Taiwan under Japanese rule

Japanese Taiwan

Dai-Nippon Teikoku Taiwan
Taiwan (dark red) within the Empire of Japan (light red) at its furthest extent.
Taiwan (dark red) within the Empire of Japan (light red) at its furthest extent.
StatusColony of the Empire of Japan
Common languages
Official language
Other languages
• 1895–1896
Kabayama Sukenori (first)
• 1944–1945
Rikichi Andō (last)
Historical eraEmpire of Japan
April 17 1895
August 15, 1945
October 25 1945
April 28, 1952
194536,023 km2 (13,909 sq mi)
CurrencyTaiwanese yen
ISO 3166 codeTW
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Taiwan under Qing rule
Republic of China
Today part of Republic of China
Part of a series on the
1640 Map of Formosa-Taiwan by Dutch 荷蘭人所繪福爾摩沙-臺灣.jpg
Prehistory to 1624
Dutch Formosa 1624–1662
Spanish Formosa 1626–1642
Kingdom of Tungning 1662–1683
Qing rule 1683–1895
Japanese rule 1895–1945
Republic of China rule 1945–present
Flag of the Republic of China.svg Taiwan portal

Taiwan was under Japanese rule between 1895 and 1945 in which the island of Taiwan (including the Penghu Islands) was a dependency of the Empire of Japan, after Qing dynasty of China lost the First Sino-Japanese War to Japan and ceded Taiwan Province in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The short-lived Republic of Formosa resistance movement ended to no avail when it was suppressed by Japanese troops. The fall of Tainan ended organized resistance to Japanese occupation, and inaugurated five decades of Japanese rule.

The annexation of Taiwan into the Japanese Empire can be viewed as Japan's first steps in implementing their "Southern Expansion Doctrine" of the late 19th century. Taiwan was Japan's first overseas colony. Japanese intentions were to turn the island into a showpiece "model colony".[1] As a result, much effort was made to improve the island's economy, industry and public works, and to change its culture. These efforts also served to support the necessities of the war machine of Japanese military aggression in the Asia-Pacific.

After the defeat and surrender of Japan at the end of World War II, Taiwan was placed under the control of the Republic of China (ROC) with the issuing of General Order No. 1.[2] Japan formally renounced rights to Taiwan in April 1952. The experience of Japanese rule, ROC rule and the February 28 massacre of 1947 continues to affect issues such as Taiwan Retrocession Day, national identity, ethnic identity, and the formal Taiwan independence movement.



Japan had sought to expand its imperial control over Taiwan (formerly known as "Highland nation" (Japanese: 高砂國, Hepburn: Takasago Koku)) since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi undertook a policy of overseas expansion and extending Japanese influence southward.[3] Several attempts to invade Taiwan were unsuccessful, mainly due to disease and armed resistance by aborigines on the island. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Arima Harunobu on an exploratory mission of the island. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.[citation needed]

In November 1871, 69 people on board a vessel from the Kingdom of Ryukyu were forced to land near the southern tip of Taiwan by strong winds. They had a conflict with local Paiwan aborigines and many were killed. In October 1872, Japan sought compensation from the Qing dynasty of China, claiming the Kingdom of Ryukyu was part of Japan. In May 1873, Japanese diplomats arrived in Beijing and put forward their claims, but the Qing government immediately rejected Japanese demands on the ground that the Kingdom of Ryukyu at that time was an independent state and had nothing to do with Japan. The Japanese refused to leave and asked if the Chinese government would punish those "barbarians in Taiwan".[citation needed]

The Qing authorities explained that there were two kinds of aborigines on Taiwan: those directly governed by the Qing, and those unnaturalized "raw barbarians... beyond the reach of Chinese culture. Thus could not be directly regulated." They indirectly hinted that foreigners traveling in those areas settled by indigenous people must exercise caution. The Qing dynasty made it clear to the Japanese that Taiwan was definitely within Qing jurisdiction, even though part of that island's aboriginal population was not yet under the influence of Chinese culture. The Qing also pointed to similar cases all over the world where an aboriginal population within a national boundary was not under the influence of the dominant culture of that country.[4]

The Japanese nevertheless launched an expedition to Taiwan, with a force of 3,000 soldiers in April 1874. In May 1874, the Qing dynasty began to send in troops to reinforce the island. By the end of the year, the government of Japan decided to withdraw its forces after realizing Japan was still not ready for a war with China.[citation needed]

The number of casualties for the Paiwan was about 30, and that for the Japanese was 543 (12 Japanese soldiers were killed in battle and 531 by disease).[citation needed]

Cession of Taiwan (1895)

Painting of Japanese soldiers entering the city of Taipeh (Taipei) in 1895 after the Treaty of Shimonoseki

By the 1890s, about 45 percent of Taiwan was under standard Chinese administration while the remaining lightly populated regions of the interior were under aboriginal control. The First Sino-Japanese War broke out between Qing dynasty China and Japan in 1894 following a dispute over the sovereignty of Korea. Following its defeat, China ceded the islands of Taiwan and Penghu to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, signed on April 17, 1895. According to the terms of the treaty, Taiwan and Penghu (isles between 119˚E-120˚E and 23˚N-24˚N) were to be ceded to Japan in perpetuity. Both governments were to send representatives to Taiwan immediately after signing to begin the transition process, which was to be completed in no more than two months. Because Taiwan was ceded by treaty, the period that followed is referred to by some as the "colonial period", while others who focus on the fact that it was the culmination of a war refer to it as the "occupation period". The cession ceremony took place on board a Japanese vessel because the Chinese delegate feared reprisal from the residents of Taiwan.[5]

Though the terms dictated by Japan were harsh, it is reported[by whom?] that Qing China's leading statesman, Li Hongzhang, sought to assuage Empress Dowager Cixi by remarking: "birds do not sing and flowers are not fragrant on the island of Taiwan. The men and women are inofficious and are not passionate either."[6] The loss of Taiwan would become a rallying point for the Chinese nationalist movement in the years that followed. Arriving in Taiwan, the new Japanese colonial government gave inhabitants two years to choose whether to accept their new status as Japanese subjects, or leave Taiwan.[7]

Early years (1895–1915)

A 1911 map of Japan, including Taiwan
Gotō Shimpei, Chief of Home Affairs, 1896–1918; in the dress of Chief Scout of the Boy Scouts of Japan, c. 1924
Taiwan Grand Shrine, a Shinto shrine constructed in Taipei (then Taihoku) in 1901

The "early years" of Japanese administration on Taiwan typically refers to the period between the Japanese forces' first landing in May 1895 and the Ta-pa-ni Incident of 1915, which marked the high point of armed resistance. During this period, popular resistance to Japanese rule was high, and the world questioned whether a non-Western nation such as Japan could effectively govern a colony of its own. An 1897 session of the Japanese Diet debated whether to sell Taiwan to France.[citation needed] During these years, the post of Governor-General of Taiwan was held by a military general, as the emphasis was on suppression of the insurgency.[citation needed]

In 1898, the Meiji government of Japan appointed Count Kodama Gentarō as the fourth Governor-General, with the talented civilian politician Gotō Shinpei as his Chief of Home Affairs, establishing the carrot and stick approach towards governance that would continue for several years.[7] This marked the beginning of a colonial government (formally known as the Office of the Governor-General) dominated by Japanese, but subject to colonial law.

Japan's approach to ruling Taiwan could be roughly divided into two views. The first, supported by Gotō, held that from a biological perspective, the natives could not be completely assimilated. Thus, Japan would have to follow the British approach, and Taiwan would never be governed exactly the same way as the Home Islands but would be governed under a whole new set of laws. The opposing viewpoint was held by future Prime Minister Hara Takashi, who believed that the Taiwanese and Koreans were similar enough to the Japanese to be fully absorbed into Japanese society, and was thus in favor of using the same legal and governmental approaches on the colonies as those used in the Home Islands.

Colonial policy towards Taiwan mostly followed the approach championed by Gotō during his tenure as Chief of Home Affairs between March 1898 and November 1906, and this approach continued to be in effect until Hara Takashi became prime minister in 1918. During this period, the colonial government was authorized to pass special laws and edicts, while wielding complete executive, legislative, and military power. With this absolute power, the colonial government moved to maintain social stability, while suppressing dissent.

Dōka: "Integration" (1915–1937)

The second period of Japanese rule is generally classified as being between the end of the 1915 Tapani Incident, and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937, which began Japan's involvement in what would become World War II. World events during this period, such as World War I, would drastically alter the perception of colonialism in the Western world, and give rise to growing waves of nationalism amongst colonial natives, as well as the ideas of self determination. As a result, colonial governments throughout the world began to make greater concessions to natives, and colonial governance was gradually liberalized. Taiwan-born Xie Jishi became a first Foreign Minister of Manchukuo.[citation needed][relevant? ]

The political climate in Japan was also undergoing changes during this time. In the mid-1910s the Japanese government had gradually democratized in what is known as the Taishō period (1912–25), where power was concentrated in the elected lower house of the Imperial Diet, whose electorate was expanded to include all adult males by 1925. In 1919, Den Kenjirō was appointed to be the first civilian Governor-General of Taiwan. Prior to his departure for Taiwan, he conferred with Prime Minister Hara Takashi, where both men agreed to pursue a policy of assimilation (同化, dōka), where Taiwan would be viewed as an extension of the Home Islands, and the Taiwanese would be educated to understand their role and responsibilities as Japanese subjects. The new policy was formally announced in October 1919.[citation needed]

This policy was continued by the colonial government for the next 20 years. In the process, local governance was instituted, as well as an elected advisory committee which included locals (though strictly in an advisory capacity), and the establishment of a public school system. Caning was forbidden as a criminal punishment, and the use of the Japanese language was rewarded. This contrasted sharply with the mostly hands off approach taken by previous administrations towards local affairs, where the only government concerns were "railways, vaccinations, and running water".[citation needed]

Chinese diplomacy

The Consulate-General of the Republic of China in Taihoku (modern-day Taipei) was a diplomatic mission of the government of the Republic of China (ROC) that opened April 6, 1931, and closed in 1945 after the handover of Taiwan to the ROC. Even after Formosa had been ceded to Japan by the Qing dynasty, it still attracted many Chinese immigrants after the concession. On May 17, 1930, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Lin Shao-nan to be the Consul-General[8] and Yuan Chia-ta as Deputy Consuls-General.


Taiwanese also had seats in House of Peers.[9] Koo Hsien-jung was nominated by the Emperor in 1934.

Democracy was introduced in response to Taiwanese public opinion. Local assemblies were established in 1935.[10]

Kōminka: "Subjects of the Emperor" (1937–45)

A map of the Japanese Empire, 1939-09-01. Dates shown indicate the approximate year that the Japan gained control of the highlighted territories.

Japanese rule in Taiwan was reinvigorated by the eruption of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and ended along with the Second World War in 1945. With the rise of militarism in Japan in the mid-to-late 1930s, the office of Governor-General was again held by military officers, and Japan sought to use resources and material from Taiwan in the war effort. To this end, the cooperation of the Taiwanese would be essential, and the Taiwanese would have to be fully assimilated as members of Japanese society. As a result, earlier social movements were banned and the Colonial Government devoted its full efforts to the "Kōminka movement" (皇民化運動, kōminka undō), aimed at fully Japanizing Taiwanese society.[7] Between 1936 and 1940, the Kōminka movement sought to build "Japanese spirit" (大和魂, Yamatodamashī) and Japanese identity amongst the populace, while the later years from 1941 to 1945 focused on encouraging Taiwanese to participate in the war effort.

Advertisement of congratulation towards the establishment of the Wang Jingwei regime on Taiwan Nichi Nichi Shimpō

As part of the movement, the Colonial Government began to strongly encourage locals to speak the Japanese language, wear Japanese clothing, live in Japanese-style houses, and convert to Shintoism. In 1940, laws were also passed advocating the adoption of Japanese names. With the expansion of the Pacific War, the government also began encouraging Taiwanese to volunteer for the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy in 1942, and finally ordered a full scale draft in 1945. In the meantime, laws were made to grant Taiwanese membership in the Japanese Diet, which theoretically would qualify a Taiwanese person to become the premier of Japan eventually.

Allied bombing of the Byōritsu oil refinery on Formosa, May 25, 1945

As a result of the war, Taiwan suffered many losses including Taiwanese youths killed while serving in the Japanese armed forces, as well as severe economic repercussions from Allied bombing raids. By the end of the war in 1945, industrial and agricultural output had dropped far below prewar levels, with agricultural output 49% of 1937 levels and industrial output down by 33%. Coal production dropped from 200,000 metric tons to 15,000 metric tons.[11]

Other Languages