Episode 534 – The Imperial Democracy

This week on the Revised Introduction to Japanese History: during the 1920s, Japan’s political system became more democratic and representative–an “imperial democracy” that evolved out of the Meiji system. How did this happen, and why did those democratic gains prove to be so unstable in the long term?


Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan

Mitani, Taichiro. “The Establishment of Party Cabinets” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol VI: The Twentieth Century

Andrew Gordon’s excellent essay “Social Protest in Imperial Japan: The Hibiya Riot of 1905” for MIT’s Visualizing Cultures program

Another excellent Gordon essay (“Social Conflict and Control, Protest and Repression“) for the International Encyclopedia of the First World War

Takayoshi, Matsuo. “The Development of Democracy in Japan – Taisho Democracy: Its Flowering and Breakdown.” The Developing Economies 4, No 4 (December, 1966)

Shiota, Shobei. “The Rice Riots and the Social Problems.” The Developing Economies 4, No. 4 (December 1966)

Hayami, Yujiro. “Rice Policy in Japan’s Economic Development.” Economic Development Center of the Department of Economics, University of Minnesota


The Hibiya Riots of 1905. Protesters flooded the streets to speak against the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, which was seen as insufficient in light of Japanese losses.
Suzuki Shoten, a trading firm in Kobe, was burned down by a mob during the 1918 rice riots.
Coverage of the start of the riots in Uozu, from a local paper in Toyama prefecture.
Hara Kei (sometimes referred to as Hara Takashi), protege of Ito Hirobumi and one of the members of the second generation of Japanese leadership. He was also the first politician to serve as Japan’s Prime Minister.
Plaque commemorating Hara Takashi’s assassination at Tokyo station (by the Marunouchi south exit, next to the Shinkansen ticket window).