Continental Policy (Japan)

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Land ruled under Empire of Japan

Japan's Continental Policy refers to a Pan-Asian strategy pursued by Japan, especially the Imperial Japanese Army, between the Meiji Restoration and Japan's expansion during World War II.[1][2][3] The policy's major aim was to conquer Japan’s neighboring countries such as Korea and China to dominate East Asia.[4]

Continental Policy before the Meiji Restoration[edit]

There were already thoughts about expansion in Japan before the Meiji Restoration. Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan, had thoughts of ruling the world. Also, Empress Jingū mentioned conquering Samhan.[5]

In the late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi finished unifying Japan and he invaded Korea twice. The aim of the attack was to prepare for conquering China in the future. Although he failed in the end, this action symbolized the starting of Japan's expansion.

In the late Tokugawa shogunate, many advisers had thoughts of conquering different lands and setting up colonies. Honda Toshiaki mentioned that Japan should begin conquering the world and become the world's strongest nation to be their ultimate aim. For this, he suggested they occupy Manchuria, Sakhalin, and Kamchatka Peninsula first, and follow the lead of Europe in setting up overseas colonies.[5][6] Nobuhiro Sato also suggested that the procedure for ruling Asia is to capture Manchuria first, then East Asia, then South Asia. This became the strategy used by Japan in World War II.[6]

Continental Policy after the Meiji Restoration[edit]

In the mid-19th century, Japan had been strengthened by the Meiji Restoration and had built a modernized and centralized Japanese government. The Meiji Government greatly encouraged people to help modernize Japan, setting up industrial enterprises and starting their industrial revolution in mid-1880s. Due to many factors affecting Japan, Japan decided to be a military-based country, creating the Continental Policy.[5]

Japan’s plan and actions[edit]


In 1927, Tanaka Giichi presented the procedures of Continental Policy. The Main idea of Continental Policy is, "If we want to conquer the World, we need to conquer China first. If we want to conquer China, we need to conquer Mongolia and Manchuria first. If we want to conquer Mongolia and Manchuria, we need to conquer Korea and Taiwan first."[7]


  First stage, occupy Taiwan(Formosa)
  Second Stage, occupy Korea
  Third Stage, occupy Manchuria
  Last Stage, occupy China(Failed)

Japan’s first action of invasion was conquering Ryukyu in 1879. Then, Japan won the First Sino-Japanese war and annexed Formosa and Penghu in 1895. Followed by that Japan was building up to be a Puppet state with the excuse of pacifying the Donghak Peasant Revolution. Japan finally occupied Korea in 1910.

In 1932, Japan captured Manchuria and built a Puppet state Manchukuo. Japan attacked China in 1937 and they tried to finish the Continental Policy. But Japan failed to conquer China and had lost in World War II, costing Japan all of her overseas land. This also symbolized the end of Japan’s expansion and the failure of Continental Policy.


  1. ^ Jun, Tsunoda (1967). Manshu Mondai to Kokubo Hoshin (Manchuria Question and Defense Policy) (in Japanese). 
  2. ^ Shinichi, Kitaoka (1978). Nihon rikugun to tairiku seisaku 1906–1918 (in Japanese). 
  3. ^ [1] Shen Yu. 《日本大陸政策史(1868~1945)》. Social science documents publisher. 2005. ISBN 7-80190-629-2.
  4. ^ Zhou Song Lun. 《近代日本的基本國策——大陸政策》. JiangHai Journal. 2004, 01.
  5. ^ a b c Zhao Jie Qi. 《日本軍國主義對外擴張野心的形成與膨脹》. Japan Journal. 2005, 04.
  6. ^ a b Yu Lu. 《近代日本「大陸政策」形成的思想源流》. Mianyang Normal school Journal. 2010, 12.
  7. ^ Katsuji Inahara. Japan's Continental Policy. Foreign Affairs Association of Japan. 1938.