Mao Zedong (1893–1976) In 1893, Mao Zedong was born into a prosperous peasant family in Hunan Province, After an elementary school education, Mao began working the fields at age 13. At age 17, he enrolled in a secondary school in Changsha, the capital of Hunan. At age 18 he joined Sun Yat-sen‘s Nationalist […]
In the summer of 1921, at the age of 39, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) had the sudden onset of low back pain, muscle weakness and the inability to bear his own weight. After several misdiagnoses (blood clot, tumor) and ineffective therapies (massage, hot baths), he was diagnosed with infantile paralysis. Halting his developing political career, FDR […]
Born in 1883 into a passionate socialist blacksmith’s family, Benito Mussolini was named after the Mexican revolutionary Benito Juarez. Although expelled from several schools for bullying and defying authority, he obtained a teaching certificate at age 18 and worked as a schoolmaster for a short time. In 1902, after gaining a reputation for his socialist rhetoric in Switzerland, […]
Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler, moved to Germany when he was three years old. Following the early death of his father, with whom he had frequent conflict, he dropped out of school at age 16 and moved to Vienna where he worked as a laborer and a watercolor painter. After rejection by the Viennese […]
Hirohito, the Emperor Shōwa (昭和天皇) of Japan, was a controversial figure. Some historians claim he was inherently pacifist and tried to prevent war. Others say he was neither a proponent of war nor peace, but an opportunist who governed in a pluralistic decision-making process. At the start of Hirohito’s reign in 1926, Japan had the ninth-largest economy in the world, […]
After opening to the West in the late 19th century, Imperial Japan created a public school system based closely on the American model with additional emphasis on traditional Japanese values. Reflecting Confucian principles, a social hierarchy, with the Meiji state at its pinnacle, was prescribed. Centralized government control, as defined in the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, remained in place […]
The America poet Ezra Pound‘s contributions to the arts in the early 20th century have been widely acknowledged. A Girl The tree has entered my hands, The sap has ascended my arms, The tree has grown in my breast – Downward, The branches grow out of me, like arms. Tree you are, Moss you are, […]
From 1933-1945, the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) was the sole official youth organization in Nazi Germany. This quasi-paramilitary organization was made up of: – Hitlerjugend proper) for male youth aged 14-18 yrs. – Deutsches Jungvolk (German Youth) for boys 10-14 yrs. With emphasis on physical training and Nazi indoctrination, Hitler Youth were viewed as future “Aryan“ leaders who […]
Lauren Bacall has died at age 89. Born Betty Joan Perske to Jewish parents in the Bronx, as a teenager she took the Romanian surname of her mother and became the actress Lauren Bacall. Known for her sultry looks, green eyes and husky voice, she was extremely successful in modeling, the theater and movies. […]
Shōwa Day (part of the Golden Week) is held on April 29, the birthday of the Shōwa Emperor Hirohito who reigned from 1926 until his death in 1989. Originally intended to celebrate his glorious reign, the public is now encouraged to reflect on the turbulent years of Hirohito’s reign.
Coming into office just before the Wall Street crash, Herbert Hoover instituted volunteer efforts, public works projects, bank reform, tariffs, and raising taxes on the wealthy to no avail. Many unemployed citizens lived in “Hooverville” shacks on the fringes of cities.
The Great Depression, started with the American stock market crash of 1929 and soon spread around the world. In the USA, heavy industry, construction and farming were hit the hardest. Crop prices fell by 60% and unemployment rose to 25%. Some countries, including Japan, were recovering by the mid-1930s. However, in the USA the negative […]
In the first part of the 20th Century, Japan rapidly achieved Western-style industrialization and a high level of literacy. The gulf between the great metropolitan centers and rural Japan widened.
Modeled after the BBC, the Japanese NHK Radio Network began broadcasting in 1926. In 1935, NHK began an overseas service known as Radio Japan. Along with all public news agencies, NHK was nationalized in 1941. During the war, Radio Japan broadcast in 23 different languages.
In the early 20th Century, crystal radios were immensely popular until most were replaced by vacuum tube receivers in the mid-1920s.
During the 1920s ultranationalist beliefs, expressed by writers such as Kitta Ikki and Shumei Okawa, were increasingly embraced by the military and many citizens in Japan. Ancient mystical beliefs regarding Japan’s unique relationship with the divine were rejuvenated along with a perceived obligation to lead Asia into the light.
In the early years of the fascist regime in Italy, several Italian-American immigrant organizations united to form the Fascist League of North America.The League’s use of violent tactics soon alienated the general public and it was disbanded in 1929.
While the USA demobilized after WWI and Congress resisted increased armament requests by the military, Japan sailed full speed ahead in the 1920s. The Fubuki-class destroyers were the most powerful ships of their type In the world. Large, heavily-armored, powerful and fast, they had fire power comparable to a conventional light cruiser.
While Japan’s military grew powerful in the 1920-30s, in America: Lack of government funding made peacetime maintenance of the U.S. Army difficult. The Naval War College created the carrier doctrine, before a single aircraft carrier was operational. The Army, and its Air Corps, emphasized professional military education, with little focus on innovation or the […]
In the 1920s the Imperial Japanese Army expanded rapidly and by 1937 had a force of 300,000 men. Strongly influenced by ultranationalist ideology, it enjoyed a great deal of independence from the legislative government.
From 1873, all Imperial Japanese males were required to serve three years of active military duty and four years in the reserves. Emulation of Western imperialism and security concerns resulted in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. By the 1930s, assuming the role of the big brother who promoted co-prosperity for Asia, Japan increasingly faced down […]
When the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stopped immigration of the major source of labor on the west coast, Japanese became the primary immigrant group to fill the demand. Initially employed by railroad companies and factories, Japanese immigrants quickly started their own businesses and communities. The National Origins Act of 1924 limited the number of […]
Voting certificate, Muramasa; WikiMedia Commons. The General Election Law of 1925 extended suffrage to all Japanese males aged 25 and over. Since the Meiji Period of imperial restoration began in 1868, the Japanese government had been suspicious of democracy. Limited suffrage was allowed only for tax-paying male property holders over age 25 (roughly 1% of […]
The meaning of the word kokutai is (intentionally) broad and vague. It was used to justify authoritarian acts by the Imperial Japanese government. “Kokutai is a vague but emotionally powerful term for the mysterious national essence of Japan, which finds more concrete expression in such things as an unbroken line of sovereigns, loyalty and […]
Yōshū Chikanobu Scene of the Diet 1890s, WikiMedia Commons. The Peace Preservation Act of 1925 “Anyone who has formed an association with altering the kokutai, or the system of private property, and anyone who has joined such an association with full knowledge of its object, shall be liable to imprisonment with or without hard labour, […]
Opposition to The League of Nations Treaty 1920; Flickr Commons After WWI, the “war to end all wars”, anti-war sentiment was strong and President Woodrow Wilson promoted the idea of the League of Nations to avoid future conflicts. Despite his vigorous support, opposition by Republicans in the U.S. Senate was fierce, and the USA did not […]
After WWI, American perception of international threats diminished. Congressional enthusiasm for military funding of a large standing army, much less modernization of the existing “mobilization force,” dwindled. Although Imperial Japan was recognized as a potential enemy in the Pacific, it was presumed any such war would be primarily a naval conflict.
Ronald Reagan 1927, WikiMedia Commons. After being forced open by gunboat diplomacy in 1853, substantial aid from many Americans assisted Japan in rapidly catching up with the West. At the turn of the century, many Western ideas, fashions and styles were enthusiastically adopted. But, racial discrimination and perceived lack of respect increasingly tempered the relationship with […]
“To most Westerners, the Japanese was utterly inscrutable. The way he handled his tools was all wrong: he squatted at an anvil; he pulled rather than pushed a saw or plane; he built his house from the roof down. To open a lock, he turned a key to the left, the wrong direction. Everything the […]
During a time of relative prosperity, many Americans wanted pro-business, conservative leadership. President Calvin Coolidge said little and promoted a laissez-faire form of government. The sky was the limit. Charles Lindbergh became a national hero and symbol of the wonders of modern technology with his non-stop flight in the Spirit of St. Louis from New […]
In the USA, a nationwide “Red Scare,” fueled by strikes, bombings and labor unrest, occurred shortly after WWI. Civil liberties were trampled and dissidents arrested as the nation feared a Bolshevik revolution. But, unlike Japan where suppression of leftist ideology accelerated, American attitudes soon relaxed and the great Red Scare abated. In the early 1920s, […]
Although the fundamentalist orator William Jennings Bryan won the case for the state of Tennessee, the immense publicity of the trial swung much national opinion toward Clarence Darrow in defense of modernism. While legislation prohibiting the teaching of evolutionary science in public schools faded, the conflict between religious fundamentalism and science continues to this day. […]
Hirohito became the Shōwa Emperor of Japan in 1926. Despite post-war Allied attempts to characterize him as a retiring, amateur marine biologist with little more than ceremonial involvement in his country’s wartime policies, Hirohito appears to have been significantly involved. “Following the detonation of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese military […]
Commercial motion pictures, developed with late 19th Century American technology, were enthusiastically adopted by Japanese audiences who had a long tradition of viewing gentō (magic lantern presentations). In the 1920s, Japan and the USA were the world’s largest producers of motion pictures. Certain screen actors in each nation became major stars, drawing large audiences to […]
Social drinking, within certain customs and rituals, has existed in Japan for centuries. In the 20th Century, moderate drinking became increasingly acceptable for women, but remained predominantly a male practice. Many men drank on ceremonial occasions and with their family in the evenings. Heavy social drinking (often to intoxication) was generally tolerated among men. Sake, […]
In the USA, the century-old debate between “wets” and “drys” over the potential harmful effects of alcohol on health and society culminated in the National Prohibition Act of 1920. This legislative experiment, intended to ameliorate social conditions, actually resulted in increased illegal activity and the substantial rise of violent, organized crime. Fed up with bootlegging, […]
Tobacco smoking was well-established in both Japan and America by the early 17th Century. Wiki In mid-20th Century Japan, feminine role expectations strongly discouraged smoking and few women did. In contrast, although smoking remained much more prevalent in men, women increasingly smoked in the USA.
Originating in the early 19th Century, baseball became America’s national pastime after the Civil War. Introduced to Japan in 1872 by an American teacher in Tokyo, it rapidly became a very popular sport there as well.
In the USA, citizens of Northern European origin held significant cultural (and often legal) advantages over racial and ethnic minorities. In the mid-1920s Ku Klux Klan membership peaked at several million. The Immigration Act of 1924 further restricted the influx of Southern and Eastern Europeans, East Asians and Asian Indians. The Ku Klux Klan is the most infamous — and oldest […]
Following the Great Kantō earthquake with over 100,000 deaths, vigilante mobs hunted down and killed ethnic minority Koreans rumored to have committed arson, looting and poisoning of drinking water. The Home Ministry stated that 231 Koreans were killed, but much higher estimates were reported by others.
In an effort to slow the arms race after WWI among the world’s major naval powers, the Five Power Naval Treaty of 1922 maintained the status of current naval bases and limited vessel tonnage and size. Many Imperial Japanese naval officers resented the ratio allotted to Japan, feeling once again slighted by the West. Guns from […]
In America shortly after the Great War, came Prohibition, a surging economy and dramatic strides in technology and transportation. Social mores were loosened and new opportunities opened for many women. Riding the stock market boom in 1929, many felt like Ukulele Ike: I’m singing in the rain Just singing in the rain What a glorious […]
In the first half of the decade, Western influences on Japanese culture were powerful and many traditions were challenged by the younger generation. Junichirō Tanizaki’s novel of Naomi. a bold, westernized “modern girl” provoked both a fascination with the potential changing role of women and a strong backlash.
Disillusioned by the horrors of the Great War, and disaffected with the path the USA was taking in the 1920s, some American writers renounced American policies and lifestyles. Included among this Lost Generation, were F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and John Dos Passos. Ernest Hemingway went to fight in the Great War at age 18. Disqualified […]