After a long period of relative isolation from the beginning of the seventeenth century, in the late 1800s, Japan began a process of extraordinarily rapid industrialization and social change, making the transition from an essentially feudal society to a modern nation-state within a couple of decades. Following its successful defeat of a western power in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan increasingly turned towards imperialism, and eventually to the militarism which culminated in the disastrous Pacific War. After the humiliating surrender of August 1945, Japan again recreated itself, this time as an economic giant. By the 1980s, Japan was challenging even the United States in trade and manufacturing. Yet, by the second decade of the twenty-first century, Japan faced new challenges, as its political and economic systems appeared to be losing direction. Many aspects of this history are highly contentious.
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