An Overview of Japan's Modern History from the NHK Archives

1923 to 1944: The Rise of Militarism

Hirohito was Emperor for 67 years. His reign was the longest in Japan’s recorded history. It began more than half a century after the Meiji Restoration (a key event in Japan’s push to modernize and westernize). Japan had experienced an industrial revolution. Its population had reached 60 million. A large proportion of the workforce was salaried employees at manufacturing and service companies in big cities. As urban culture matured, there was demand for mass media; Japan’s first radio broadcast was made in 1925. Later, a military coup attempt heralded the rise of militarism and totalitarianism. The army invaded China. Then in December 1941, Japan began a war with the United States and its allies. This was the Pacific War (the conflict in the Pacific theater of World War Two). Japanese authorities subjected citizens to economic and psychological control and extolled patriotism.
  • A family listens to the radio at home.

    A family listens to the radio at home.

  • A family listens to the radio on their boat.

    A family listens to the radio on their boat.

  • Rebel troops march through the grounds of the Diet building.

    Rebel troops march through the grounds of the Diet building.

  • Japanese troops fire a field gun during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

    Japanese troops fire a field gun during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

  • Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor in 1941.

    Japanese forces attack Pearl Harbor in 1941.

  • Ships burn in Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack in 1941.

    Ships burn in Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack in 1941.