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

In 1868 the Tokugawa shôgun ("great general"), that ruled Japan in the feudal period, shed his power and the emperor was revived to the supreme position. The emperor took the surname Meiji ("enlightened rule") together his power name; this event was recognized 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 mostly agricultural, and also had little technological development. It was managed by numerous semi-independent feudal lords. The Western powers — Europe and the United states — had forced Japan to authorize treaties that restricted its regulate over its own international trade and also required the crimes concerning foreigners in Japan it is in tried not in Japanese yet in west courts. As soon as the Meiji duration ended, through the death of the emperor in 1912, Japan had

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

Japan had actually regained finish control the its foreign trade and legal system, and, through fighting and winning two wars (one that them versus a major European power, Russia), it had created full independence and equality in international affairs. In a little an ext than a generation, Japan had exceeded that is goals, and also in the process had readjusted its entirety society. Japan"s success in modernization has actually created an excellent interest in why and also how it to be able to embrace Western political, social, and economic institutions in so brief a time.

One price is found in the Meiji restoration itself. This political revolution "restored" the emperor come power, but he did not rule directly. The was intended to expropriate the advice the the group that had overthrown the shôgun, and also it was from this team that a small number of ambitious, able, and also patriotic young men from the reduced ranks of the samurai arised to take control and establish the new political system. At first, their just strength was that the emperor accepted their advice and also several an effective feudal domains provided military support. They moved quickly, however, to develop their own military and also economic control. Through July 1869 the feudal lords had been requested to provide up their domains, and also in 1871 these domains were abolished and transformed into prefectures the a unified central state.

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

The armies of every domain to be disbanded, and also a national military based on global conscription was created in 1872, requiring three years" military company from every men, samurai and commoner alike. A nationwide land tax mechanism was developed that compelled payment in money rather of rice, which permitted the federal government to stabilize the national budget. This provided the federal government money to spend to develop up the toughness of the nation.

Resistance and Rebellion Defeated

Although these transforms were do in the surname of the emperor and national defense, the lose of privileges carried some resentment and rebellion. When the top leadership left to take trip in Europe and also the United states to study Western methods in 1872, conservative groups said that Japan need to reply come Korean"s refusal to revise a century old treaty v an invasion. This would assist patriotic samurai to regain their importance. However the brand-new leaders easily returned from Europe and also reestablished their control, arguing that Japan must concentrate top top its own modernization and also not communicate in such foreign adventures.

For the next twenty years, in the 1870s and 1880s, the height priority remained residential reform aimed at changing Japan"s social and also economic institutions along the present of the model detailed by the an effective Western nations. The final blow to conservative samurai come in the 1877 Satsuma rebellion, as soon as the government"s freshly drafted army, trained in european infantry techniques and armed with modern-day Western guns, beat the critical resistance that the classic samurai warriors. V the exemption of these couple of samurai outbreaks, Japan"s domestic change proceeded with remarkable speed, energy, and the teamwork of the people. This phenomenon is just one of the major characteristics of Japan"s modern-day history.


In an effort to unite the Japanese nation in response to the western challenge, the Meiji leaders created a public ideology centered roughly the emperor. Although the emperor wielded no politics power, he had actually long been regarded as a prize of Japanese culture and historic continuity. He was the head the the Shintô religion, Japan"s native religion. Amongst other beliefs, Shintô holds the the emperor is descended from the sun goddess and also the god who created Japan and also therefore is semidivine. Westerners of the time knew him mostly as a ceremonial figure. The Meiji reformers lugged the emperor and also Shintô to national prominence, replacing Buddhism as the national religion, for political and ideological reasons. By associating Shintô with the royal line, which reached back into legendary times, Japan had actually not only the oldest ruling house in the world, however a an effective symbol that age-old nationwide unity.

The human being seldom saw the emperor, yet they to be to bring out his orders without question, in respect to him and also to the unified of the Japanese people, which he represented. In fact, the emperor did not rule. It was his "advisers," the small group of males who worked out political control, the devised and also carried the end the reform regime in the name of the emperor.

Social and Economic Changes

The abolition of feudalism made possible tremendous social and also political changes. Millions of people were suddenly totally free to select their occupation and also move around without restrictions. By offering a new environment the political and financial security, the government made feasible investment in new industries and technologies.

The government led the means in this, building railway and shipping lines, telegraph and telephone systems, three shipyards, ten mines, five munitions works, and also fifty-three consumer industries (making sugar, glass, textiles, cement, chemicals, and also other important 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 markets to private investors, thereafter encouraging such task through subsidies and also other incentives. Some of the samurai and also merchants who developed these markets established significant corporate conglomerates dubbed zaibatsu, which managed much the Japan"s modern industrial sector.

The government also introduced a nationwide educational system and a constitution, developing an chosen parliament dubbed the Diet. They go this to carry out a an excellent environment for national growth, victory the respect of the Westerners, and also build support for the contemporary state. In the Tokugawa period, popular education had spread out rapidly, and in 1872 the government developed a national device to educate the entire population. Through the end of the Meiji period, nearly everyone to visit the complimentary public colleges for at the very least six years. The government carefully controlled the schools, making certain that in addition to skills like mathematics and reading, all students learned "moral training," which stressed the prestige of your duty come the emperor, the country and their families.

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

To victory the acknowledgment of the western powers and also convince them to change the unequal contract the Japanese had actually been forced to authorize in the 1850s, Japan readjusted its whole legal system, adopting a new criminal and civil password modeled after ~ those of France and Germany. The western nations ultimately agreed to review the contract in 1894, acknowledging Japan together an equal in principle, although not in international power.

The global Climate: Colonialism and Expansion

In 1894 Japan battled a war against China end its attention in Korea, i m sorry China claimed as a vassal state. The korean peninsula is the closest component of Asia come Japan, much less than 100 miles by sea, and also the Japanese were worried that the Russians could gain regulate of that weak nation. Japan winner the war and gained manage over Korea and also gained Taiwan together a colony. Japan"s sudden, decisive victory over China surprised the world and also worried some European powers.

At this time the European nations were beginning to case special rights in China — the French, through their nest in Indochina (today"s Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), were involved in southern China; the British additionally claimed special rights in south China, close to Hong Kong, and also later the whole Yangtze valley; and the Russians, that were structure a railway with Siberia and Manchuria, to be interested in phibìc China. After Japan"s win over China, Japan signed a treaty through China which provided Japan special legal rights on China"s Liaotung peninsula, in enhancement to the regulate of Taiwan. But Japan"s win was quick lived. Within a week, France, Russia, and Germany combined to pressure Japan to give up civil liberties on the Liaotung peninsula. Every of these nations then began to pressure China to provide it ports, naval bases, and special financial rights, with Russia acquisition the same Liaotung peninsula the Japan had actually been forced to return.

The Japanese government was upset by this incident and also drew the lesson the for Japan to preserve its independence and also receive equal treatment in global affairs, it was essential to strengthen its military also further. By 1904, as soon as the Russians to be again threatening to establish manage over Korea, Japan was much stronger. It declared war on Russia and, making use of all that strength, won success in 1905 (beginning through a surprised naval assault on harbor Arthur, which acquired for Japan the manage of the China Sea). Japan thus completed dominance over Korea and established itself a early american power in east Asia.

The period 1912-1941

The Meiji revolutionary brought an excellent changes both within Japan and also in Japan"s ar in civilization affairs. Japan strengthened itself sufficient to remain a sovereign nation in the confront of western colonizing powers and also indeed ended up being a colonizing strength itself. Throughout the Taishô period (1912-1926), Japanese citizens started to ask for more voice in the government and also for more social freedoms. Throughout this time, Japanese culture and the Japanese political device were significantly much more open than they were either before or after. The period has frequently been dubbed the period of "Taishô democracy." One explanation is that, until people War I, Japan took pleasure in record breaking economic prosperity. The Japanese world had an ext money to spend, much more leisure, and far better education, supplemented by the advance of fixed media. Significantly they stayed in cities whereby they came into contact with influences from abroad and also where the traditional authority of the expanded family was much less influential. Industrialization in chin undermined timeless values, emphasizing instead efficiency, independence, materialism, and individualism. Throughout these year Japan saw the appearance of a "mass society" very similar to the "Roaring 20s" in the united States. During these year also, the Japanese people started to demand universal manhood suffrage which they winner in 1925. Politics parties boosted their influence, becoming an effective enough to appoint their very own prime ministers between 1918 and also 1931.

At the end of people War I, however, Japan entered a severe financial depression. The bright, optimistic environment of the Taishô duration gradually disappeared. Politics party federal government was marred through corruption. The government and military, consequently, flourished stronger, the parliament weaker. The advanced industrial sector ended up being increasingly controlled by a couple of giant businesses, the zaibatsu. Moreover, Japan"s worldwide relations to be disrupted by profession tensions and by farming international not say of Japan"s activities in China. But success in completing with the European powers in east Asia strengthened the idea that Japan could, and should, further broaden its affect on the eastern mainland by military force.

Japan"s require for herbal resources and also the repetitive rebuffs from the West to Japan"s do the efforts to expand its power in Asia paved the means for militarists to increase to power. Insecurity in global relations allowed a right-wing aggressive faction to control first foreign, then domestic, policy. With the military substantially influencing the government, Japan began an aggressive military project throughout Asia, and then, in 1941, bombed Pearl Harbor.

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The most important feature of the Meiji duration was Japan"s struggle for recognition of the considerable achievement and because that equality with Western nations. Japan was highly successful in arranging an industrial, capitalist state on western models. However when Japan likewise began to apply the lessons the learned from european imperialism, the West reaction negatively. In a feeling Japan"s cook handicap was that it gone into into the western dominated civilization order at a late stage. Colonialism and the racist ideology that add it, were also entrenched in Western nations to enable an "upstart," nonwhite country to enter the race for organic resources and also markets together an equal. Countless of the misunderstandings between the West and Japan stemmed native Japan"s feeling of alienation from the West, which appeared to use a different standard in taking care of European nations than that did v a rising asian power choose Japan.

Discussion Questions

What were several of the political, economic and social alters that emerged during the Meiji Period?

What personage was at the facility of Japan"s brand-new civic ideology? Why was utilizing this personage together a prize of national unity effective?

What function did the main government beat in growing industry? offering education?

How did colonization influence Asia in the so late 1890"s? What was the West"s an answer to Japan"s emigration efforts?

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

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

How would you explain the political case in Japan at the finish of human being War I?

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