Modern Japan: A History in Documents

By James L. Huffman | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
Imperial
Democracy:
1912–30

Something seemed ironic about the fact that the twenty-sixyear-old poet Ishikawa Takuboku died of tuberculosis on April 13, 1912—not just the fact that he died so young but that he died three and a half months before the Emperor Meiji did. Ishikawa's life and poetry were not focused and successful like the Meiji era; they were more confused, more troubled than his age had been, more like the era of Meiji's son, Taishō, who reigned from 1912 to 1926. Ishikawa should, by symbolic right, have lived another half year, so that he could have at least tasted the Taishō era for which his tumultuous spirit and writings seemed destined.

Just as Ishikawa was known for tempestuous and frenetic living, the Taishō years were characterized by chaotic pluralism. In the poet's case, the causes were heavy drinking and unorthodox ideas. In the nation's case, everyone commented on the challenges to old values, the new forms of entertainment, changes in gender relationships, gaps between classes, and new literary schools. Automobiles began to fill city streets, talking movies attracted theatergoers, dance halls appeared in city centers, and cafe culture rivaled the old geisha world for young men's attention. Moga, [modern girls,] wore short skirts and cropped hair and mobo, their male counterparts, wore bell-bottoms and straight black hair. Magazines focusing on self-fulfillment sprang up; the radio spread popular culture; and journalists accused young people of being obsessed with three S's: sports, screen, and sex.

In the political and intellectual spheres, this was the heyday of new isms: Marxism and socialism, with their emphasis on class struggle and equality; anarchism, which opposed all forms of government;

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Modern Japan: A History in Documents
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 11
  • Chapter One - The Shogun's Realm 17
  • Chapter Two: Picture Essay - The Old Order Topples: 1853–68 47
  • Chapter Three - Confronting the Modern World: 1868–89 57
  • Chapter Four - Turning Outward: 1890–1912 81
  • Chapter Five - Imperial Democracy: 1912–30 107
  • Chapter Six - The Dark Era:1930–45 131
  • Chapter Seven - The Reemergence: 1945–70 159
  • Chapter Eight - Japan as a World Power: After 1970 185
  • Timeline 212
  • Further Reading and Websites 214
  • Text Credits 216
  • Acknowledgments 219
  • Index 220
  • About the Author 224
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