Why were militarists able to gain and exert so much power in Japan in the 1930’s? Did their control of government make the pacific phase of World War One inevitable?
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They were able to have so much power largely because of the constitution. The military could bring down any government it wanted by having the Army or Navy minister step down. They could simply refuse to appoint another until a government that was to their liking was formed. The Diet had no real control over the cabinet, but the military did. That's a recipe for a rise in militarism.
Japan was going through a transition at that time. They did not fully move to a democratic-like constitutional government until after World War II. At this time, nationalism and militarism took advantage of the instability of transition. The military often come into more power in situations like this.
It was not just top-down, though, Japanese culture had become increasingly militaristic since the late nineteenth century. Japanese leaders (and in this, I suppose it was top-down) had long admired the example of Prussia as an example of how a new, modern state could develop with militarism at its core. Japanese schools reinforced this, as did local authorities. Japan was a militaristic society, not just a government hijacked by a militaristic faction.
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