The Empire of Japan is a country in East Asia.
Japan's role in the Great War was minor in comparison to the Europeans. Once they took the German Pacific Islands, the farthest West they went was India to aid Britain. Instead, they served heavily as support, sending a large amount of medics, engineers, and other important, non-combatant individuals to aid the Western Front. In 1918, they attempted to negotiate with the British and French for control over their Pacific territories, in exchange for actually sending Japanese soldiers to the front lines, but the Western Powers refused. They attempted the negotiations again in 1920, and, while they received more support than they did the first time around, they were, once again, refused. When the British and French requested more aid the following year, Japan sent no men. Instead, the two nations were sent a tanto knife, and a letter wishing them luck. Needless to say, the gesture caused some tension between the nations, but it was eased when Britain managed to negotiate a trade deal. Japan would provide war materials for the Allies, and in exchange, when they won, Japan would keep the German territory it held. The Japanese government bitterly accepted at first, but ultimately honored their new role, and came to enjoy the benefits reaped by it.
In 1924, when Germany granted China their Pacific territories, the Japanese responded by symbolically burning all German flags they could find, and raising two of their own for every one the Germans had flying. When prompted by their allies to respect the transfer of power, the Japanese reminded them that, without the islands, their trade deal would fall through, and the Europeans would be without their much needed supplies. Once again, a bitter acceptance was all that held the Allies together. Throughout the rest of the year, Japan would routinely drop off German nationals from the islands in British territory, until not a single European remained on them. By the time peace was made, the occupants of the former German islands were mostly members of the Japanese Navy.
With peace in the Pacific finally reached, for the most part, Japan turned it's attention North. They had long been struggling with the Russians, and it was taking all the best negotiators the two nations had to maintain an uneasy peace. The border between the two was built up on both sides, and a small strip of land between the two was all that would take a war from breaking out. Neither side was happy, nor did they trust each other. The only thing that eased the tensions between the two was a skirmish that occurred between Chinese and Russian forces, as the Russians had to focus on the active threat, rather than the looming one.
As the war ended, Japan had easily been the only combatant to truly come out better of than they went in. They had, as far as they were concerned, taken territory from the Germans, made the Western Powers reliant on them economically, and were in a position where they could confidently go through with anything they decided to do. The Europeans had all retreated back to their homes to lick their wounds, and likely wouldn't engage in another conflict willingly any time soon. This presented the perfect opportunity for the Japanese. For the next two years, they would begin to build up their army, in preparation for a war against Russia. Up until this point, they had largely been relying on their navy, so work needed to be put in before they could actually accomplish anything. However, when the time finally came, they were ready.
In Winter of 1927, the Japanese army advanced on Russia from Dalian, after building up both a defensive garrison, and distraction, in Korea. The plan worked, and by Spring, Japanese forced had advanced well into Manchuria. The Russians were on the retreat, and showed no sign of stopping. By March, a historic truce was made between Japanese and Chinese forces that met in the field. Both sides agreed to focus on the Russian North, acknowledging that turning on one another would only lead to defeat of them both. Presenting a united front against the Russians,they seiged as far North as Tongliao. However, it was at this point that the Russians finally brought in their real troops, and managed to push the two back. It was at this point that the armies of China and Japan split once more, as each had their own Russian front to fight.
As the war in the North dragged on, the mainland only continued to industrialize more and more. With the war at it's end, there was a rapid shift from wartime materials to those needed by the civilians who were left to pick up the pieces. Japan maintained it's trade deals in the West, and even managed to secure some new ones. The two faces of recovery were those of Sho Hasimoto and Teruo Okada. Competitors in business, yet allies for the Japanese economy. Hashimoto had strong ties to the Navy, and was able to secure many a deal by touting their prestige. Meanwhile, Okada had built his manufactories from the ground up, and was well respected in many European nations. Together, they were the pillars that kept the Sun help high. However, something would soon happen that would shake the Empire to it's core.
During a trip to Britain to discuss the potential of a maintained alliance, Prince Hirohito and his entourage would be attacked by a group of British soldiers who hadn't taken kindly to Japans actions during the war. Three Japanese men died, and the Prince was gravely wounded. Deemed unable to survive the trip home, he was held under close guard in a British hospital, where he would eventually pass away, with only his younger brother at his side. Not even three months later, Emperor Yoshihito's own health would take a turn for the worse. On his deathbed, he declared Prince Yasuhito the heir to the throne. The young Emperor, who up until that point had admired the British, and had even been studying at Oxford, adopted a very anti-European stance after what he had seen done to his brother. At his coronation, Yashuhito swore to see an end of European power in Asia.
During the next three years, the war with Russia would be very back-and-forth. For every gain Japan made, Russia would counter it. A common joke at the time was that Europeans could only reach stalemates, as the front echoed the front lines in the Great War. In an attempt to cause a major change, Japan chose to observe the Chinese forces, and make their move at the same time, as they had at Tongliao. An officer was dispatched to formally inspect the Japanese troops before they would march alongside the Chinese once more, and raise their morale, speaking of a “United Asian front against European tyranny.” However, on his flight back, his column was attacked, and the officer died crawling away from the flaming wreckage. At first, soldiers were certain that it must have been Russians, but based on their movement after the fact, it was apparent what had happened. The Chinese, unable to make progress against Russia, turned against Japan.
The Japanese response was swift and merciless. A particularly brutal attack was launched on Songyuan, forcing the Chinese troops there into a retreat. That night, an air raid was prepared, and the following morning, bombers soared over Beijing. Japan and China were at war. A ceasefire was negotiated with the Russians, as they both marched against their common foe. Without their Northern front to worry about, Japan was able to spread across Manchuria like wildfire, taking the entirety of the South-West by Summer's end. By December, Bejing was under Japanese control. At this point, Yasuhito delivered a speech, going on about Japan returning rightful rule to China. Pu Yi was brought forth, and crowned the Emeror of the Qing Empire. Afterwards, a show was made about the alliance being made between the two of them.
The following year would see only more successes in the North, pushing as far as the Yangtze. Because of this, a second front would be opened in the South, with Taiwan serving as it's staging point. While predominantly focused on harassment, a handful of naval landing were attempted. First in Fuzhou, then Quanzhou and Xiamen. These would, unfortunately, not find any hold, as the Chinese were far more fortified. It was then that a move was proposed, and backed by the Emperor himself, to invade through Hong Kong and Macau. While Macau found itself following in the footsteps of the first three landings, Hong Kong managed to actually hold as a success. During this time, multiple attempts were made by locals to rise up against the Japanese occupants. They were dealt with quickly, efficiently, and brutally every time. “Treat them the way they treated Hirohito.” was the line fed to the soldiers, each and every time new uprisings occurred, and each and every time, it served the Empire well.
In 1932, the Japanese launched an offensive in Gansu, attempting to push deep into China, and split the Chinese army in half. At first, it seemed to be a success, however, the further inland the army got, the harder it was for them to continue, until they were ultimately routed at Xi'an. Three more attempts would be made to push inland, before it was recognized as futile, and the Southern Army was forced into a defensive position.
Meanwhile, back home, the Japanese economy was starting to show signs of strain. The invasions of Hong Kong and Macau had not gone without repercussions, and the core of Japan's industry found itself without customers, as Europeans cut ties until the war with China ended. Hashimoto was able to maintain his business, by instead shifting to provide for the navy. Okada on the other hand rapidly began to feel the effects, and started pushing for an end to the war. In response, he was brought before the Emperor, and was presented two options. The first, a government bailout, in exchange for his silence. The second, a tanto knife. In silence, before the Emperor and his generals, Teruo Okada slit his belly, never breaking eye contact with the Emperor as he died. Okada was branded a traitor, and his company shut down, leaving Hashimoto alone as the backbone of the Imperial Economy. It was at this point that he started to, through his various connections, pressure the Japanese navy into attacking European colonies. He was shut down, time and time again however, as the Navy didn't want to overextend. After all, there were no Germans to distract them this time, so an attack would mean facing the full force of the European militaries.
For years Japan would simply hold. For a brief moment, they almost managed to secure air superiority over the South, but, as with the rest of the front, eventually were pushed back. All the while, Hashimoto worked on pressuring the military to invade the European colonies. Finally, one general heard him out, and, noting it's usefulness, began to plan an invasion of French Vietnam, which was ultimately launched in 1937. Anti-French Vietnamese were rallied against their oppressors, while an invasion by Japan in the North secured a new front from which to attack China. The French forces were quickly routed, and Japan set up a military government, much like their puppet in the North. At the same time, the Japanese blockade had completed, giving the air raids a constant hammering of naval bombardments to accompany them. Finally, the Chinese forces were beginning to be forced into a retreat.
However, victory was still far off. With such a heavy focus on the South, the Russian front had been left vulnerable. In 1938, the Tzar's Army attacked, breaking the truce, and forcing Japanese soldiers to retreat. At the same time, a renewed Chinese force would march on, and eventually take, Beijing. While the capital was lost, Manchuria would hold for some time yet. The reason the North was left so lightly manned was because of another invasion underway at Shandong. The Chinese forces in the North were forced to turn face, allowing Japan to hold it's position, and focus on the Russians. The new front in the South would hold, and manage to push as far north as Maoming before losing it's momentum, and eventually, like every attempt before it, be forced to a standstill.
The following year, multiple attempts were made against the Russians, to take back what they had managed to drive Japan out of, but it was fruitless. The Russains had hunkered down, and Japan didn't have the manpower to fight back without pulling men away from the Southern Front. They had to make a choice and, in the Spring on 1939, they pulled half their men out of Vietnam to reinforce the Northern Front. This would prove a costly mistake, as the force remaining in Vietnam would shatter entirely. Japanese men were quickly evacuated, unable to fight back with their numbers stretched so thin. Vietnam would be lost entirely by 1943.
Seeing Vietnam as a sign of a surged Southern Front, Japan fortified the wrong location yet again. While they fought to hold in the South, China swarmed the North, driving the Imperial army out of Manchuria entirely. Not wanting a repeat of Vietnam, men were pulled from the South to ensure Korea held. Unable to constantly reinforce, and their economy barely holding on with European interference, the war in China was deemed a failure, and Japan formally surrendered the following year. However, this was hardly the end of Japans aggression. With no war left to fight on the mainland, Japan turned it's attention South. Rebellions in the British Empire had left it's colonial holdings weak, and easy for the taking. The Dutch, too, no longer held the power they once did to maintain a strong presence in Asia. On April 3rd, 1945, Japan declared war on the Dutch and the British Empire. All fleets turned South, and armies, bitter about their recent loss, found new purpose. “Gut them like they did Hirohito” was the rallying cry against the British, and would serve the Imperial command well.
Japan invaded Britain through Northern Borneo and Malacca, and the Netherlands from the former German New Guinea. Australasian independence from Britain was recognized, but the border was still manned, as the first wave of Diplomats were sent to dissuade them from coming to the dying Empire's aid.
The Japanese conquest here was quick, with most battles being fought not as fronts, but skirmishes. The Europeans constantly in retreat, unable to match the Japanese advance. Borneo fell fast, allowing a second invasion in Malacca, which also crumbled. With most of British attention being paid to it's rebellion in India, it could only afford token forces to fight against Japan. This left the burden of the war on it's allies, and the Dutch were hardly in a position to push back.
Over the next ten years, the East Indies slowly fell into Japanese control. The Dutch have managed to maintain control of Sumatra and Java for the most part, and have even managed to push a counter offensive in Borneo and Malaysia, but everything else has fallen, and they are very obviously on the defensive. A treaty was struck with Portugal, and East Timor was peacefully passed to Japan without bloodshed. A brief end to hostilities with the Dutch is expected by the end of the year, and preparations are being made to aid Indian rebels against their British masters. The Japanese economy has managed to hold for the time being, and hostilities with it's nieghbors kept to a minimum.
However, all is not perfect. Korean rebels have been popping up more and more often, and the Japanese Communist Coalition has seen memberships rising in recent years, in response to the needs of the people being constantly dismissed by war-hungry aristocrats. Many civilians are tired of the constant war; many of them literally not knowing a life where Japan was at peace. Even politically, there have been calls for the Emperor to finally let his grudge rest, and look at the damage it is causing his country and his people.
1955 began with the death of the acting Prime Minister, as well as the largest military offensive in the South to date. With most of the populace supporting candidates for Prime Minister who are promising peace, and most of the military supporting the Emperor, the year is guaranteed to end with something major happening.