Japanese Imperialism

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Japan was the most important non-Western imperial power in the modern period. It emerged as an empire in Asia while it was a semi-colony under the treaty port system. Its imperialism was mimetic of Western imperialism, both in its tactics and in its rhetoric. However, this mimesis produced a distinctive imperialism that set Japan apart from the countries it imitated. On the one hand, Japanese colonizers stated that they shared a common racial origin and civilization with those they colonized. On the other, they practiced an anti-imperial imperialism that claimed to liberate Asians from Western domination. Like Germany in 1919, Japan lost its overseas empire as a result of military defeat in World War II. Koreans, Taiwanese, and Manchurians were liberated from Japanese rule, but were soon plunged into civil wars. The cataclysmic end to the empire facilitated a forgetting of the past, which continued to shape perceptions of Japan's imperial culture long after 1945, leading Western scholars to downplay the importance of the colonial empire. In recent years, scholars have paid a lot of attention to Japan's imperial culture, particularly the important body of literature written by both Japanese writers and colonized writers.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies
EditorsSangeeta Ray, Henry Schwartz
ISBN (Electronic)9781119076506
ISBN (Print)9781444334982
StatePublished - Feb 2016


  • capitalism
  • racism
  • postcolonialism
  • Japan
  • imperial, colonial, and postcolonial history
  • globalization
  • East Asia


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