The Expansion of Japanese Rule [Excerpt]
WITHIN the recollection of men still alive, Japan has evolved from a small feudal principality voluntarily shut off from the rest of the world to the status of a Great Power whose influence is felt in every quarter of the globe. Seventy years ago Japan had a population of 33 million. The present Japanese Empire, excluding Manchuria, has 92 million subjects, a total surpassed only by the United States, the British Empire, Russia and China.
The Consolidation of Japan Proper. At the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 Japan consisted of the four large islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, and a peripheral zone of 4,068 islets. The total land area was 146,689 square miles. The country was economically self-sufficient; and the population, some 30 million, had been stationary for a century and a half.
The first instances of expansion should be regarded as the realization of nominal claims of sovereignty. In 1875 the Kuriles, a chain of thirty islands lying to the northeast, were formally annexed (see map). The islands had and still have a primitive economy, furs and fish being the principal exports. Two years later Japan acquired the Bonin Islands after a period of contested ownership with the United States. These are a group of 27 islands, with a population of 5,000 souls; they have a vegetation of tropical luxuriance and possess many valuable woods. (The adjoining Volcano Islands were annexed in 1891.) In 1879 the LuChus were annexed by virtue of Japan's position as feudal overlord. The LuChus form an archipelago of 55 islands. The soil is fertile, and crops are fairly diversified, sugar cane being the most important. The people are of the same racial stock as the Japanese.
Formosa (Taiwan) was acquired from China in 1895 as a result of the Sino-Japanese War. This is a tropical island situated a hundred miles off the Asiatic coast, with a land area of 13,840 square miles. It is Japan's tropical storehouse par excellence. Tea, rice, lumber and sugar are produced in abundance, sugar being considered the most important forRead the full article on ForeignAffairs.com