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Japan's Total Empire

Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism

Louise Young
Copyright Date: 1998
Edition: 1
Pages: 500
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  • Book Info
    Japan's Total Empire
    Book Description:

    In this first social and cultural history of Japan's construction of Manchuria, Louise Young offers an incisive examination of the nature of Japanese imperialism. Focusing on the domestic impact of Japan's activities in Northeast China between 1931 and 1945, Young considers "metropolitan effects" of empire building: how people at home imagined and experienced the empire they called Manchukuo. Contrary to the conventional assumption that a few army officers and bureaucrats were responsible for Japan's overseas expansion, Young finds that a variety of organizations helped to mobilize popular support for Manchukuo—the mass media, the academy, chambers of commerce, women's organizations, youth groups, and agricultural cooperatives—leading to broad-based support among diverse groups of Japanese. As the empire was being built in China, Young shows, an imagined Manchukuo was emerging at home, constructed of visions of a defensive lifeline, a developing economy, and a settler's paradise.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92315-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Map and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Note on Sources
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xiv-xiv)

    • 1 Manchukuo and Japan
      (pp. 3-20)

      Today the words “Empire of Japan” evoke multiple meanings: one set of images for former colonial subjects, another for former enemies in the Pacific War, and yet another for the Japanese themselves. No epoch did more to inscribe these words with meaning than the period between 1931 and 1945, when Japan moved aggressively to expand its overseas territory, occupying first China and then Southeast Asia, and initiating a series of military conflicts against Nationalist and Communist forces in China, against the Soviet Union, against the United States, and against the British Empire. At the heart of the new empire Japan...

    • 2 The Jewel in the Crown: The International Context of Manchukuo
      (pp. 21-52)

      Japanese expansion in Northeast China in the 1930s was part of a complex geometry of imperialism, comprised of the Japanese, their rivals for empire in the Asia-Pacific region, and the peoples over whom they sought dominion. Both governments and communities took part in the imperial enterprise, and in each case the course of empire was directed by the institutions that shaped the possibilities for individual action, as well as the individuals themselves. To take one example, the Kwantung Army officers who played such a prominent role in the creation of Manchukuo operated within a multiplicity of frameworks. Institutionally, they occupied...


    • 3 War Fever: Imperial Jingoism and the Mass Media
      (pp. 55-114)

      After the story broke of the military clash at Fengtian on September 18, 1931, the news of the latest action on the China continent commanded the headlines for months. War songs set fashion in popular music and battlefield dramas filled the stage and screen. None of this was completely new, of course, for war booms had accompanied earlier imperial wars against China (1894-1895) and Russia (1904-1905). Moreover, just as those war booms had profoundly influenced cultural developments, the Manchurian Incident war fever marked a turning point from the era christened “Taishō demokurashii” to what Japanese called the “national emergency” (hijōji)...

    • 4 Go-Fast Imperialism: Elite Politics and Mass Mobilization
      (pp. 115-180)

      The Manchurian Incident represented an aggressive army bid for political power at home as well as in the empire. In the initial phases of the military action, the Kwantung Army deliberately subverted the authority of the central government in Tokyo and expanded the theater of war on its own initiative. After militarily occupying Manchuria, the Kwantung Army set itself up as the new political authority in the region, ruling through the puppet government of Manchukuo. Kwantung Army actions on the continent inaugurated a phase of rapid military expansionism that John Dower aptly named “go-fast imperialism.”¹ At the same time, the...


    • 5 Uneasy Partnership: Soldiers and Capitalists in the Colonial Economy
      (pp. 183-240)

      Before 1932 Japan’s geographical scope of activity in Northeast China had been confined to the Kwantung Leased Territory and the railway zone in South Manchuria. The instrument of penetration, the enormous publicprivate colonial railway concern everyone knew as Mantetsu, had operated mainly in the carrying trade in soybeans. In the early years of Manchukuo’s existence, however, the structures of economic imperialism were radically transformed, altering economic policy in Manchuria and Japan as well as the relationship between the two economies. First, under a new regime of imperial management known as the controlled economy, the army-dominated Manchukuo government undertook an experiment...

    • 6 Brave New Empire: Utopian Vision and the Intelligentsia
      (pp. 241-304)

      Under the auspices of Manchurian development, Japanese professionals and intellectuals set about building an imperial state that was both modern and radical. Over the course of the 193os, the funds pouring into Manchukuo financed elaborate construction plans that criss-crossed the landscape with new rail lines and changed the face of Manchuria’s urban centers. With state-of-the-art technology and the talents of a bright young breed of civic planners, architects, and engineers, the Manchukuo government railway and urban construction programs were designed to build cities fitted with all the modern conveniences and equipped for rapid population growth. As hundreds and thousands of...


    • 7 Reinventing Agrarianism: Rural Crisis and the Wedding of Agriculture to Empire
      (pp. 307-351)

      The announcement of the Japanese government, in 1936, of a program of mass colonization of Northeast China ushered in a third phase in the creation of Manchukuo. This ambitious plan undertook to send a million farm households, one-fifth of Japan’s 1936 farm population, to the new state of Manchukuo over the space of twenty years. Though the colonization plan fell short of its ambitious yearly targets, over 300,000 Japanese resettled in Manchuria before the campaign was interrupted by Japan’s surrender in 1945.

      As in the Manchurian war fever and economic boom that came before, extragovernmental forces provided an important impetus...

    • 8 The Migration Machine: Manchurian Colonization and State Growth
      (pp. 352-398)

      The story of the Manchurian colonization movement would have remained a footnote to Manchukuo were it not for its success in mobilizing the national government behind the project. In 1936, the Hirota cabinet adopted Manchurian colonization as one of the pillars of national policy. Throwing the resources and authority of the state into the colonization project, the Japanese government reshaped a local movement with many supporters but few settlers into a national movement that transformed rural society at home and in the empire.

      No one expected hundreds of thousands of farmers to spontaneously up and move to Manchuria. Architects of...

    • 9 Victims of Empire
      (pp. 399-412)

      The people to whom all this frenetic activity was ostensibly directed had little say about what was happening to them. Very few emigrants sat on the committees that drew up emigration plans or plotted campaign strategy. They did not help make the decision about when to leave or where their new home was going to be. They were given little choice in what they could bring with them and what was to happen to possessions left behind. These were marginal and powerless people who had been enticed, pressured, and in some cases, coerced into migrating to Manchuria. The hundreds of...


    • 10 The Paradox of Total Empire
      (pp. 415-436)

      Over the course of the 1930s, the Japanese built in Northeast China what I have called a total empire. This book has isolated three imperial projects in Manchukuo-military, economic, and settlement. I have separated them in time, identifying each with a particular phase of empire building, and in space, associating them with different social spheres. But though they did constitute three distinct imperial projects, in the end, they were all Manchukuo. Herein lay the paradox at the heart of total empire. It was at once discrete and interconnected, plural and singular, methodical and random, overdetermined and contingent. This contradictory logic...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 437-456)
  13. Index
    (pp. 457-487)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 488-494)