The population of Japan proper in 1940 was 73,114,305. Estimated population in the exterior provinces of Korea, Formosa, Karafuto, Kwantung and the South Seas Mandate was an additional 32,423,893. Total: 105,538,198.
While the USA was still deep in economic depression, Japan had essentially lifted out of it by the mid-1930s.
But the 1930’s were marked by political instability, intrigue, assassinations and attempted coup d’états.
By the late 1930s, right wing militarists had firm control and political dissidence was vigorously suppressed.
Imperial Japan’s incursion into China (“The China Incident”) had become a bloody quagmire with many Japanese losses.
Here is a video that reminds us we are all still human.
When I moved to California in the late 1960’s, my partner and I rented a warehouse in Gardena, which then was the social and economic center for Japanese Americans. The property next door was a wholesale nursery owned by a Japanese American named Sam, whose last name I long ago forgot. Sam was about 20 years older than me, but I never detected a generational or cultural separation as I got to know him. Sam had been a student at UCLA when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, an event, like all Americans, he despised. He was baffled when his father called him to say that he had to come home because Roosevelt had ordered the internment of all Japanese Americans; Sam, his parents, brothers and sisters spent the next several years in Manzanar, a hell hole in the California desert.
After being released, they returned to Gardena to find their property had been sold. Everything they owned was in the suitcases they carried. Each family member took a menial job to save enough money to begin the family business again. The only property they could afford to lease was the land beneath the high voltage power lines, owned by Southern California Edison. Edison was glad to have the extra revenue; no one else wanted to use the land. It took Sam about 15 years to restore the family business, to own valuable parcels of land, growing a wide variety of plants and trees, to restore his pride and dignity that had been stolen from him and his family. And yet, Sam had nothing negative to say, no bitterness; he still loved his country.
Years later, I drove about four hours to see Manzanar. The camp was still there, deserted, behind high wire security fences. I parked my car and walked along the fence, sand blowing in my face by the continual hot desert wind, tumbleweeds rolling by on their way to nowhere. I wasn’t a great history student, but I couldn’t remember being taught about this stark reality now before my eyes. I also discovered that I am not as good a person as Sam … I would have been bitter, unforgiving, scarred for life by a war I had nothing to do with.