Empire in Asia

A New Global History

Japanese Expansion on the Asiatic Continent, Vol. 1

Book Cover

Book Title

Japanese Expansion on the Asiatic Continent Vol. 1: A Study in the History of Japan with Special Reference to Her International Relations with China, Korea and Russia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1937


Kuno, Yoshi S.


As the first volume of three which will be written on Japanese expansion on the continent of Asia, this volume covers the events until the end of the sixteenth century, when Hideyoshi were attempting to conquer all of Asia. The main topics of discussion of foreign continental invasion of Japan's neighbors had included the mention of Empress Jingo's fictional conquests in the continent. This serves to justify Japan's later bids for conquests.

Exploring the context in which China was in a long-continued period of chaos , Kuno depicts the instability of East Asia. This was a region where great powers; empires in their own right, were competing for influence in the smaller polities. For example, small states in Korea had to send envoys with tribute to both China and Japan, thus pledging their loyalty to both. Unfortunately, these chaotic conditions in Eastern Asia had made it possible for Japan to establish and maintain her authority in South Korea for nearly three hundred years.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

The time period of the study is terminated in the sixteenth century, in order to establish the focus largely on the early national expansion of Japan, ending in the seventh century A.D., the national unification and international relations of China, Japan and Korea (7th-14th centuries) and the national unification of Japan and the Asiatic conquest.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

One of the reasons given by the author to signify that the military organization of Japan is highly centralized is because command of the imperial army had never been entrusted to any but persons of royal blood. Hence, the Japanese army was transformed into one of the strongest military powers in Asia by the fourth and early fifth centuries. However, because of the increase of national wealth and the advent of the easy, luxurious mode of living of the continent, and since warfare was conducted away from home, across the water in Korea, the emperor had begun to take less interest in military affairs. In consequence, military authority was delegated by the throne to powerful families.

The author attempts to bring some historical arguments about the early history of Japan into light. He highlights the difficulty in corroborating different sources of Japanese history in Korean, Japanese and Chinese sources. While Empress Jingo had indeed led the first conquest of Korea, represented by the Shinra kingdom, it remains probable that the Japanese crossed the water and made numerous inroads with varying success upon the kingdoms in Korea.

Annotated by Michelle Djong