Taishō period

From Kaiserreich

The Taishō period (Japanese: 大正時代, Taishō-jidai, "period of great righteousness"), or Taishō era, is a period in the history of Japan dating from 30 July 1912 to 25 December 1926, coinciding with the reign of Emperor Taishō. The health of the new emperor was weak, which prompted the shift in political power from the old oligarchic group of "elder statesmen" (元老 genrō) to the Diet (国会) and the democratic parties. Thus, the era is considered the time of the liberal movement known as the "Taishō democracy" in Japan; it is usually distinguished from the preceding chaotic Meiji period and the following militarism-driven first half of the Shōwa Era.

Meiji Legacy

On 30 July 1912, the Meiji Emperor (明治天皇 Meiji Tennō) died and Crown Prince Yoshihito (嘉仁) succeeded the throne, beginning the Taishō period. The end of the Meiji period was marked by huge government domestic and overseas investments and defense programs, nearly exhausted credit, and a lack of foreign reserves to pay debts.

The influence of western culture in the Meiji era continued. Kobayashi Kiyochika (小林 清親, 1847–1915) adopted western painting style, while continuing to work in ukiyo-e (浮世絵). Okakura Kakuzō (岡倉 覚三 or 岡倉 天心 Okakura Tenshin, 1862–1913) kept an interest in traditional Japanese painting. Mori Ōgai (森 鴎外, 1862–1922) and Natsume Sōseki (夏目 漱石, 1867–1916) studied in the West and introduced a more modern view of human life.

The events flowing from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 had seen not only the fulfillment of many domestic and foreign economic and political objectives—without Japan's first suffering the colonial fate of other Asian nations–but also a new intellectual ferment, in a time when there was interest worldwide in socialism and an urban proletariat was developing. Universal male suffrage, social welfare, workers' rights, and nonviolent protest were ideals of the early leftist movement. Government suppression of leftist activities, however, led to more radical leftist action and even more suppression, resulting in the dissolution of the Japan Socialist Party (日本社会党 Nihon Shakaito), only a year after its 1906 founding, and in the general failure of the socialist movement.

The beginning of the Taishō period was marked by The Taisho political crisis in 1912/1913 that interrupted the earlier politics of compromise. When Saionji Kinmochi (西園寺 公望) tried to cut the military budget, the army minister resigned, bringing down the Seiyūkai Party (立憲政友会 Rikken-Seiyūkai, "Association of Friends of Constitutional Government party") cabinet. Both Yamagata Aritomo (山県 有朋) and Saionji refused to resume office, and the genro were unable to find a solution. Public outrage over the military manipulation of the cabinet and the recall of Katsura Tarō (桂 太郎) for a third term led to still more demands for an end to genro politics. Despite old guard opposition, the conservative forces formed a party of their own in 1913, the Rikken Doshikai (立憲同志会, "Constitutional Association of Friends"), a party that won a majority in the House over the Seiyūkai in late 1914.

On February 12, 1913 Yamamoto Gonbee (山本 権兵衛, 1852–1933) succeeded Katsura as prime minister. In April, 1914 Okuma Shigenobu (大隈 重信) replaced Yamamoto.

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