Episode 535 – The Road to Disaster

This week on the Revised Introduction to Japanese History: the descent towards the Second World War. Why did the leadership of imperial Japan start a war many of them were aware they were unlikely to win? And how did the failures of the Meiji system enable the descent into militarism and defeat?


Hotta, Eri. Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy

Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1858-1945

Iriye, Akira. Power and Culture: The Japanese-American War, 1941-1945

Mitter, Rana. Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945


The Osaka Mainichi Shinbun’s front-page coverage of Inukai Tsuyoshi’s death (popularly referred to as the “May 15 Incident”).
Japanese troops entering Shenyang (a city in Manchuria) in 1931.
Japanese “experts” assessing the “railway sabotage” ostensibly performed by Chinese dissidents and used as an excuse to invade Manchuria in 1931. In fact, the bombs had been planted by radical Japanese Army officers who seized the pretext for an invasion.
The Lytton Commission in Shanghai as they prepare to investigate goings on in Manchuria.
The railcar of Zhang Zuolin, assassinated by Doihara Kenji in 1928 as part of a plot to enable the Guandong Army to seize Manchuria. This attempt failed as the predicted civil strife never materialized; the next in 1931 would succeed.
The section of the Mukden rail line where the bomb that triggered the invasion of Manchuria was planted.
Soldiers of China’s National Revolutionary Army (the armed forces of the Guomindang) fighting the Japanese at the Marco Polo Bridge.
Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), leader of the Guomindang. Chiang would eventually come into open conflict with Japan’s militarists over the future of China.
Japanese troops move into North Indochina, 1940. Japan’s destabilization of the area created the conditions that helped Ho Chi Minh rise to prominence.
View from an under-carriage camera mounted on a Japanese attack plane of the raid on Pearl Harbor.