|Government type||Absolute Monarchy|
|Ruling party||Shogunate Faction(Reactionary)|
|Capital||Edo (ID 1649)|
|Tech school||Uncivilized nation|
During the time period of Victoria 2 Japan ended centuries of isolation and westernized to join the world stage. Japan is considered by many to be the Tutorial Island of Victoria 2, at least in terms of uncivilized nations. Regardless, there are a few considerations a player choosing Japan will want to keep in mind:
Pros and Cons
Advantages to playing Japan:
- Japan has an extremely high literacy rate right at the start of the game, at 40%. In fact, it's so high that it's only 2% lower than the United States in 1836. For an uncivilized nation, this is extremely good as it allows Japan to carry out the westernization reforms quicker than any other uncivilized nation except Hawaii. (For comparison, the next best is Abu Dhabi at 30%. Most are less than 10%.)
- Not only does Japan get a boost to research thanks to its literacy, but they also have access to one of two unique decisions: Early Meiji Restoration and The Meiji Restoration, the latter Japan can only enact if they are sphered by a Great Power. These decisions give Japan a significant boost to research points.
- Japan is pretty isolated from the rest of the world by being an Island nation. The only nations that might pose a threat are China, Russia, and the United Kingdom. Poor invasion AI (i.e. tiny, unescorted transport fleets) makes the USA little more than a nuisance early on, while the Netherlands and Spain can safely be ignored.
- Thanks to their literacy rate and decent population base, Japan has the potential to become a Great Power within a few years (if not less) of westernizing.
- There are a lot of expansion possibilities thanks to Japan's geographic location. Of note are Korea, Brunei, Johore, Dai Nam, and Siam.
Disadvantages to playing Japan:
- Even though Russia starts with an extremely lousy literacy rate, they start the game already westernized. An early war with them will not go well for Japan.
- Japan starts only being able to train Irregulars. Without grabbing the reform that allows Infantry, Japan will struggle against the might of a mostly-unified China when trying to free/conquer Korea.
- Even though the Early Meiji Restoration decision carries hefty bonuses, it also increases militancy rate to astronomical levels. A lost war against the horde of Reactionaries that come will result in all westernization progress lost.
Early Meiji Restoration vs Meiji Restoration
The Meiji Restoration was the period after the Boshin War, when the Emperor Meiji enacted various social and military reforms to better emulate their European and American peers. This event was quite possibly one of the most significant in Japan's history, as it not only unified the nation (thanks to the Emperor winning the Boshin War, abolishing the shogunate and restoring effective imperial rule) but it also turned a relatively-backward army into a modern military. The effect of such reforms would be massive industrialization and military conquests. By the beginning of World War II, Japan was a superpower in its own right. However, Victoria 2 does not accurately model the struggles of the Boshin War (unless a mod such as New Nations Mod or A Pop Divided is installed), and the Meiji Restoration is relegated to just a decision that gives free research points.
Early Meiji Restoration
When starting in 1836, the only option for Japan is Early Meiji Restoration, due to the fact that they aren't in any power's sphere of influence. The difference between the Early Meiji and the normal Meiji is that the Early Meiji Restoration gives Land Reform for free, at the cost of 7 militancy for Conservatives, 9 militancy for Reactionaries, and 0.5 militancy for Liberals. The normal Meiji Restoration does not give Land Reform, but also does not give militancy either.
One needs to wait to a Great Power spheres Japan. It is worth considering, as the early version gives a huge amount of militancy.
When starting in 1861, Japan is already within the USA's sphere of influence, so taking the normal Meiji Restoration decision is a no-brainer. This will give Japan enough research points to take Land Reform, or wait until one of the 20% reforms is available.
The Road to Westernization
Westernizing is a long and frustrating road. Thankfully, Japan's high literacy translates directly into more research points a day than any other uncivilized nation. Turning on the National Focus to Encourage Clergymen in the most populated regions will speed this process even further. Once the Clergy population hits 2%, move on to the next region. Other uncivilized nations will need to wait until 4% for the maximum literacy benefit, but Japan is already equal to many civilized countries. Moving the National Focus from region to region once the population count reaches 2% will do more good than waiting for a single region to hit 4%. Japan should of course also fund education as much as possible, preferably 100%.
In regards to westernization reforms, in 1836, Japan needs just one thing right away: Infantry. Taking the Imported Weapons reform when it becomes available will greatly aid Japan's conquest of Southeast Asia. Infantry is also vitally important if the choice to annex Korea is made. After this, the reforms become much more situational. Land Reform is always a good choice when hurting for money, and Imported Ships will allow the construction of the vital Naval Bases needed to repair the transport ships Japan needs to transport their troops. The one reform that is not suggested, however, is Reformed System (Education). Japan already has a good literacy rating, so this reform is pretty worthless. Westernization should, even with non-perfect reforms, be able to be accomplished by around 1860, at the latest. Most likely, Japan will have westernized around 1852. Even a Japan without declaring wars for research points can still westernize around 1855–56. If starting in 1861, Japan will have enough reforms to be at 80% westernized, with the ability to pick up Land Reform for free thanks to the Meiji Restoration. From there, it's just a hop, skip, and a jump to civilization.
It is possible for uncivilized nations to acquire research points through conquest. The amount gained is further modified by taking certain military reforms. This means that an aggressive and militaristic Japan can under these rules westernize faster than ever through two or three wars with its weaker neighbours,namely Dai Viet and Cambodia. Of course, this can run the risk of Great Power interference if in the course of these wars Japan's infamy spikes too high.
Conquest of the Asian World
There are a LOT of targets for Japan. Just be mindful that all conquests as an uncivilized nation will make the new regions into full states, dragging their awesome literacy down the hole (but, on the flip side, making them available for building factories later). However, wait too long and the targets will be gobbled up by the Great Powers, either through diplomacy or through the sword. The following is a list of excellent targets to go after:
- Brunei: Brunei is an easy nation to annex, and is often the first to be annexed by Japan. It may not have much early on, but later in the game Brunei becomes one of the most important regions in Asia thanks to the deposits of Oil it holds. The neighboring colonizable provinces also hold Oil, but will almost always be gobbled up by the Dutch. Taking Brunei early on will prevent the Netherlands from gaining a monopoly on this precious resource in the region.
- Johore: Johore is full of Precious Metals. Unfortunately, Johore borders the United Kingdom, and the UK will likely go to war with Japan to claim the region for their own. Keeping relations with the UK high can prevent an early disaster.
- Siam: Siam doesn't really have much in the way of resources in its coastal provinces, and is too big to annex outright, but the Chang Mai region has Opium, a precious resource to keep their Clerks and Capitalists happy. Obtaining Chang Mai is easy enough, but will require two separate Acquire State Casus Belli to get a coastal route to it, for easy troop access.
- Dai Nam/ Cambodia: Dai Nam has Cambodia as a puppet, and often allies itself with China, making conquest pretty hellish. However, the rewards of winning such a war are valuable stocks of Tropical Wood, which will later turn into the extremely valuable Rubber resource.
- Korea: Taking the historical path of conquest will net Japan both a sizable population from which they can build more brigades from, as well as more Iron. The disadvantages to a Korean conquest are two-fold: China and militancy. Korea starts the game as an ally of China, so China should be neutral in Japanese-Korean War. After the war, expect tons of rebellions and Crises. It does, however, give Japan a land route into Manchuria and Russia, should the Japanese decide to continue their historical conquests.
- China/Chinese Substates: It may be crazy and suicidal, and breaking the back of the Big Dog of East Asia will be extremely tough, but the rewards are astronomical. First, and foremost, if China westernizes, it will automatically annex any substate it has. Removing said substates from China's influence will reduce their land capacity which, in turn, will result in a much slower Chinese rise to Great Power. Second, the population of the Chinese regions is second to none. Japan can field tons of brigades from a single conquered region. Third, the resources of quite a few Chinese regions far outstrip Japan's own. In particular, Tea and Silk are in absolute abundance in the coastal provinces, and the inland Shanxi is stuffed full of coal and three and a half million labourers to work the mines.
- Arabian Peninsula: Crazy? Possibly. Lucrative? Absolutely. Taking the Arabian nations early on, when they are ignored by the rest of the world, will result in a massive monopoly of Oil later in the game, a monopoly that only the USA can match. Not only does an Arabian conquest give Japan lots of Oil, but it will also help their eventual diplomatic influence with Egypt, due to sharing borders, when trying to build the Suez Canal. Oman's African provinces will also give access to the interior of Africa for later colonization.
- Hawaii: Taking Hawaii will prevent the USA from annexing it later on. There is no other reward for a Hawaiian conquest than to throw a monkey wrench into the plans of the US, but this is a huge reward on its own. Leaving Hawaii alone will result in the US steamrolling through Oceania with their colonists. Prevent this from happening.
- Spanish Philippines: Spain usually remains in control of the Philippines throughout the game, but it falls behind the other European powers and has a minimal military presence in the archipelago thanks to its severe economic problems. The problem is they are often sphered by a European Great Power, but if it is France, as it often is, they don't have a major presence in East Asia so they should not be a threat. The Philippines are divided into three regions and mainly contain grain and iron in the way of resources, but could boost your population and serve as a base for expansion further south into southeast Asia.
Empire of the Modernized Sun
Once Japan has properly westernized, which shouldn't take more than the 1860s if starting in 1836, the game becomes pretty standard. Japan often becomes a Great Power right after Westernization thanks to their huge literacy rate helping with the promotion of Capitalists and the building of factories. However, there are still some routes Japan can take:
- Colonization: Seeing "Japanese Africa" on the map is an extremely rare sight, but can be done. It just requires some single-minded research focus toward Medicine, Machine Guns, and Nationalism & Imperialism. A little luck also helps, as the great European nations will likely halt their attempts at colonization if they are involved in a big war. Taking Mombasa from Oman/Zanzibar will aid the colonization effort. If dreams of a Japanese Africa seem dashed, all of Oceania is still their playground. While not as lucrative as Africa, Oceania will provide plenty of prestige to a colonizing Japan.
- Monopolize the Canals: If colonization isn't in Japan's near future, they can rush toward the techs required for building the Suez and Panama Canal. Specifically, Iron Steamers, Inorganic Chemistry, and Interchangeable Parts (and Medicine for the Panama Canal). Don't even bother with the Kiel Canal; Prussia/North German Federation has a stranglehold on it, and the last thing Japan needs is a border with the biggest European nations in the world. Diplomatic influence for Panama is easy enough to get (the US usually ignores Colombia), but expect an all out brawl on the diplomacy table from the European nations for diplomatic control of Egypt. If it seems impossible to get control of Egypt through diplomacy, then conquest of the Dumyat region will fulfill this requirement quite nicely. Just don't expect the European nations to take kindly to it.
- Start the Russo-Japanese War: By the time Japan westernizes, Russia will be leagues ahead of them in technology. However, thanks to Russia's poor literacy rate (one of the worst in a civilized nation), Russia will lag behind during the late game. Exploit this for all its worth and reclaim the Japanese cores on Sakhalin and Hokkaido. A war with one of the largest nations on Earth will require a lot of tactics and planning, but if Japan can beat down the massive mobilized army, Russia will eventually collapse under its own weight. Just remember to build up a strong navy; Russia can't invade Japan if their ships are still stuck in port.
One can however consider not to retake Sakhalin and Hokkaido, as they are not very valuable, and unclaimed cores will drive up the populations desire for jingoism.
Heart of Darkness
- Korea is a puppet state, which means Japan have to deal with China. On the other hand crises will not be a problem.
- The different ticking war score system will no longer allow Japan to reclaim Sakhalin and Hokkaido without ever setting foot on Russia proper. Japan will need to build a sizeable fleet and army to fight Russia.
- Uncivilized nations does not have the ability to gain copious amounts of research points from conquering in AHD.
- Colonizing the Pacific and Africa will always come after 1870 with no chance of it happening earlier. This is a slight help, for a slowly developing Japan