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The Meiji Restoration and Modernization

In 1868 the Tokugawa shôgun ("great general"), that ruled Japan in the feudal period, lost his power and the emperor was restored to the supreme position. The emperor took the surname Meiji ("enlightened rule") together his reign name; this occasion was known as the Meiji Restoration.

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The power of the Meiji Emperor

When the Meiji emperor was restored as head the Japan in 1868, the nation was a militarily weak country, was primarily agricultural, and also had tiny technological development. That was controlled by thousands of semi-independent feudal lords. The Western powers — Europe and the United claims — had forced Japan to sign treaties that minimal its manage over that is own international trade and also required the crimes worrying foreigners in Japan it is in tried not in Japanese however in western courts. When the Meiji duration ended, v the fatality of the emperor in 1912, Japan had

· a very centralized, administrative government; · a constitution establishing an chosen parliament; · a well-developed transport and also communication system; · a highly educated population free of feudal class restrictions; · an established and also rapidly farming industrial sector based on the recent technology; and also · a an effective army and navy.

Japan had regained complete control that its foreign trade and also legal system, and, by fighting and also winning two wars (one the them against a significant European power, Russia), that had established full independence and also equality in global affairs. In a little an ext than a generation, Japan had actually exceeded that goals, and also in the process had changed its totality society. Japan"s success in modernization has created an excellent interest in why and how it to be able to embrace Western political, social, and also economic organizations in so brief a time.

One answer is found in the Meiji reconstruction itself. This political change "restored" the emperor come power, but he go not dominance directly. That was meant to expropriate the advice the the group that had overthrown the shôgun, and it was from this team that a small variety of ambitious, able, and patriotic young males from the reduced ranks of the samurai arised to take control and establish the new political system. At first, their just strength was the the emperor embraced their advice and several powerful feudal domains detailed military support. They moved quickly, however, to develop their very own military and economic control. By July 1869 the feudal lords had actually been requested to give up their domains, and in 1871 these domain names were abolished and transformed into prefectures that a unified central state.

The feudal lords and the samurai course were available a yearly stipend, which to be later changed to a one-time payment in federal government bonds. The samurai lost their class privileges, once the government asserted all class to it is in equal. Through 1876 the federal government banned the attract of the samurai"s swords; the former samurai reduced off their height knots in donate of Western-style haircuts and also took up work in business and also the professions.

The militaries of each domain to be disbanded, and also a national army based on universal conscription was produced in 1872, requiring three years" military business from all men, samurai and commoner alike. A national land tax system was created that forced payment in money instead of rice, which enabled the federal government to stabilize the nationwide budget. This offered the federal government money to invest to construct up the stamin of the nation.

Resistance and Rebellion Defeated

Although these changes were do in the name of the emperor and national defense, the loss of privileges brought some resentment and also rebellion. As soon as the top management left to take trip in Europe and the United states to study Western ways in 1872, conservative groups said that Japan should reply come Korean"s refuse to revise a centuries old treaty with an invasion. This would help patriotic samurai to gain back their importance. Yet the new leaders easily returned native Europe and reestablished your control, arguing that Japan have to concentrate top top its own modernization and not communicate in such foreign adventures.

For the next twenty years, in the 1870s and 1880s, the optimal priority remained domestic reform aimed at an altering Japan"s social and also economic institutions along the lines of the model provided by the an effective Western nations. The final blow come conservative samurai come in the 1877 Satsuma rebellion, when the government"s recently drafted army, trained in europe infantry techniques and armed with contemporary Western guns, beat the last resistance that the timeless samurai warriors. V the exception of these couple of samurai outbreaks, Japan"s domestic transformation proceeded with impressive speed, energy, and also the cooperation of the people. This phenomenon is among the major characteristics that Japan"s contemporary history.


In an effort to unite the Japanese country in solution to the western challenge, the Meiji leaders created a public ideology centered roughly the emperor. Back the emperor wielded no political power, he had actually long been viewed as a symbol of Japanese culture and historical continuity. He was the head of the Shintô religion, Japan"s indigenous religion. Among other beliefs, Shintô holds the the emperor is descended from the sun goddess and also the god who developed Japan and also therefore is semidivine. Westerners of that time knew him primarily as a ceremonial figure. The Meiji reformers lugged the emperor and Shintô to nationwide prominence, replacing Buddhism as the national religion, for political and also ideological reasons. By shortcut Shintô with the imperial line, i m sorry reached back into legendary times, Japan had not only the oldest ruling residence in the world, however a an effective symbol that age-old nationwide unity.

The world seldom experienced the emperor, yet they to be to carry out his orders there is no question, in respect to him and to the unified of the Japanese people, which that represented. In fact, the emperor did no rule. It to be his "advisers," the little group of males who exercised political control, that devised and carried the end the reform routine in the surname of the emperor.

Social and Economic Changes

The abolition of feudalism made feasible tremendous social and political changes. Millions of world were suddenly cost-free to pick their occupation and move around without restrictions. By providing a brand-new environment that political and financial security, the federal government made feasible investment in brand-new industries and also technologies.

The federal government led the method in this, structure railway and shipping lines, telegraph and also telephone systems, three shipyards, ten mines, 5 munitions works, and fifty-three customer industries (making sugar, glass, textiles, cement, chemicals, and also other vital products). This was an extremely expensive, however, and also strained federal government finances, for this reason in 1880 the government decided to sell many of these industries to private investors, thereafter encouraging such task through subsidies and other incentives. Few of the samurai and also merchants who developed these industries established major corporate conglomerates called zaibatsu, which managed much that Japan"s modern industrial sector.

The government also introduced a national educational system and also a constitution, creating an chosen parliament called the Diet. They go this to administer a great environment for national growth, victory the respect the the Westerners, and build assistance for the modern state. In the Tokugawa period, popular education had spread rapidly, and also in 1872 the government established a national mechanism to educate the whole population. By the end of the Meiji period, practically everyone to visit the complimentary public institutions for at the very least six years. The government very closely controlled the schools, making sure that in enhancement to skills like mathematics and also reading, all students studied "moral training," which emphasize the prominence of your duty to the emperor, the country and their families.

The 1889 constitution to be "given" to the people by the emperor, and only that (or his advisers) could adjust it. A parliament was elected beginning in 1890, yet only the wealthiest one percent that the populace could poll in elections. In 1925 this was adjusted to allow all men (but not yet women) come vote.

To victory the recognition of the western powers and also convince them to adjust the unequal contract the Japanese had actually been forced to authorize in the 1850s, Japan readjusted its entire legal system, adopting a new criminal and civil password modeled after ~ those that France and Germany. The west nations finally agreed to review the contract in 1894, acknowledging Japan as an same in principle, although not in global power.

The international Climate: Colonialism and also Expansion

In 1894 Japan dealt with a war against China over its attention in Korea, which China asserted as a vassal state. The oriental peninsula is the closest part of Asia to Japan, much less than 100 miles by sea, and also the Japanese were worried that the Russians might gain manage of that weak nation. Japan winner the war and gained control over Korea and gained Taiwan together a colony. Japan"s sudden, decisive success over China surprised the world and worried part European powers.

At this time the European nations were beginning to claim special legal rights in China — the French, v their colony in Indochina (today"s Vietnam, Laos, and also Cambodia), were involved in southern China; the British additionally claimed special legal rights in southern China, near Hong Kong, and also later the entirety Yangtze valley; and the Russians, who were structure a railway with Siberia and Manchuria, to be interested in north China. After Japan"s victory over China, Japan signed a treaty v China which offered Japan special rights on China"s Liaotung peninsula, in addition to the manage of Taiwan. However Japan"s win was brief lived. Within a week, France, Russia, and Germany combined to press Japan to offer up rights on the Liaotung peninsula. Each of these nations then started to force China to provide it ports, marine bases, and special financial rights, with Russia taking the very same Liaotung peninsula that Japan had actually been required to return.

The Japanese federal government was angered by this incident and drew the lesson that for Japan to maintain its independence and also receive equal therapy in worldwide affairs, the was crucial to combine its military even further. By 1904, as soon as the Russians were again threaten to establish regulate over Korea, Japan was lot stronger. It declared war ~ above Russia and, utilizing all its strength, won victory in 1905 (beginning v a surprised naval strike on harbor Arthur, which gained for Japan the control of the China Sea). Japan thus completed dominance over Korea and established itself a colonial power in eastern Asia.

The duration 1912-1941

The Meiji revolutionary brought great changes both in ~ Japan and also in Japan"s ar in people affairs. Japan strengthened itself enough to stay a sovereign country in the face of west colonizing powers and also indeed ended up being a colonizing strength itself. During the Taishô duration (1912-1926), Japanese citizens began to questioning for an ext voice in the government and for much more social freedoms. Throughout this time, Japanese society and the Japanese political device were significantly more open 보다 they to be either before or after. The duration has regularly been dubbed the period of "Taishô democracy." One explanation is that, until human being War I, Japan appreciated record breaking financial prosperity. The Japanese world had much more money to spend, an ext leisure, and much better education, supplemented through the advancement of mass media. Significantly they stayed in cities whereby they come into call with influences from abroad and where the timeless authority of the expanded family was much less influential. Industrialization in chin undermined timeless values, emphasizing rather efficiency, independence, materialism, and also individualism. Throughout these year Japan saw the introduction of a "mass society" very comparable to the "Roaring 20s" in the united States. During these years also, the Japanese people began to demand universal manhood suffrage i beg your pardon they won in 1925. Politics parties increased their influence, becoming powerful enough to choose their own prime ministers in between 1918 and also 1931.

At the end of civilization War I, however, Japan gotten in a severe financial depression. The bright, optimistic setting of the Taishô period gradually disappeared. Political party federal government was marred through corruption. The government and military, consequently, thrived stronger, the parliament weaker. The advanced industrial sector became increasingly controlled by a couple of giant businesses, the zaibatsu. Moreover, Japan"s worldwide relations were disrupted by trade tensions and also by cultivation international disapproval of Japan"s activities in China. However success in competing with the European powers in eastern Asia strengthened the idea the Japan could, and should, further broaden its affect on the asian mainland by armed forces force.

Japan"s require for herbal resources and the recurring rebuffs native the West come Japan"s attempts to increase its strength in Asia led the method for militarists to climb to power. Insecurity in worldwide relations enabled a right-wing aggressive faction come control very first foreign, then domestic, policy. V the military considerably influencing the government, Japan started an aggressive military campaign throughout Asia, and also then, in 1941, bombed Pearl Harbor.

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The most crucial feature that the Meiji period was Japan"s struggle for recognition of its considerable accomplishment and for equality with Western nations. Japan was highly successful in arranging an industrial, capitalist state on western models. But when Japan additionally began to apply the lessons it learned from european imperialism, the West reaction negatively. In a feeling Japan"s cook handicap was the it gotten in into the western dominated people order in ~ a so late stage. Colonialism and also the racist ideological background that add it, were also entrenched in Western countries to permit an "upstart," nonwhite nation to enter the gyeongju for organic resources and markets as an equal. Countless of the misunderstandings between the West and Japan stemmed native Japan"s sense of alienation from the West, which seemed to use a various standard in dealing with European nations than it did with a rising oriental power favor Japan.

Discussion Questions

What were some of the political, economic and also social changes that occurred during the Meiji Period?

What personage was at the center of Japan"s new civic ideology? Why was utilizing this personage as a price of nationwide unity effective?

What function did the central government play in farming industry? giving education?

How walk colonization impact Asia in the so late 1890"s? What was the West"s response to Japan"s colonization efforts?

The state "modernization" and also "Westernization" are regularly used interchangeably. What carry out these terms mean to you? Why carry out you think they regularly mean the same thing?

Why is the duration 1912-1945 occasionally referred to together the "Taishô democracy"?

How would you explain the political situation in Japan at the end of civilization War I?

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