It is fundamental that anyone that wants to understand the Japanese understand their way of life, their cultural roots. To be Japanese is to be Confucian. In Japan, there is an order and a structure to every aspect of life from older brother to younger brother on up to emperor and military. There is a Confucian saying, a code of conduct that they live and die by.
“Only when things are investigated is knowledge extended; only when knowledge is extended are thoughts sincere; only when thoughts are sincere are minds rectified; only where minds are rectified are the characters of persons cultivated; only when character is cultivated are families regulated; only when families are regulated are states well governed; only when states are well governed is there peace in the world” (Neo, “The Confucian Ethics of Raise the Red Lantern,” par. 1). Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was strategic let me explain why and how.
The rise of militarism in Japan wasn’t just sparked by the imperialist West. Japan has a long history of militarist behaviors and relationships internally and externally. Japan’s foundations in Confucianism exemplify their loyalty to master. This loyalty is first and foremost because, according to Confucius, the emperor is a mandate of heaven, hence, deifying the emperor. Militarism in Japan began to show itself during the Yamamoto period and has continued to grow throughout time. Military structure can be seen through the samurai class and the emergence of the shogun.
Japan had almost a 300 year period of time where they remained closed. No one was allowed to leave and no one was allowed to enter. During this time, there weren’t any wars internally or externally. The West re-opened Japan as a stopping point for trade with China. The re-opening of Japan would ultimately be the beginning of hostility between Japan and the West. For some time after Japan had to modernize so that they could keep up with the West and be considered a world contender. “The Meiji Restoration ultimately revolutionized Japan.
Within three years the new government had abolished the domain, erased hereditary status distinctions, and allowed people to change their occupations and move about the country. Ironically for a government that owed its origins to the movement to revere the emperor and expel the barbarians, it invited foreigners to educate Japanese in things Western and launched a drive to bring modern industry and a modern military to Japan” (Walthall 44). During Japan’s modernization and fight for supremacy, the West issued them unequal treaties for their military.
The West did this several times. This decision would prove to be fatal for the West. In September 1940, Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy. “Germany insisted that any alliance would have to be directed against the United States and Britain” (Craig 123). Germany ultimately betrayed Japan and in an act of desperation, Japan attacked the United States. When you consider Japan’s deep roots in Confucianism and their desire for supremacy, ethnically and militarily, it is easy to understand their disdain for the West.
Japan knew that they had to learn from the West, emulate what they do as seen during the Meiji Restoration, in order to defeat them. Japan had the ability to take what the West taught and make it better. If you think about it, it was a brilliant plan. Japan’s only downfall was that their military was to spread out between China and the United States. Had they actually not been, we might actually live in a very different world. To say that the attack on Pearl Harbor was merely a tactical move completely underestimates the Japanese. It is a foolish way to think and discredits their history.
Japan has a history that the West can draw from. It’s like comparing an old wise person to a young person. The attack on Pearl Harbor was a strategic move, one that failed, but strategic indeed. Walthall, Anne. Modern Japan. United States of America: Scholarly Resources Inc. , 2002. Craig, Albert M. The Heritage of Japanese Civilization. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2003. Neo, David. “The Confucian Ethics of Raise the Red Lantern. ” Senses of Cinema. August 2004. 18 March 2009 <http://archive. sensesofcinema. com/contents/cteq/04/33/raise_red_lantern. html>.