Imperial Japanese Armed Forces

The Imperial Japanese Armed Forces (IJAF) were the combined military forces of the Japanese Empire. Formed during the Meiji Restoration in 1868,[1] they were disbanded in 1947, shortly after Japan's defeat to the Allies of World War II; the renewed Constitution of Japan, drafted during the Allied occupation of Japan, replaced the IJAF with the present-day Japan Self-Defense Forces.[2]

Imperial Japanese Armed Forces
Founded3 January 1868[1]
Disbanded3 May 1947
Service branches Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Navy
HeadquartersImperial General Headquarters
Emperor of JapanMeiji (1868–1912)
Taishō (1912–1926)
Hirohito (1926–1947)
Related articles
HistoryMilitary history of Japan
RanksArmy ranks
Navy ranks

The Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy functioned as the IJAF's primary service branches, with the country's aerial power being split between the Army Air Service under the former and the Navy Air Service under the latter.


The IJAF was founded with an edict emanated on 3 January 1868, as part of the Japanese reorganization of the army and the application of innovations during the Meiji Restoration. The reorganization of the army and the navy during the Meiji period boosted Japanese military strength, allowing the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy to achieve major victories, such as during the First Sino-Japanese war and the Russo-Japanese War.

The IJAF also served in WW1 and WW2. It was operational until the Surrender of Japan after World War II in 1947.[1]


During the pre-war era the army and navy had separate school branches.[3] Since the Meiji era, the Choshu Domain from Yamaguchi Prefecture dominated the IJA.[3] The IJN was dominated by the Satsuma Domain from Kagoshima Prefecture.[3] This resulted in that they operated separately rather than a single umbrella strategy.[3]

During the Showa period, the IJA and IJN had different outlooks on allies and enemies.[3] The IJA considered Nazi Germany as a natural partner and the Soviet Union as a threat, while the IJN stressed that collaboration with Nazi Germany would hurt relations with the United Kingdom and the United States.[3]

Some equipment was also procured separately.[3] For example the IJA secured its own ships and self-designed submarines in World War 2.[3] Former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida criticized the sectionalism of the IJAF.[3]

Interservice rivalry

The Imperial Army and Navy had a fierce interservice rivalry centering around how the Imperial Japanese Armed Forces ought to secure territories containing valuable natural resources not available at home to fuel and grow the Japanese economy. The Army mainly supported the Hokushin-ron doctrine, which called for expansion into Manchuria and Siberia and would have the army take on a prime role, while the Navy supported the Nanshin-ron doctrine, which stated that Japan ought to expand into Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands and would be reliant on the navy to do so.

Main chronology

Under Emperor Meiji

  • 1870 (1870) Proclamation of unified military system (Army is French-style, Navy is British-style)
  • 1871 (1871) Goshinpei are organized by donations from Satsuma, Choshu, and Tosa.
  • Proclamation of conscription order in 1873
  • 1874 Saga Rebellion, Taiwan troop dispatch
  • Ganghwa Island Incident in 1875
  • 1876 Kumamoto Shinfuren Rebellion, Akizuki Rebellion, Hagi Rebellion
  • Meiji 10 (1877) Satsuma Rebellion
  • 1882 (1882) Promulgation of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers
  • 1888 (1888) Promulgation of the Army General Staff Ordinance, the Navy General Staff Ordinance, and the Division Headquarters Ordinance
  • 1889 (Meiji 22) Promulgation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan
  • 1893 (Meiji 26) Promulgation of the Wartime Imperial Headquarters Ordinance
  • Meiji 27 (1894) Sino-Japanese War
  • The Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895. Japanese troops requisition Taiwan based on the Treaty of Shimonoseki
  • 1899 (Meiji 32) Boxer Rebellion Incident
  • 1900 (Meiji 33) Established an active military officer system of the military minister, Kitasei incident
  • Meiji 37 (1904) Russo-Japanese War
  • 1905 (Meiji 38) Operation Sakhalin, the end of the Russo-Japanese War

Under Emperor Taishō

    • In 1913, the military minister can be appointed as a reserve, back-up, or retired general.
  • 1914 Siemens scandal, World War I (Battle of Qingdao)
  • 1918 Siberian intervention, end of World War I
  • 1919 (Taisho 8) Promulgation of the Kwantung Army Headquarters Ordinance
  • Nikolayevsk Incident in 1920
  • 1921 Washington Naval Treaty
  • The Amakasu Incident in 1923
  • Siberian intervention ended in 1925, Ugaki military contraction

Under Emperor Hirohito

  • Showa 2 (1927)
    • First Shandong troops
    • First Nanking Incident
  • Showa 3 (1928)
    • Second Shandong troops
    • Jinan Incident
    • Zhang Zuolin bombing case
  • Showa 5 (1930)
    • London Naval Treaty
    • Taiwan Musha Incident
  • Showa 6 (1931)
    • March Incident
    • Manchurian Incident
    • October incident
  • Showa 7 (1932)
    • May 15 Incident
    • Manchuria founded
  • Showa 9 (1934)
    • Washington Naval Treaty abolished
  • Showa 11 (1936)
    • February 26 Incident
    • Resurrection of the military minister's active military service system
    • Japan-Germany Anti-Comintern Pact
  • Showa 12 (1937)
    • China Incident (Sino-Japanese War)
    • Marco Polo Bridge Incident
    • Tongzhou case
    • Nanjing Massacre
  • Showa 13 (1938)
    • Battle of Lake Khasan
    • Promulgation of the National Mobilization Law
  • Showa 14 (1939)
    • The Battle of Khalkhin
  • Showa 15 (1940)
    • French Indochina
  • Showa 16 (1941)
    • Declaration of war against the United States and Britain, Greater East Asia War (Pacific War), Southern Operation (Malayan Campaign, Pearl Harbor attack, etc.)

Showa 17 (1942)

    • Dutch East Indies Campaign
    • Battle of Midway

Showa 18 (1943)

    • Battle of Guadalcanal Island
    • Navy Instep Incident
    • Battle of Attu

Showa 19 (1944)

    • Navy B case
    • Operation Imphal
    • Operation Ichi-Go
    • Battle of Mariana and Palau Islands
    • Philippines Defense Battle
    • Creation of a special attack corps
  • 1945 (Showa 20)
    • February Yalta Conference
    • March Battle of Iwo Jima
    • March Tokyo air raid
    • April Battle of Okinawa
    • August Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
    • Participation in the Soviet Union against Japan (Battle of Sakhalin / Battle of Shumshu)
    • Accepting the Potsdam Declaration
    • Soviet troops occupy the South Karafuto and Kuril Islands
    • September 2-Japanese Instrument of Surrender Signing Ceremony on Battleship Missouri (Japanese Instrument of Surrender, All Armies Stopped Combat, Disarmament Order), Greater East Asia War (Pacific War) and End of World War II
    • Soviet Union occupies the Northern Territories
    • November The Ministry of the Army and the Ministry of the Navy are dismantled and become the 1st Ministry of Demobilization and the 2nd Ministry of Demobilization.
  • Showa 21 (1946)
    • May International Military Tribunal for the Far East opens
    • November 3-Promulgation of the Constitution of Japan
  • 1947 (Showa 22)
    • May 3-Enforcement of the Constitution of Japan
  • Showa 25 (1950)
    • August 10-Establishment of National Police Reserve
  • 1952 (Showa 27)
    • August 10-National Safety Forces reorganization
  • Showa 29 (1954)
    • July 1-Established "Self-Defense Forces (land, sea, aviation)" and established the Defense Agency (shifted to "Ministry of Defense" on January 9, 2007)


  1. "One can date the 'restoration' of imperial rule from the edict of 3 January 1868." Jansen, Marius B. (2000). The Making of Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 334.
  2. "Chronological table 5 1 December 1946 - 23 June 1947". National Diet Library. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
  3. Junnosuke Kobara (14 November 2021). "Taiwan threat tears down silos at Japan's Self-Defense Forces". Nikkei. Archived from the original on 13 November 2021.
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