In the 1920s the Japanese Army expanded rapidly and by 1937 had a force of 300,000 men. Unlike western countries it enjoyed a great deal of independence from government. In fact, Japanese administrations needed the support of the army in order to survive. The army controlled the appointment of the war minister and in 1936 a law was passed that stipulated that only a serving officer could hold the post.
The Japanese Army also had a considerable influence over domestic policy. This was reinforced in October 1941 when Emperor Hirohito appointed General Hideki Tojo as prime minister. Once in power Tojo gave his approval of the attack on the US Navy at Pearl Harbor.
In 1941 the Japanese Army had 51 divisions and various special-purpose artillery, cavalry, anti-aircraft and armoured units. This amounted to 1,700,000 men. The basic rifle was the Model 38 6.5 mm. The submachine-gun was the Model 11 6.5 mm holding 30 rounds and firing at 500 rpm.
At the beginning of the Second World War most of the Japanese Army was stationed in China and Manchuria. However, in 1942 they began to be deployed in the Pacific War. Soldiers were sent to Hong Kong (23rd Army), the Philippines (14th Army), Thailand (15th Army), Burma (15th Army), Dutch East Indies (16th Army) and Malaya (25th Army).
The Japanese Army performed well in the early stages of the Pacific War. After 1943 they suffered from a shortage of supplies. This included a lack of guns, tanks and aircraft.
By 1945 there were 5.5 million men in the Japanese Army. When the country was occupied at the end of the war the army and are institutions associated with it were disbanded and the 1947 constitution banned all military forces in Japan.