The paper explores the part Japan played in the early Asian nationalists’ struggle against colonialism, between the time of the Meiji restoration and the First World War. Japan’s own economic and military successes during this period had repercussions for the whole of Asia. They proved that modernisation by own efforts, and independence from Western rule were possible. Asian nationalists began to look into the roots of Japanese success, to reflect upon the model nature of the country, to seek asylum there, and to ask Tokyo for political or military support in their fight against Western imperialism. The calls for political support, or for weapons, were left mostly unanswered, at least on the state level. Nevertheless, Japan played a significant role at the start of the process of decolonisation, as the paper, using the examples of Korea, China, the Philippines, Vietnam and India, seeks to show. The country disseminated new Western ideas and knowledge, and, as a country of exile, offered a platform for multinational discussions on strategy. But, more than anything else, Japan established a new sense of Asian self-awareness and influenced a whole generation of politicians who later were to play a decisive role in the struggles of their countries for modernisation and independence.