chapter  6
22 Pages

An emerging mass society

In Japanese tradition the naming of each new emperor’s reign is meant to signal political leaders’ hopes and expectations for the future. While the designation ‘Meiji’ had foreshadowed the radical innovations to accompany the ‘Enlightenment’ drive of the 1870s and 1880s, naming the new era beginning in 1912  ‘Taishō’ announced a period of rectifi cation and stabilization. Although individual emperors exercised no signifi cant decision-making power, the vigorous Meiji emperor and the mentally and physically weak Taishō emperor have become symbolic of their two reigns. Ambivalence continues in evaluations of the Taishō period (1912-26), and except for domestic political developments, the 1910s and 1920s have not until recently attracted as much scholarly or popular attention as the years of war that followed. Perhaps this relative neglect refl ects past historians’ chief interests in politics and foreign affairs. Although Frederick Dickinson and others have countered its previous undervaluation, Japan’s involvement in the First World War still fades in importance compared to the Second World War, and during the 1920s Japan’s international relations were calm as it pursued policies of cooperation and peace.