Why did Japan want to expand their empire in Asia?

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Japan began to become more imperialist after it modernized in the mid- to late-1800s. The history of modern Japan begins in 1853, when the American naval commander Matthew Perry arrived in Japan and, a year later, forced the Japanese to open their ports.

Japan had formerly been isolationist, and the...

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Japan began to become more imperialist after it modernized in the mid- to late-1800s. The history of modern Japan begins in 1853, when the American naval commander Matthew Perry arrived in Japan and, a year later, forced the Japanese to open their ports.

Japan had formerly been isolationist, and the nation began to fear being overrun by the Americans and other westerners, as was happening to China. To prevent this fate, Japan began an imperialist policy and fought the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, in which it acquired Korea as a tributary state (Japan later annexed Korea). Later, in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, Japan gained control over the Chinese territory of Manchuria, among other territories.

In addition, as the nation industrialized, Japan needed materials. A small island nation, Japan needed raw materials for its growing industries, including rubber and oil. Japan imported about 90% of its oil. When the US imposed an embargo on Japan in 1941, the Japanese decided to attack Pearl Harbor to gain access to the materials it needed.

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The nineteenth century was an era of intense colonial competition throughout Africa and Asia. European nations—especially Britain and France—were ruthlessly expanding their political and economic influence. One victim of this aggression was Japan's neighbor, China. Japan faced an existential threat, so it decided to Westernize and emulate the colonial powers by expanding in Asia. Japan's empire was built for political, economic, territorial, and military reasons.

China was also victimized by Japan when the latter annexed the Ryukyu Islands in 1879. Japan defeated China in the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) and gained territory and economic privileges from China. That war was fought over Korea; Japan wanted to control Korea because of its proximity to the Japanese mainland. Japan joined other foreign nations in carving up China into zones of influence.

After securing Korea, Japan fought a war with Russia over Manchuria. Japan defeated Russia in 1905. This victory showed that Japan was equally powerful as the West. In World War I, Japan joined the Allies and gained some small territories in Asia.

Japan's success at becoming an imperial power only whetted its appetite for further conquests. This would eventually contribute to World War II and utter Japanese defeat.

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First, please note that we cannot actually write essays for you here on eNotes.  Instead, we can give you information that can help you write your own essay

There are two main reasons why Japan wanted to expand their empire in Asia in the time before WWII. 

Reason 1: Resources.  Japan does not have that many resources on its own territory.  It is made up of islands that are fairly large, but are also very mountainous.  There is not much room for farming.  There are not many deposits of any important minerals.  There is no oil.  This meant that Japan had to rely on imports for things like iron and oil that a country needs in order to have a modern economy and a modern military.  Japan did not want to rely on imports.  It felt other countries could cut off those imports and strangle it.  Japanese leaders felt that an empire would help them because they could get various resources from the places they conquered instead of having to import them from independent foreign countries.

Reason 2: Prestige.  Japan wanted other countries (particularly the US and the main European powers) to admit that Japan was a world power.  They wanted to be important and to have everyone know they were important.  After all, Russia had an empire and they had defeated Russia in a war. They saw that every major power in the world had an empire.  This made them think that they needed their own empire.  They did not think that they would seem important if they did not have an empire.  By taking an empire, they felt, they would make everyone realize that they were a major power in the world.

These are the two main reasons why Japan wanted to expand their empire.  Take these facts and use them to write the body of your essay.  Be sure to add an introduction and conclusion.

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