Free «Militarism in Germany and Japan and its Legacy in Today's World» Essay Sample


Militarism was a definitive feature in the life of many states of the twentieth century that influenced mentality and thinking of millions of people worldwide. It still has its legacy in the world today, affecting war-and-peace decisions made by politicians. Militarism is something that is very difficult to leave behind since it contributes to core beliefs of many leading countries. The term “militarism” can be defined as” "the belief that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests” (Definition of Militarism). That belief dominated the minds of people, being the foundation of ideology that reined in many societies. Some countries were exceptionally strong in broadcasting that ideology and forming public opinion that later influenced their whole populations and reflected on every aspect of life.

Militarism in Germany and Japan manifested in very distinct forms. It influenced gender mentality. While men in Prussia were regarded as the ones to defend the country, women were expected to take care of homes. Military training was designed for boys, ideology of militarism stressed on patriarchal gender roles at home. Women were excluded from leadership roles. Their task was to give birth to more children and raise them for the Motherland (Chickering, 11). At the same time, similar tendencies were observed in Japan. All military training was targeted at men. Women were the last to receive education in military values (Smethurst, 43). However, their participation in the military affairs was broader than in Germany. Women were founders of various defense and patriotic associations. They were encouraged to join those organizations and by doing that they fulfilled their patriotic obligations.

Thus, this paper will undertake to investigate how German and Japanese militarism affected both nations and influenced the role of women in both societies.

German Militarism

The German Empire was born during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.  The result of this war were the emergence of a powerful German nation-state, the Imperial German Army became the most powerful military in Europe,  and a major shift in the balance of power on the European continent. (Wikipedia)  The imperial Germany brought many changes in Germany.

The most important change that imperial Germany brought was rapid economic and industrial development.  After the Franco-Prussian War, a great amount of military reparations paid by France and the abundant iron ores in Alsace emboldened Germany to rapidly develop its industry.  According to a book “The German idea of militarism”, author Stargardt saying that the construction of railways and lots of orders of military products by the bourgeoisie greatly drove the development of heavy industry; furthermore, Germany was more pleased to adopt and accept results of advanced science and technology from other countries owning to the late start of the industrial revolution. (Stargardt, 26) The decade after 1870s witnessed a leapfrogging development of German capitalist industry, whose developing speed was the third only following USA and Japan. (Stargardt, 137)

Since the limited domestic resources and small home market of Germany struggled to meet the demand for further development of the capitalist economy, the bourgeoisie desperately needed to explore new markets and find new material-producing areas and investment places, which drove German bourgeoisie to turn their eyes overseas, actively expanding its colonies abroad to meet development needs for its capitalism.  As a late starter of capitalist country, Germany began its colonial expansion in 1880s.  Nearly all seats had been taken when it was ready to take part in the feast of carving up the colonies as one of the imperialistic states.  At that time, Germany only owned a colony of one million square miles, which was one ninth of England’s, and a third of France’s.

 The expansion desire of the bourgeoisie was fueled by the improvement of the national strengthen, which also provided a strong material basis for them to achieve this ambition.  Economic development became the fundamental motivation of foreign policies, impelling German bourgeoisie to seek the status of a world power and carve up the world market.  Therefore, the rapid development of economy not only boosted the formation of German militarism, but also provided good material basis for its development.

As the Germany’s national strength improved in the nineteenth century, many people considered that Germany was getting increasingly stronger because of the implementation of militarism. Therefore, German social and economic growth led to redefining the nation’s attitude towards the army; army became the symbol of the German pride and intense nationalism. The soldiers were the professional custodians of national security and technicians of violence, as well as symbols of power and high social status.  According to an article “Minerva Quarterly Report on Women and the Military” saying that, military at that time, was considered as “the guardian of national identity and state sovereignty condensed”.  Additionally, it played an important role in “defining national interests and behaved as the only institution capable of protecting the society” (Minerava, 6)

The formation of German militarism and the expansion desire of the bourgeoisie led to the First World War which was a messy disaster later, not only having a deep effect on the Germany’s economy , but also on the changing of women’s role.  Nationalism and militarism of Germany exploit gender ideology that “men are portrayed as warrior, chauvinistic, striving for power, driven by bravery, domination, competition, aggression and honor”. On the other hand, “women are portrayed as emotional, domestic, committed, supportive and passive.”  Militarist ideology rests on the gendered propaganda that men’s duty is to protect women and women need to be protected by men. (Minerava, 7) 

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According to an article “Germany-- women status” by Jone Johnson Lewis, he mentioned that before the World War II, Germany had been encouraging women to stick to their traditional role in families; the law of Germany prescribed that women shall be fully responsible for all housework, and cannot work unless there is no conflicts between work and marriage and family obligations, which clearly showed that the government discouraged women participating in work.  However, the war made many German men in working ages get killed or become prisoners, thus Germany was in shortage of male labors and a lot of constructions were needed.  In order to fast recover its national economy, the government encouraged women to have half-day social work.  More and more German women threw over the traditional role of assisting their husband and bringing up children, and found themselves a full-time job as men did.  As a result, German women’s traditional role was overthrown, and their social status was highly improved after the Second World War.

Japanese Militarism

Militarism and fascism can usually be found in a same country.  Japanese militarism is the mixture of the two.  Japan’s the deep tradition of feudalism and autarchy enabled Japan to instill the idea of invasion into its people’s mind, and carry out the general policy of putting military affairs in industrial society, military and foreign relation, thus to build its state system of militarism.

 Militarism had deep influences in the establishment of Japan’s modern industry and the identity of Japanese people.  In order to establish the state system, the Japanese government gave priority to the development of armories, boatyards and railway construction in 1870.  The government also amended the law of population registration to implement the newly released enlistment order.  During the time of the government controlled by shoguns who were the generals in the army, Japanese peasants and the ragtag had no family names, and a same name might be used by many persons in a same village, which brought difficulties to conscription. The new law of population registration required its people to have surnames, thus facilitated conscription and tax payments in commodities. (Bowen)  Therefore, we can see the establishment of Japan’s modern industry and even the identity of its people were driven by militarism. 

When Japan’s military force was unprecedentedly powerful during the Meiji era from September 1868 to July 1912, the Meiji government started to vigorously agitate wars and continued to improve its military force with the ill gains depredated from wars.  For example, the Japanese government used 62.8% war indemnity from China in arms expansion, making it the fourth great power in naval force following UK, France and Russia.( Zhuo,2005)  In addition, masculine identity made the military’s task easier, but it was also another factor pulling in the direction of potentially greater violence later. The late nineteenth-century identification of males with strength, violence and decisiveness gave individual soldiers a powerful, personal incentive to conform to military ideals and do their duty to the point of massacre and gratuitous destruction. (Isabel, 101)  The unsound development of military has pushed Japan’s militarism on the track of aggression and expansion.

During the 300 years before the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Premier Minister of Japan, planned to conquer China based on North Korea.  In July 25, 1927, Premier Minister Tanaka Giichi clearly proposed five-steps to conquer the whole world in his secret memorial to the throne: First, Seize Taiwan; second, capture North Korea; third, hold Manchouli as well as Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia; fourth, take China; lastly, conquer the entire world. (Zhuo, 2005)   The main purpose of this plan was to transfer the whole country from the small island to a continent, which later became known as the “continental” strategy that has been encouraging the Japanese rulers for years and the unswerving aim of Japan’s rulers through the ages.  This plan also put forward fourteen concrete implementation plans in order to rob China’s resources.

In 1920, military extremists started to take control of Japan’s foreign policy.  Since China was torn by revolutions, the Japanese viewed this country and especially its resource-rich region of Manchuria in northeast Asia as a target for expansion.  In the 1920s, the military extremists became distrustful of the civilian government and began to oust civilians from all offices.   The Kwantung Army, stationed on the Kwantung Peninsula (Southern Manchuria), was run by extremist officers who had plans of seizing the whole territory of the region.  Finally, they organized an incident in order to justify the invasion.  A bomb was exploded on the track of the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railway.  Although it caused little damage and no casualties, it was used as a reason to bring in troops to “protect” the railroad.  This aggression was followed by annexing other Chinese provinces and occupying French, English and Southeast Asian colonies.  Later developments led to signing a pact with Germany and Japan’s entry into World War II. (Causton, 436)

Militarism’s Violent Legacy in Today’s World

After the Second World War, all combatants had more or less some problems left over, such as territory issues, war criminals investigation, war reparation between governments, as well as damage indemnities of private associations and individuals.  However, the problems of “comfort women” and raping left over from the aggressive war launched by Japan against China are an impediment to relations of China and Japanese that cannot easily be conquered since there are many debates between both countries.

One of the remaining problems is from the massacre, in which Chinese women were sexually abused by Japanese soldiers.  According to a Anthropology professor Ishida Yuji describe in his article, some of them were raped by one or many Japanese soldiers in turn; some others were forced to be comfort women, sexual slaves of Japanese soldiers.  80,000 women only in Nanjing city of China were sexually assaulted during the months of the Nanjing Massacre, according to the judgment of Far East International Military Court of Justice and the investigation conclusion made by Nanjing Investigation Committee of Enemy’s Crimes. Some of them, including 8-year-old girls and old women over 70 years old, not only have been raped, but also have been cut on the breasts, paunches and finally killed. (Wikipedia) The second problem is the comfort women.  The Japanese government made the system of comfort women, because they concerned that the army might lose battle effectiveness because of the wide spreading of social diseases resulting from rapes, and the large-scale raping would have bad influences on military disciplines and social security, which was unfavorable for long-term ruling of China. 
The damage of biological weapon is another important remaining problem.  Hundreds of victims of the biological wars in Zhejiang province of China handed up a joint indictment to the Japanese embassy in October, 1922, requiring Japan to pay relevant compensations, and in the same time sent representatives to bring the suit to the local court of Tokyo, requiring the Japanese government to pay the compensations, and also submitted a petition to Hashimoto, Premier Minister of Japan, requesting the government to make the data of the biological wars public.  During the war, Japan violated the treaty of forbidding biological weapons, establishing biological troops, preparation shops, human labs and shooting ranges in the zones occupied by them and launching biological wars secretly.  Japan’s Kwantung army conducted the research on biological wars in northeast China after the September 18th Incident, and left a large amount of biological products as well as fleas and mice with viruses in China after they were defeated, as a result of which, some places of China still witnessed infections years later. 


Militarism played an important role both in Germany and in Japan. It manifested very distinctly, affecting all the society classes. The most rapid change that occurred in the German Empire was its economic growth, which was accompanied by industrial development. Germany had limited domestic resources and small home market and strove to expand its influence. It began its colonial expansion in 1880s. Becoming stronger, Germany sought to assert itself as a world power. Rapid development of capitalism contributed to that, boosting the formation of the nation’s militarism. As militaristic ideas got rooted in the society, the army became the symbol of German pride and nationalism. It began to play an important role in defining national interests. Nationalism and militarism used the gender ideology when men were portrayed as a brave chauvinistic class, striving for power and women were shown as domestic, passive and supportive. Before World War II women were encouraged to take care of their homes and raise children but after the beginning of the war when men were enlisted in the army or killed, women became more and more involved in work and their traditional role changed.

Japan’s militarism was deeply rooted in people’s minds. The country changed its laws in order to give priority to the army. The government used 62% of military reparations paid by China to develop its armed forces and weapons. Unhealthy expansion of the Japanese militarism pushed the country to the track of aggression, which was fully supported by the population. Japan invaded China and Korea, annexed parts of their territories and began to exploit China’s natural resources. Besides the acts of military aggression, Japanese soldiers committed many war crimes against civilians that included rape, murders and physical abuse. They also used biological weapons against the Chinese people.

As seen from the examples of those countries, militarism permeated both cultures and deeply affected the two nations. Their rapidly developing economies required new markets and resources that caused them to look for their national interests outside of their borders. The population of both Germany and Japan acted in support of their armies, thus, entrusting them their future. The spirit of militarism influenced both men and women, who had their clearly defined obligations under the existing circumstances.


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