese nationalism. The ethical system of Bushido was intertwined with the practice of the physical martial arts developed by the samurai and could not have been transmitted beyond that elite class without a simultaneous expansion of those arts. The martial arts served as a vector by which the government could deliver its ultranationalist message (embodied in the semi-mythical Bushido Code) through both the military and the educational system. This article will demonstrate the extent to which the martial arts were used to instill nationalist ethics in the Japanese population, primarily by helping to spread Bushido beyond the samurai class to the people at

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