l>The Meiji Restoration and also Modernization | Asia for Educators | Columbia University
The Meiji Restoration and Modernization

In 1868 the Tokugawa shôgun (\"great general\"), who ruled Japan in the feudal period, lost his power and also the emperor was revitalized to the supreme position. The emperor took the surname Meiji (\"enlightened rule\") as his regime name; this event was known as the Meiji Restoration.

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The power of the Meiji Emperor

When the Meiji emperor was revived as head that Japan in 1868, the country was a militarily weak country, was mostly agricultural, and also had small technological development. It was controlled by hundreds of semi-independent feudal lords. The Western strength — Europe and the United claims — had forced Japan to authorize treaties that limited its control over that is own foreign trade and also required the crimes worrying foreigners in Japan be tried not in Japanese but in western courts. Once the Meiji period ended, with the death of the emperor in 1912, Japan had

· a highly centralized, governmental government; · a constitution creating an elected parliament; · a well-developed transport and communication system; · a extremely educated population free of feudal class restrictions; · an established and also rapidly farming industrial sector based upon the latest technology; and · a powerful army and also navy.

Japan had actually regained finish control of its foreign trade and legal system, and, through fighting and also winning two wars (one of them versus a significant European power, Russia), it had created full independence and also equality in global affairs. In a little more than a generation, Japan had actually exceeded the goals, and in the process had changed its entirety society. Japan\"s success in modernization has created good interest in why and how it to be able to embrace Western political, social, and economic organizations in so brief a time.

One answer is uncovered in the Meiji restoration itself. This political change \"restored\" the emperor come power, but he walk not ascendancy directly. The was meant to accept the advice of the group that had actually overthrown the shôgun, and it was from this group that a small variety of ambitious, able, and also patriotic young males from the lower ranks that the samurai arised to take it control and also establish the brand-new political system. At first, their just strength was that the emperor welcomed their advice and also several powerful feudal domains listed military support. They relocated quickly, however, to construct their own military and economic control. Through July 1869 the feudal lords had actually been asked for to give up your domains, and also in 1871 these domains were abolished and also transformed right into prefectures that a unified main state.

The feudal lords and the samurai course were available a yearly stipend, which was later readjusted to a one-time payment in government bonds. The samurai lost their class privileges, once the government asserted all great to be equal. Through 1876 the federal government banned the put on of the samurai\"s swords; the former samurai reduced off their optimal knots in favor of Western-style haircuts and also took up jobs in business and also the professions.

The armies of each domain to be disbanded, and also a national military based on global conscription was developed in 1872, requiring 3 years\" military business from all men, samurai and also commoner alike. A national land tax system was created that forced payment in money instead of rice, which allowed the government to stabilize the nationwide budget. This offered the government money to invest to construct up the toughness of the nation.

Resistance and also Rebellion Defeated

Although these transforms were make in the surname of the emperor and national defense, the lose of privileges carried some resentment and also rebellion. Once the top management left to take trip in Europe and the United says to research Western means in 1872, conservative groups said that Japan should reply come Korean\"s refusal to review a centuries old treaty through an invasion. This would help patriotic samurai to regain their importance. But the new leaders quickly returned native Europe and also reestablished your control, arguing that Japan must concentrate top top its very own modernization and also not connect in such foreign adventures.

For the following twenty years, in the 1870s and also 1880s, the top priority remained domestic reform aimed at an altering Japan\"s social and also economic institutions along the currently of the model listed by the an effective Western nations. The last blow to conservative samurai came in the 1877 Satsuma rebellion, once the government\"s freshly drafted army, trained in europe infantry techniques and armed with contemporary Western guns, defeated the last resistance the the classic samurai warriors. V the exemption of these few samurai outbreaks, Japan\"s domestic transformation proceeded with exceptional speed, energy, and the participation of the people. This phenomenon is among the significant characteristics of Japan\"s modern-day history.


In an initiative to unite the Japanese nation in response to the western challenge, the Meiji leaders produced a civic ideology centered around the emperor. Although the emperor wielded no politics power, he had long been viewed as a prize of Japanese society and historical continuity. He to be the head of the Shintô religion, Japan\"s aboriginal religion. Among other beliefs, Shintô holds the the emperor is descended from the sunlight goddess and also the gods who produced Japan and therefore is semidivine. Westerners of that time knew him primarily as a ceremonial figure. The Meiji reformers carried the emperor and also Shintô to nationwide prominence, instead of Buddhism together the nationwide religion, for political and also ideological reasons. By associating Shintô with the royal line, i m sorry reached ago into legend times, Japan had not only the oldest ruling house in the world, yet a an effective symbol the age-old national unity.

The world seldom saw the emperor, yet they were to lug out his orders without question, in honor to him and also to the unified of the Japanese people, which he represented. In fact, the emperor did no rule. It to be his \"advisers,\" the small group of guys who worked out political control, the devised and carried the end the reform regime in the name of the emperor.

Social and Economic Changes

The abolition of feudalism made feasible tremendous social and political changes. Millions of civilization were suddenly complimentary to choose their occupation and also move about without restrictions. By providing a brand-new environment of political and also financial security, the government made feasible investment in new industries and also technologies.

The government led the method in this, structure railway and shipping lines, telegraph and telephone systems, three shipyards, ten mines, 5 munitions works, and fifty-three customer industries (making sugar, glass, textiles, cement, chemicals, and also other crucial products). This was very expensive, however, and strained federal government finances, therefore in 1880 the government made decision to sell many of these industries to exclusive investors, after that encouraging such activity through subsidies and other incentives. Few of the samurai and merchants who constructed these industries established major corporate conglomerates dubbed zaibatsu, which managed much of Japan\"s contemporary industrial sector.

The government also introduced a national educational system and also a constitution, creating an elected parliament dubbed the Diet. They walk this to administer a good environment for nationwide growth, win the respect the the Westerners, and also build assistance for the modern state. In the Tokugawa period, popular education and learning had spread rapidly, and in 1872 the government established a national mechanism to educate the entire population. By the finish of the Meiji period, practically everyone to visit the cost-free public schools for at the very least six years. The government closely controlled the schools, making certain that in addition to an abilities like mathematics and reading, every students studied \"moral training,\" which stressed the prestige of your duty to the emperor, the country and also their families.

The 1889 constitution to be \"given\" to the world by the emperor, and only the (or his advisers) could change it. A parliament was elected beginning in 1890, however only the wealthiest one percent the the population could poll in elections. In 1925 this was readjusted to allow all men (but no yet women) come vote.

To win the recognition of the western powers and convince them to change the unequal contract the Japanese had actually been compelled to authorize in the 1850s, Japan adjusted its whole legal system, adopting a new criminal and civil code modeled ~ those of France and Germany. The west nations lastly agreed to review the treaties in 1894, acknowledging Japan as an equal in principle, although no in global power.

The global Climate: Colonialism and also Expansion

In 1894 Japan battled a war versus China over its attention in Korea, i beg your pardon China claimed as a vassal state. The korean peninsula is the closest component of Asia to Japan, less than 100 miles by sea, and also the Japanese to be worried the the Russians might gain regulate of that weak nation. Japan won the war and also gained control over Korea and gained Taiwan as a colony. Japan\"s sudden, decisive victory over China surprised the world and worried part European powers.

At this time the European nations were start to claim special legal rights in China — the French, with their colony in Indochina (today\"s Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), were involved in south China; the British additionally claimed special legal rights in southern China, close to Hong Kong, and also later the entirety Yangtze valley; and the Russians, who were structure a railway with Siberia and also Manchuria, to be interested in north China. ~ Japan\"s victory over China, Japan signed a treaty through China which provided Japan special rights on China\"s Liaotung peninsula, in addition to the control of Taiwan. However Japan\"s victory was brief lived. Within a week, France, Russia, and also Germany linked to push Japan to offer up civil liberties on the Liaotung peninsula. Each of these countries then began to pressure China to give it ports, naval bases, and also special economic rights, through Russia taking the same Liaotung peninsula that Japan had actually been required to return.

The Japanese government was angry by this incident and drew the lesson that for Japan to maintain its independence and also receive equal therapy in international affairs, the was essential to combine its military also further. Through 1904, as soon as the Russians were again threatening to establish regulate over Korea, Japan was much stronger. It asserted war on Russia and, utilizing all the strength, won win in 1905 (beginning with a surprise naval assault on harbor Arthur, which got for Japan the manage of the China Sea). Japan thus achieved dominance over Korea and also established chin a early american power in east Asia.

The duration 1912-1941

The Meiji reforms brought great changes both within Japan and in Japan\"s place in people affairs. Japan strengthened itself enough to remain a sovereign nation in the challenge of west colonizing powers and indeed ended up being a colonizing power itself. Throughout the Taishô period (1912-1926), Japanese citizens started to questioning for an ext voice in the government and for much more social freedoms. During this time, Japanese culture and the Japanese political device were significantly more open than they were either before or after. The period has frequently been referred to as the period of \"Taishô democracy.\" One explanation is that, until civilization War I, Japan enjoyed record breaking economic prosperity. The Japanese people had an ext money to spend, more leisure, and better education, supplemented through the advancement of fixed media. Increasingly they lived in cities wherein they come into call with influences from abroad and where the classic authority of the expanded family was much less influential. Industrialization in chin undermined traditional values, emphasizing instead efficiency, independence, materialism, and individualism. Throughout these year Japan observed the development of a \"mass society\" very similar to the \"Roaring 20s\" in the joined States. Throughout these year also, the Japanese people started to need universal manhood suffrage i m sorry they winner in 1925. Politics parties boosted their influence, becoming an effective enough to appoint their own prime ministers in between 1918 and 1931.

At the finish of civilization War I, however, Japan entered a severe economic depression. The bright, optimistic atmosphere of the Taishô period gradually disappeared. Politics party government was marred by corruption. The government and military, consequently, flourished stronger, the parliament weaker. The progressed industrial sector ended up being increasingly regulated by a couple of giant businesses, the zaibatsu. Moreover, Japan\"s global relations were disrupted by trade tensions and also by farming international disapproval of Japan\"s tasks in China. Yet success in completing with the European powers in east Asia strengthened the idea that Japan could, and also should, further broaden its affect on the asian mainland by army force.

Japan\"s need for natural resources and also the repeated rebuffs from the West come Japan\"s attempts to increase its power in Asia paved the means for militarists to rise to power. Insecurity in worldwide relations allowed a right-wing aggressive faction come control an initial foreign, climate domestic, policy. Through the military substantially influencing the government, Japan started an wild military project throughout Asia, and then, in 1941, bombed Pearl Harbor.

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The most important feature the the Meiji duration was Japan\"s battle for recognition of the considerable accomplishment and for equality v Western nations. Japan was very successful in organizing an industrial, capitalist state on western models. But when Japan also began to use the lessons the learned from european imperialism, the West reaction negatively. In a sense Japan\"s chief handicap was the it gone into into the western dominated people order at a late stage. Colonialism and the racist belief that accompanied it, were too entrenched in Western nations to allow an \"upstart,\" nonwhite country to get in the race for natural resources and markets together an equal. Numerous of the misunderstandings between the West and Japan stemmed native Japan\"s feeling of alienation native the West, which seemed to usage a various standard in handling European countries than that did with a rising oriental power prefer Japan.

Discussion Questions

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

What personage to be at the center of Japan\"s brand-new civic ideology? Why was using this personage together a prize of nationwide unity effective?

What duty did the central government beat in growing industry? giving education?

How walk colonization impact Asia in the late 1890\"s? What was the West\"s an answer to Japan\"s emigration efforts?

The terms \"modernization\" and also \"Westernization\" are often used interchangeably. What execute these terms average to you? Why do you think they often mean the very same thing?

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

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

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