By the time emperor meiji died in 1912, mourned as the first “modern” emperor, Japan had already acquired a sizeable colonial realm. Two years earlier, Japanese newspapers and magazines had celebrated the annexation of Korea, congratulating themselves on living in an empire that was now 15 million people more populous and almost a third larger than it had been prior to annexation. For journalists and politicians at the time, the phrase “Chōsen mondai” (the Chōsen question) served as a euphemism for the panoply of issues relating to Japanese interests in the Korean peninsula. Yet despite this contemporary recognition of the significance of empire, English-language studies of Japan have been slow to interweave the colonial experience into the history of modern Japan. Today, for modern historians, the question of how, or even whether, to incorporate these events into the history of Japan is itself a quandary—what might be termed the “Korea problem” in modern Japanese historiography.

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