Why Did Japan Attack Pearl Harbor


Regular Member
Mar 8, 2013
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Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941. While facts of how are widely known, the why question is far more interesting.

While there are many reasons for the attack, most and possibly all of them boil down to Japan’s lack of natural resources. Japan began to rapidly modernize after Commodore Perry ended Japan’s self-isolationist policy in 1853. Shortly thereafter, Tokugawa Shogun was forced to agree to a series of unequal treaties with major Western powers. After the Tokugawa Shogunate had collapsed, the Meiji leaders – starting in the 1870s – began rapid modernization with the aim of liberating Japan from Western yoke.

Yet Japan’s lack of natural resources meant that it could not catch up to West in terms of industrial output. Iron, coal and food were all lacking in supply in Japan itself, forcing it to look abroad. First steps to expansion were conquest of Korea and Manchuria, secured in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-5 and Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5. And at the end of World War I, Japan was recognized as one of great powers by the Treaty of Versailles. During 1920s, Japan continued to industrialize and establish peaceful trading relations with many nations across the world, especially the United States. Much like the period of 1815. – 1914., the 1920s were a time of particularly open and free trade between countries, and all seemed well until the end of the decade.

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