Eli5: Why was Japan so strong during ww2…

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Why were they such a huge power compared to the neighbours in the beginning of ww2?

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Long and very complicated story short, the Perry expedition in the 1850s that forcibly opened Japan to the West made Japan as a whole realize that isolation wasn’t going to work. Japan had also seen Western powers walk all over and/or colonize various Asian countries and had no desire to join them.

Cue decades and decades of modernization and Westernization in an attempt to “sit at the big boys table”, so to speak. By 1904 they were capable of taking on a major European power (Russia), and they only kept expanding from there.

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