Last updated
Japanese expansion in the Asia-Pacific after KANTOKUEN was cancelled Second world war asia 1937-1942 map en6.png
Japanese expansion in the Asia-Pacific after KANTOKUEN was cancelled

Nanshin-ron (南進論, "Southern Expansion Doctrine" or "Southern Road") was a political doctrine in the Empire of Japan which stated that Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands were Japan's sphere of interest and that the potential value to the Japanese Empire for economic and territorial expansion in those areas was greater than elsewhere.


The opposing political doctrine was Hokushin-ron (北進論, "Northern Expansion Doctrine") largely supported by the Imperial Japanese Army, which stated the same except with regards to Manchuria and Siberia. After the military setbacks at Nomonhan on Mongolian front, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and negative Western attitudes towards Japanese expansionist tendencies, the Southern Expansion Doctrine became predominant. Its focus was to procure colonial resources in South East Asia and neutralize the threat posed by Western military forces in the Pacific. The Army favored a "counterclockwise strike" while the Navy favored a "clockwise strike". [1]

Meiji-period genesis

In Japanese historiography the term nanshin-ron is used to describe Japanese writings on the importance to Japan of the South Seas region in the Pacific Ocean. [2] Japanese interest in Southeast Asia can be observed in writings of the Edo period (17th–19th centuries). [3]

During the final years of the Edo period the leaders of the Meiji Restoration determined that Japan needed to pursue a course of imperialism in emulation of the European nations to attain equality in status with the West as the European powers were laying claim to territories ever closer to Japan.

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the nanshin-ron policy came to be advanced with the southern regions as a focus for trade and emigration. [3] In the early Meiji period Japan derived economic benefits from Japanese emigrants to Southeast Asia, the vast majority of whom were prostitutes ( Karayuki-san ) [4] who worked in brothels in British Malaya, [5] Singapore, [6] the Philippines, [7] the Dutch East Indies [8] and French Indochina. [9] Nanshin-ron was advocated as a national policy by a group of Japanese ideologues during the 1880s and 1890s. [10] Writings of the time often presented areas of Micronesia and Southeast Asia as uninhabited or uncivilised and suitable for Japanese colonisation and cultivation. [11] In its initial stages Nanshin-ron focused primarily on Southeast Asia, and until the late 1920s it concentrated on gradual and peaceful Japanese advances into this region to address what the Japanese saw as the twin problems of underdevelopment and Western colonialism. [12] During the first decade of the 20th century, private Japanese companies became active in trade in Southeast Asia. Communities of emigrant Japanese merchants arose in many areas, selling sundry goods to local customers, and Japanese imports of rubber and hemp increased. [4] Large-scale Japanese investment occurred especially in rubber, copra and hemp plantations in Malaya and in Mindanao in the southern Philippines. The Japanese Foreign Ministry established consulates in Manila (1888), Singapore (1889), and Batavia (1909).

With increasing Japanese industrialization came the realization that Japan was dependent on the supply of many raw materials from overseas locations outside its direct control, and was hence vulnerable to disruption of that supply. The need to promote trade, develop and protect sea routes, and to officially encourage emigration to ease overpopulation arose simultaneously with the strengthening of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which gave Japan the military strength to protect these overseas interests should diplomacy fail.

Pacific islands

The Japanese government began pursuing a policy of overseas migration in the late nineteenth century as a result of Japan's limited resources and increasing population. In 1875 Japan declared its control over the Bonin Islands. [10] The formal annexation and incorporation of the Bonin Islands and Taiwan into the Japanese Empire can be viewed as first steps in implementation of the "Southern Expansion Doctrine" in concrete terms.

However, World War I had a profound impact on the "Southern Expansion Doctrine". Japan was able to occupy the vast areas in the Pacific formerly controlled by the German Empire: i.e. the Caroline Islands, Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands and Palau. In 1919, these island groups officially became a League of Nations mandate of Japan and came under the administration of the Imperial Japanese Navy. The focus of the "Southern Expansion Doctrine" expanded to include these island groups (the South Seas Mandate), the economic and military development of which came to be viewed as essential to Japan's security.

Theoretical development

Meiji-period nationalistic researchers and writers pointed to Japan's relations with the Pacific region from the 17th-century red seal ship trading voyages, and Japanese immigration and settlement in Nihonmachi during the period before the Tokugawa shogunate's national seclusion policies. Some researchers attempted to find archeological or anthropological evidence of a racial link between the Japanese of southern Kyūshū (i.e. the Kumaso) and the peoples of the Pacific islands.

Nanshin-ron appeared in Japanese political discourse around the mid 1880s. [13] In the late 19th century the policy focused on adjacent China [14] with an emphasis on securing control of Korea and expanding Japanese interests in Fujian. Russian involvement in Manchuria at the turn of the century led to the policy being eclipsed by hokushin-ron (the "Northern Expansion Doctrine"). The resulting Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05 produced territorial gains for Japan in South Manchuria. [15] Following the war the expansionist aspects of nanshin-ron became more developed, and it was incoroporated into national defence strategy in 1907. [16]

In the 1920s and 1930s, the "Southern Expansion Doctrine" gradually came to be formalized, largely through the efforts of the Imperial Japanese Navy's "South Strike Group", a strategic think tank based in the Taihoku Imperial University in Taiwan. Many professors at the university were either active or ex-Navy officers, with direct experience in the territories in question. The university published numerous reports promoting the advantages of investment and settlement in the territories under Navy control.

The Anti-London Treaty Faction (han-johaku ha) of the Treaty Faction within the Japanese Navy set up a "Study Committee for Policies towards the South Seas" (Tai Nan'yō Hōsaku Kenkyū-kai) to explore military and economic expansion strategies, and cooperated with the Ministry of Colonial Affairs (Takumu-sho) to emphasize the military role of Taiwan and Micronesia as advanced bases for further southern expansion.

Economic development

During 1920 the Foreign Ministry convened the Nan-yo Boeki Kaigi (South Seas Trade Conference), to promote South Seas commerce and published in 1928 Boeki, Kigyo oyobi imin yori mitaru Nan'yo (The South Seas in view of Trade and emigration). The term Nan-yo kokusaku (National Policy towards the South Seas) first appeared.

The Japanese government sponsored several companies, including the Nan'yō Takushoku Kabushiki Kaisha (South Seas Colonization Company), the Nan'yō Kōhatsu Kabushiki Kaisha (South Seas Development Company), the Nan'yō Kyōkai (South Seas Society), and others with a mixture of private and government funds for development of phosphate mining, sugar cane and coconut industries in islands and to sponsor emigrants. (Japanese Societies) were established in Rabaul, New Caledonia, Fiji and New Hebrides in 1932 and in Tonga in 1935.

The success of the Navy in the economic development of Taiwan and the South Seas Mandate through alliances among military officers, bureaucrats, capitalists, and right-wing and left-wing intellectuals contrasted sharply with Army failures in the Chinese mainland.

Increasing militarization

The Washington Naval Treaty had restricted the size of the Japanese Navy, and had also stipulated that new military bases and fortifications could not be established in overseas territories or colonies. However, by the 1920s, Japan had already begun the secret construction of fortifications in Palau, Tinian and Saipan.

In order to evade monitoring by the Western powers, they were camouflaged as places to dry fishing nets or coconut, rice or sugar-cane farms and Nan'yō Kohatsu Kaisha (South Seas Development Company) in cooperation with the Navy assumed responsibility for construction.

This construction increased after the even more restrictive London Naval Treaty of 1930, and the growing importance of military aviation led Japan to view Micronesia to be of strategic importance as a chain of "unsinkable aircraft carriers", protecting Japan, and as a base of operations for operations in south-west Pacific.

The Navy also began examining the strategic importance of Papua and New Guinea to Australia, aware that Australian annexation of those territories was motivated in large part in the attempted to secure an important defense line.

Adoption as national policy

In 1931 the "Five Ministers Meeting" defined the Japanese objective of extending its influence in the Pacific, but excluded areas such as the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Java which might provoke other countries. [4] Nanshin-ron became official policy after 1935. [16] It was officially adopted as national policy with the promulgation of the Toa shin Chitsujo (New Order in East Asia) from 1936 at the "Five Ministers Conference" (attended by the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Finance Minister, Army Minister and Navy Minister), with the resolution to advance south peacefully.

By World War II, the policy had evolved in scope to include Southeast Asia. [16] The Doctrine also formed part of the doctrinal basis of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere proclaimed by Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro from July 1940. Resource-rich areas of Southeast Asia were earmarked to provide raw materials for Japan's industry, and the Pacific Ocean was to become a "Japanese lake". In September 1940, Japan occupied northern French Indochina, and in November, the Pacific Islands Bureau (Nan'yō Kyoku) was established by the Foreign Ministry. While the events of the Pacific War from December 1941 overshadowed further development of the "Southern Expansion Doctrine", the Greater East Asia Ministry was created in November 1942, and a Greater East Asia Conference was held in Tokyo in 1943. During the war, the bulk of Japan's diplomatic efforts remained directed at Southeast Asia. The "Southern Expansion Doctrine" was brought to an end by the Japanese surrender in World War II.

See also

Related Research Articles

Federated States of Micronesia Country in the western Pacific

The Federated States of Micronesia is an independent republic associated with the United States. It consists of four states – from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae – that are spread across the Western Pacific Ocean. Together, the states comprise around 607 islands that cover a longitudinal distance of almost 2,700 km (1,678 mi) just north of the equator. They lie northeast of New Guinea, south of Guam and the Marianas, west of Nauru and the Marshall Islands, east of Palau and the Philippines, about 2,900 km (1,802 mi) north of eastern Australia, 3,400 km southeast of Japan, and some 4,000 km (2,485 mi) southwest of the main islands of Hawaii.

History of the Federated States of Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia are located on the Caroline Islands in the western Pacific Ocean. The history of the modern Federated States of Micronesia is one of settlement by Micronesians; colonization by Spain, Germany, and Japan; United Nations trusteeship under United States-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands; and gradual independence beginning with the ratification of a sovereign constitution in 1979.

Micronesia Subregion of Oceania

Micronesia is a subregion of Oceania, composed of thousands of small islands in the western Pacific Ocean. It has a close shared cultural history with two other island regions: Polynesia to the east and Island Melanesia to the south; as well as with the wider Austronesian peoples.

Palau Island country in the western Pacific Ocean

Palau, officially the Republic of Palau, is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. The country contains approximately 340 islands, and together with parts of the Federated States of Micronesia, forms the western chain of the Caroline Islands. Its area is 466 square kilometers (180 sq mi). The most populous island is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with the Philippines, Indonesia, and Micronesia.

Imperial General Headquarters Part of the Supreme War Council of Japan

The Imperial General Headquarters was part of the Supreme War Council and was established in 1893 to coordinate efforts between the Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy during wartime. In terms of function, it was approximately equivalent to the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Imperial Japanese Navy Naval branch of the Empire of Japan

The Imperial Japanese Navy was the navy of the Empire of Japan from 1868 until 1945, when it was dissolved following Japan's surrender in World War II. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) was formed circa 1952-1954 after the dissolution of the IJN.

Japanese nationalism Political ideology

Japanese nationalism is the nationalism that asserts that the Japanese are a monolithic nation with a single immutable culture, and promotes the cultural unity of the Japanese. It encompasses a broad range of ideas and sentiments harbored by the Japanese people over the last two centuries regarding their native country, its cultural nature, political form and historical destiny. It is useful to distinguish Japanese cultural nationalism from political or state-directed nationalism, since many forms of cultural nationalism, such as those associated with folkloric studies, have been hostile to state-fostered nationalism.

South Seas Mandate former country

The South Seas Mandate, officially the Mandate for the German Possessions in the Pacific Ocean lying North of the Equator, was a League of Nations mandate in the "South Seas" given to the Empire of Japan by the League of Nations following World War I. The mandate consisted of islands in the north Pacific Ocean that had been part of German New Guinea within the German colonial empire until they were occupied by Japan during World War I. Japan governed the islands under the mandate as part of the Japanese colonial empire until World War II, when the United States captured the islands. The islands then became the United Nations-established Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands governed by the United States. The islands are now part of Palau, Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Marshall Islands.

Nanyō Kōhatsu Japanese strategic development company

The Nan'yō Kōhatsu kabushiki gaisha, also known the South Seas Development Company, was a Japanese strategic development company which aimed to promote economic development and Japanese political interests in Micronesia and Southeast Asia.

The Yoshida Doctrine was a strategy adopted by Japan after World War II under Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, the country's first post-war prime minister, in which economics was to be concentrated upon reconstructing Japan's domestic economy while the security alliance with the United States would be the guarantor of Japanese security. The Yoshida Doctrine shaped Japanese foreign policy throughout the Cold War era and beyond.

Hideo Iwakuro Japanese general

Hideo Iwakuro was a major general in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. He is also known as one of the founders of the Kyoto Sangyo University.

The Ministry of Colonial Affairs was a cabinet-level government ministry of the Empire of Japan from 1929 to 1942.

Look East policy (India) Indias foreign policy to deal with South-East Asian nations.

India's Look East policy is an effort to cultivate extensive economic and strategic relations with the nations of Southeast Asia to bolster its standing as a regional power and a counterweight to the strategic influence of the People's Republic of China. Initiated in 1991, it marked a strategic shift in India’s perspective of the world. It was developed and enacted during the government of Prime Minister Narsimha Rao (1991–1996) and rigorously pursued by the successive administrations of Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998–2004) and Manmohan Singh (2004–2014).

Haruji Matsue Japanese businessman

Haruji Matsue was a Japanese entrepreneur and the first person to manufacture the sugar cube in Japan. His brother, Major General Toyohisa Matsue was commandant of the Bandō prisoner-of-war camp in World War I.

String of Pearls (Indian Ocean) Chinese naval strategy

The String of Pearls is a geopolitical theory on potential Chinese intentions in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). It refers to the network of Chinese military and commercial facilities and relationships along its sea lines of communication, which extend from the Chinese mainland to Port Sudan in the Horn of Africa. The sea lines run through several major maritime choke points such as the Strait of Mandeb, the Strait of Malacca, the Strait of Hormuz, and the Lombok Strait as well as other strategic maritime centers in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Somalia.

Japanese colonial empire empire

The Japanese colonial empire constituted the overseas colonies established by Imperial Japan in the Western Pacific and East Asia region from 1895. Victories over China and Russia expanded the Japanese sphere of influence, notably in Taiwan and Korea, and southern Sakhalin became a colony of Japan as the Karafuto Prefecture in 1905.

Nanyo Kohatsu Kabushiki Kaisha Sugar Mill United States historic place

The Nan'yō Kōhatsu Kabushiki Kaisha Sugar Mill is a former industrial facility in the village of Songsong on the island of Rota in the Northern Mariana Islands. Its ruins are a significant reminder of the South Seas Mandate period, when Imperial Japan engaged in large-scale sugar cane farming in the Northern Marianas, and are the only brick structure in the Northern Marianas. The sugar mill on Rota was one of the major installations of the Nan'yō Kōhatsu Kabushiki Kaisha, the Japanese company responsible for economic development of the mandate area. The remnants of this sugar mill, all that survived the Allied capture of Rota during World War II, are located on the north side of the peninsula that projects southwest from Songsong, and consist of fragments of brick and concrete structures. The most impressive single element is a brick and concrete tunnel 42.5 metres (139 ft) long, from which openings lead to the locations of other parts of the once-extensive complex.

Karayuki-san Trafficked women in the 19th and 20th centuries

Karayuki-san was the name given to Japanese girls and women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who were trafficked from poverty-stricken agricultural prefectures in Japan to destinations in East Asia, Southeast Asia, Siberia, Manchuria, and British India to serve as prostitutes.


Hokushin-ron was a pre-World War II political doctrine of the Empire of Japan which stated that Manchuria and Siberia were Japan's sphere of interest and that the potential value to Japan for economic and territorial expansion in those areas was greater than elsewhere. Its supporters were sometimes called the Strike North Group. It enjoyed wide support within the Imperial Japanese Army during the interwar period, but was abandoned in 1939 after military defeat on the Mongolian front at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol and the signing of Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact in 1941. It was superseded by the diametrically-opposite rival policy, Nanshin-ron, which regarded Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands as Japan's political and economic sphere of influence and aimed to acquire the resources of European colonies while neutralising the threat of Western military forces in the Pacific.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the 1870s, failed in engage in significant expansion. This was due in part to the domestic turmoils such as peasant and samurai uprisings faced by the nascent Meiji government and financial difficulties, as acquiring a large navy was an expensive proposition. Consequently, the IJN concentrated on developing its officer corps and the training of its personnel. However, in the early 1880s, in the aftermath of the Imo Incident in 1882 and with internal threats to its security eliminated, the Meiji government undertook the first significant naval expansion in Japan's history. The IJN developed plans for the expansion of the fleet to forty-two vessels, thirty-two of which would have to be newly constructed. Between 1882–1884, twelve new vessels were purchased or put under construction. Spurred on by anxieties over China, Japanese military expenditures grew steadily in the 1880s. In 1880 the share of military spending had amounted to 19 percent of total government expenditures, in 1886 it had risen to 25 percent and by 1890 it stood at 31 percent.


  1. "Centrifugal Offensive". The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
  2. Wong Lin Ken (June 1981). "Reviewed Work: Southeast Asia in Modern Japanese Thought: The Development and Transformation of "Nanshin Ron" by Shimizu Hajime". Contemporary Southeast Asia. 3 (1): 94–96. JSTOR   25797650.
  3. 1 2 Mendl, Wolf (2001). Japan and South East Asia: From the Meiji Restoration to 1945. 1. Taylor & Francis. p. 11–12. ISBN   9780415182058.
  4. 1 2 3 Matthiessen, Sven (2015). Japanese Pan-Asianism and the Philippines from the Late Nineteenth Century to the End of World War II: Going to the Philippines Is Like Coming Home?. Brill's Japanese Studies Library. BRILL. p. 16. ISBN   9789004305724.
  5. Shimizu, Hiroshi (1997). "Karayuki‐san and the Japanese economic advance into British Malaya, 1870–1920". Asian Studies Review. 20 (3): 107–132. doi:10.1080/03147539708713130.
  6. Warren, James Francis (1989). "Karayuki-San of Singapore: 1877–1941". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. 62 (2): 45–80. JSTOR   41493135.
  7. Terami-Wada, M (1986). "Karayuki-san of Manila: 1890-1920". Philippine Studies. 34 (3): 287–316. JSTOR   42632950.
  8. Japanese Commodities and Formation of Japan Imagery in Colonial Indonesia: The Case Study of Jintan Pills and Its Trademark (PDF) (Dissertation). Keio University Graduate School of Sociology. 2017. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  9. Warren, James Francis (2003). Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940. NUS Press. p. 86. ISBN   9789971692674.
  10. 1 2 Yamashita, Bosco (2004). The Making of Anthropology in East and Southeast Asia. Berghahn Books. p. 96. ISBN   9781571812599.
  11. Nanyo-orientalism. Cambria Press. p. 5. ISBN   9781621968689.
  12. Lindblad, J. Th.; Post, Peter (2014). Indonesian Economic Decolonization in Regional and International Perspective. Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. Volume 267. BRILL. p. 63. ISBN   9789004253780.
  13. Kikuchi, Yuko (2007). Refracted Modernity: Visual Culture and Identity in Colonial Taiwan. University of Hawaii Press. p. 75. ISBN   9780824830502.
  14. Ramcharan, Robin (2002). Forging a Singaporean Statehood, 1965–1995: The Contribution of Japan. International Law in Japanese Perspective. Volume 9. Martinus Nijhoff. p. 75. ISBN   9789041119520.
  15. Kokubun, Ryosei; Soeya, Yoshihide; Takahara, Akio; Kawashima, Shin (2017). Japan–China Relations in the Modern Era. Taylor & Francis. p. 10–11. ISBN   9781351857949.
  16. 1 2 3 Ramcharan 2002, p. 75.