About the Japanese Ambition Lesson
A lesson on the causes leading up to the U.S. declaring war on Japan and thus entering World War II. The reading is accompanied by true/false questions.
• To introduce students to the causes of U.S. participation in World War II.
Japan is an island nation located in the Pacific Ocean near the northeast corner of modern China on the Asian continent. Japan is composed of four major islands along with approximately 4,000 small islands. The capital city of Tokyo and other main cities are on the largest island, Honshu. Japan has been ruled by an emperor for centuries. In modern Japan today, the emperor’s position is primarily ceremonial but at the time of World War II in the late 1930s to mid-1940s Emperor Hirohito was indeed the ruler of Japan. The emperor consulted with high ranking governmental advisors and military much as the president of the United States consults with members of the cabinet in major decisions but the final decision was his alone.
The terrain in Japan is mountainous. Honshu is the location of a mountain volcano, the sacred Mount Fuji which is visible from major cities like Tokyo and Yokohama when the weather is clear. Mountainous terrain means that there is not sufficient agricultural land to feed Japan’s growing population; Japan imports food from other countries. Japan also lacks raw material resources and must also import goods to support its manufacturing industries and oil for fuel. These statements were as true during the 1930s and 1940s as they are now. At that time, though, Japan’s solution to these problems was to acquire additional land and resources by territorial expansion. This was the Japanese ambition of the time.