During Japan's transition from democracy to ultranationalist dictatorship, did they hold up the Nazis as a model, or was that not something they mentioned/thought about?

EDIT: The question wanted for clarity. Let me try again.

The period from 1912 to 1926 is sometimes known as the Taisho democracy. At any rate it was more democratic than 1930s-1945 Japan. Whether you accept that the Taisho period was real democracy or not, its downfall merits an explanation.

Someone objected to my characterisation of wartime Japan as an ultranationalist dictatorship. I think the facts of a genocidal war against the rest of Asia really speak for themselves there, and I have nothing to add to them.

Lastly, Hitler was world famous after the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, and came to power in 1933. The decisive military takeover in Japan happened in 1936 (February 26 Incident). That leaves plenty of time for people to have noticed and reacted to developments in Germany.

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    Ultranationalist dictatorship? Now when did that happen in Japan?
    – Rajib
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 15:21
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    Your original assumption is incorrect. Japan was not a democracy during Meiji restoration, and the military lead governance was already present much longer than Nazism even existed. Also, Japan and Germany's alliance was a rather late bloom, to say it nicely. Germany was China's ally till the beginning of WWII, and German-Japan ties get only strong around that time mainly based on anti-Soviet sentiment.
    – Greg
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 19:02
  • Added more detail to question...
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 19:46
  • Unless you're appropriating the word "genocidal" to mean "generic brutality", I don't think your so-called "facts of a genocidal war" speak for anything but your own biases.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 20:26
  • Ultranationalist - I can agree to an extent, but a dictatorship it was not. The Emperor rarely held any real power, the Prime Minister was subject to resignation from military or social pressures any time, and although the military had a lot of power, power was not concentrated enough for it to be be a dictatorship. Commented May 25, 2017 at 7:41

2 Answers 2


No. The Japanese ideology was very far from that of Nazi Germany nearly in any respect.

  • They officially condemned racism.

  • They declared preference to Asia over Europe.

  • They did not express any notable anti-Semitism and anti-Slavism.

That said, a lot of countries were far from democracy those times, so Japan was not an exception.

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    Can you provide a reference for point 1? Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 20:12
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    @Felix Goldberg From the joint declaration of the Japanese-led Greater East Asia Conference, 1943: "The countries of Greater East Asia will cultivate friendly relations with all the countries of the world, and work for the abolition of racial discrimination, the promotion of cultural intercourse and the opening of resources throughout the world, and contribute thereby to the progress of mankind"
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 23, 2014 at 20:21
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    The Japanese wanted a "racial equality" clause in the League of Nations charter. President Wilson was inclined to include it; until SOUTHERN U.S. Senators objected, because of the "problems" such a declaration would cause at home.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 23:14
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    However, they were racist against their fellow East Asians. Their condemnation of racism basically only meant Western discrimination of Japanese. They especially saw the Chinese as animals, allowing soldiers to slaughter them without blinking. Andrew Gordon on the Nanjing Massacre: "Like soldiers everywhere, they were taught to hate a dehumanized enemy." Commented May 25, 2017 at 7:37

The Japanese were well aware of fascist ideas in the 1930s. They probably were not highly influential during this time period though. The largest reason is that fascism uses a dictator, which would negate the role of the emperor. There were few political parties and organizations that used the label of "fascist" and communism was much more popular among the people as a solution to economic ills.

The changes from the more liberal Taisho democracy that brought them closer to true fascist countries were brought about for a few reasons:

  • A rejection of liberal democracy due to a reaction to communist revolutionaries
  • An attempt to provide a solution to a poor economy by rejecting liberalism and using central planning, which is not unique to only Nazism or fascism
  • An attempt to reclaim Japanese position internationally through promoting national solidarity, traditional culture, and wartime expansion.
  • And lots and lots of assassinations and coups, which directly tore down the Taisho democracy.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Nov 24, 2014 at 10:45

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