Japan has historically gone through cycles of civilian control to a military-ruled nation. The transitions from the control of the Imperial Government to Military Control were often marked by new land grabs for the Japanese nation. It was the transition to the military “Warlords” that led to Japan’s aggression and involvement in World War II.
Saigo Takamori has been described as the last true Samurai. He was one of the most powerful “Warlords” in Japan before the Meiji Restoration in 1867. His loss of power corresponded with a less expansionist Japan.
The Meiji, or “Enlightened”, Emperor stripped the Samurai of their political powers and formed Japan into an industrialized state.
The modernization of Japan’s Army under European trained men such as Vice Count Kodama Gentaro brought Japan into conflict with Taiwan, Korea, and China.
The return to “Warlord” Control in Japan brought new territories under Japanese control. Korea became an important strategic territory.
Japan took advantage of the first World War to ally with the UK and take German colonies in Asia.
The death of Emperor Meiji led to the rise of his son Taisho. Taisho was a sickly man that led to the more peaceful rise of the Japanese Parliament after WWI.
Along with Emperor Taisho the new Prime Minister Kato Takaaki was able to pass reforms in Japan in the early 1920s expanding civic rights to Japanese men.
The death of Emperor Taisho by heart attack would lead to the reign of Emperor Hirohito, or the Showa Emperor. His rule would last until 1989.
The London Naval Conference of 1930 granted Japan the right to build more heavy cruisers. A move seen by some as easing economic woes during the Great Depression by increasing exports.
Japan’s new military tools only needed the assassination of Japan’s Prime Minister Hamaguchi Osachi to lead the Pacific nation back into “warlord” control by the military and in to an imperialistic expansion in Manchuria.