Japanization or Japanisation is the process by which Japanese culture dominates, assimilates, or influences other cultures. According to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, "To japanize" means "To make or become Japanese in form, idiom, style, or character".[1]

"Japanization" is also an economic term used to describe a situation when a country's economy falls into a sustained period of stagnant growth and price deflation, in reference to the problems that have plagued Japan's economy since the early 1990s.[2][3][4]

Imperial period

Chinese name
Traditional Chinese皇民化運動
Simplified Chinese皇民化运动
Literal meaningmovement to make people become subjects of the emperor
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese日本化運動
Simplified Chinese日本化运动
Literal meaningmovement to make something more Japanese
Korean name
황민화운동 (alt.)
皇民化運動 (alt.)
Japanese name
皇民化運動 (alt.)
こうみんかうんどう (alt.)

During the pre-imperial (pre-1868) period, a peaceful diplomacy was practiced, during which Japan did not expand much in territories beyond its own islands.

In the context of World War II, Japanization has a negative meaning because of military conquests and forced introduction of Japanese culture in conquered areas.


After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Japan began to follow the way of western imperialism and expansionism. In 1879, Japan officially annexed the Ryūkyū Kingdom, which was a tributary kingdom of both the Qing dynasty and the Empire of Japan.

Though the Ryukyuan languages belong to the Japonic language family, the Japanese language is not intelligible to monolingual speakers of the Ryukyuan languages. The Japanese government regarded the Ryukyuan languages as dialects, and began to promote a language "standardization" program. In schools, "standard" Japanese was promoted, and portraits of the Japanese Emperor and Empress were introduced in classrooms. Many high-ranking Japanese military officers went to inspect Okinawan schools to ensure that the Japanization was functioning well in the education system. This measure did not meet expectations in the beginning, partly because many local children's shares of their heavy family labor impeded their presence in schools, and partly because people of the old Okinawan leading class received a more Chinese-style education and were not interested in learning "standard" Japanese. To promote assimilation, the Japanese government also discouraged some local customs.[5]

Initially the local people resisted these assimilation measures. But after China was defeated in the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, people lost confidence in China, and the resistance to Japanization became weaker, though it did not disappear. Men and women began to adopt more Japanese-styled names.[5]


Main article: Taiwan under Japanese rule

Taiwan was ceded to the Empire of Japan in 1895 as a result of the First Sino-Japanese War. At the start, Taiwan was governed rather like a colony. In 1936, after the arrival of the 17th governor-general, Seizō Kobayashi, there was a change in the Japanese governance in Taiwan.

Kobayashi was the first non-civilian governor-general since 1919. He proposed three principles of the new governance: the Kōminka movement (皇民化運動), industrialization, and making Taiwan a base for southward expansion.[6]

"Kōminka" literally means "to make people subjects of the emperor". The program had three components. First, the "national language movement" (国語運動, kokugo undō) promoted the Japanese language by teaching Japanese instead of Taiwanese Hokkien in the schools and by banning the use of Taiwanese Hokkien in the press. Second, the "name changing program" (改姓名, kaiseimei) replaced Taiwanese's Chinese names with Japanese names. Finally, the "volunteers' system" (志願兵制度, shiganhei seidō) drafted Taiwanese subjects into the Imperial Japanese Army and encouraged them to die in the service of the emperor.[7]


Main article: Korea under Japanese rule

See also: Sōshi-kaimei

Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo 1940.1.1

In Korea, during the Second World War, the use of written Korean in education and publications was banned by the Empire of Japan. The use of the Korean language was banned in schools after 1937 as part of the naisen-ittai program, along with the teaching of Japanese language and culture in schools instead of Korean culture and history. During this period, Koreans were forced to change their family name to a Japanese one.

As part of a cultural genocide of Korean culture, the Japanese authorities in Korea forced the Koreans to adopt Japanese names and identify as such.


  1. ^ "Japanization – definition of Japanization by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language".
  2. ^ What the Japanization of the World Economy means for Stocks, Bonds, and Commodities
  3. ^ Japanization: Is This the New Reality for the Global Economy?
  4. ^ Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan's Lost Decades (Bloomberg)
  5. ^ a b "JPRI Occasional Paper No. 8". Archived from the original on June 30, 2019. Retrieved February 8, 2008.
  6. ^ 第一節 皇民化運動
  7. ^ Ching, Leo T. S. (2001). Becoming "Japanese": Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 93–95. ISBN 0-520-22553-8.

See also