THE LIBERAL 'TWENTIES
Industrial expansion--party politics--inflation and recession
THE GREAT WAR of 1914-18 was important to Japan not only because it provided an opportunity for raising her international standing and prestige, but also because of the stimulus it gave to her economy. By the war's end she had become in the full sense an industrial state. As such she faced political problems of a kind new in her experience, arising both from the pressures of industrial wealth on political and social privilege and from the unrest that infused a growing urban proletariat. Moreover, extension of the 'modern' element in her society had by this time brought changes in patterns of wage-earning, of consumption and of social custom to much of the country's population, changes that were to be of lasting effect, notwithstanding the vociferous--indeed, hysterical--traditionalist reaction they provoked in the next two decades.
The beginnings of industrialization, fundamental to this process, date back to the Meiji period, but it was the outbreak of war in Europe that gave it greater pace and scale. For Europe's pre-occupation with her own affairs proved to be Japan's economic, as well as diplomatic, opportunity. Diverted to war production, European factories could no longer supply many of the goods they had formerly exported, enabling Japan to increase her sales in markets she had already begun to exploit, like China and America, and to penetrate new ones, like India and South East Asia. With little war effort of her own to support she was also able to accept orders for munitions from her allies, while increased demands for shipping, due to the losses which U-boats inflicted on the maritime powers, made it