“Defining the Empire of Japan during the 19th Century: The Role of Ogasawara Islands”

During the 19th century, Asia was impacted greatly with the spread of Western imperialism into the region. One of the outcomes of this intrusion was that Japan became not only an imperialistic nation but also a global power. Indeed, the major changes brought about by the Meiji Revolution in 1868 propelled this development, but even prior, the Japanese leadership understood the global development and what Western imperialism meant. Pre- and post-1868 Japanese leaders knew that Japan could face the chaos found in India and China that was brought about by Western imperialism. They knew that their sovereignty was at stake, meaning survival of their country.  In order to prevent losing their sovereignty and being dominated by Western nations, Meiji leaders instituted various reforms including those in politics, economy, education and diplomacy. Furthermore, the Meiji leaders understood that empire was one of the pillars of Western imperialism, and thus, defining the Japanese borders was of paramount importance.

This paper explores the Meiji government’s effort to define the borders of Japan, and in particular, examine the process of claiming the Ogasawara Islands. This paper will show that the Ogasawara Islands were high on the Meiji government’s priority, since the Meiji leaders understood the developments in the Pacific and knew of the United States’s intention of annexing the islands. Thus, this paper will argue that Japan was keenly interested in the Pacific and had become an empire in the Pacific during early Meiji Japan.

Dr. Roy S Hanashiro, Professor of History
University of Michigan-Flint

About the presenter:
Hanashiro.JPGProfessor Roy S. Hanashiro received his Ph.D. in Japanese history from the University of Hawaii in 1988. Since 1989, he has been at the History Department at the University of Michigan-Flint, where he is a professor and chair of the department. His major area of research is Meiji Japan, and presently, he is examining the formation of the Japanese empire during the Meiji period. He has been involved with the Japan Center for Michigan Universities since 1989 and has continuously served as the campus representative for UM-Flint.

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