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"), who ruled Japan in the feudal period, lost his power and also the emperor was revitalized to the supreme position. The emperor take it the name Meiji ("enlightened rule") together his regime name; this event was recognized as the Meiji Restoration.

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The regime of the Meiji Emperor

When the Meiji emperor was revived as head that Japan in 1868, the nation was a militarily weak country, was mostly agricultural, and had little technological development. That was managed by thousands of semi-independent feudal lords. The Western powers — Europe and also the United claims — had compelled Japan to authorize treaties that minimal its regulate over that is own foreign trade and also required the crimes concerning foreigners in Japan it is in tried not in Japanese but in west courts. Once the Meiji period ended, with the death of the emperor in 1912, Japan had

· a highly centralized, administrative government; · a constitution developing an chosen parliament; · a well-developed transport and also communication system; · a extremely educated population cost-free of feudal course restrictions; · one established and rapidly farming industrial sector based upon the latest technology; and also · a powerful army and also navy.

Japan had regained finish control of its foreign trade and legal system, and, by fighting and winning two wars (one of them versus a significant European power, Russia), the had created full independence and equality in international affairs. In a little much more than a generation, Japan had exceeded its goals, and also in the procedure had changed its totality society. Japan"s success in modernization has actually created an excellent interest in why and how it to be able to embrace Western political, social, and economic establishments in so quick a time.

One prize is discovered in the Meiji reconstruction itself. This political transformation "restored" the emperor come power, however he did not dominance directly. The was intended to expropriate the advice the the team that had overthrown the shôgun, and also it was from this group that a small variety of ambitious, able, and also patriotic young men from the lower ranks of the samurai emerged to take control and also establish the brand-new political system. At first, their just strength was that the emperor embraced their advice and several powerful feudal domains detailed military support. They moved quickly, however, to construct their very own military and also economic control. Through July 1869 the feudal lords had been asked for to offer up their domains, and also in 1871 these domains were abolished and also transformed into prefectures of a unified central state.

The feudal lords and also the samurai class were available a yearly stipend, which was later changed to a one-time payment in government bonds. The samurai shed their class privileges, when the government asserted all great to it is in equal. By 1876 the government banned the put on of the samurai"s swords; the previous samurai cut off their height knots in favor of Western-style haircuts and also took up jobs in business and also the professions.

The militaries of each domain were disbanded, and 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 required payment in money rather of rice, which permitted the federal government to stabilize the nationwide budget. This offered the federal government money to spend to build up the stamin of the nation.

Resistance and Rebellion Defeated

Although these changes were made in the name of the emperor and also national defense, the ns of privileges brought some resentment and rebellion. Once the top leadership left to take trip in Europe and the United states to research Western ways in 1872, conservative groups suggested that Japan must reply come Korean"s refusal to review a centuries old treaty v an invasion. This would aid patriotic samurai to gain back their importance. But the new leaders conveniently returned from Europe and reestablished their control, arguing that Japan need to concentrate ~ above its very own modernization and also not engage in such international adventures.

For the following twenty years, in the 1870s and 1880s, the optimal priority remained residential reform aimed at an altering Japan"s social and economic establishments along the currently of the model detailed by the powerful Western nations. The final blow come conservative samurai come in the 1877 Satsuma rebellion, as soon as the government"s newly drafted army, trained in europe infantry techniques and also armed with contemporary Western guns, defeated the last resistance that the timeless samurai warriors. With 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 just one of the significant characteristics the Japan"s modern-day history.


In an initiative to hold together the Japanese nation in solution to the west challenge, the Meiji leaders developed a civic ideology centered approximately the emperor. Return the emperor wielded no political power, he had long been viewed as a symbol of Japanese culture and historic continuity. He was the head that the Shintô religion, Japan"s aboriginal religion. Amongst other beliefs, Shintô holds that the emperor is descended from the sun goddess and the gods who created Japan and also therefore is semidivine. Westerners of that time knew him primarily as a ceremonial figure. The Meiji reformers carried the emperor and also Shintô to national prominence, instead of Buddhism together the national religion, for political and ideological reasons. By link Shintô v the imperial line, i beg your pardon reached ago into legend times, Japan had actually not just the oldest ruling residence in the world, however a an effective symbol of age-old national unity.

The world seldom experienced the emperor, however they to be to lug out his orders there is no question, in respect to him and to the unit of the Japanese people, which that represented. In fact, the emperor did no rule. It was his "advisers," the small group of males who worked out political control, that devised and also carried the end the reform regime in the name of the emperor.

Social and Economic Changes

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

The government led the method in this, building railway and also shipping lines, telegraph and also telephone systems, 3 shipyards, ten mines, five munitions works, and fifty-three customer industries (making sugar, glass, textiles, cement, chemicals, and also other necessary products). This was really expensive, however, and strained federal government finances, for this reason in 1880 the government determined to sell most of these markets to exclusive investors, thereafter encouraging such activity through subsidies and also other incentives. Some of the samurai and merchants who constructed these sectors established major corporate conglomerates called zaibatsu, which regulated much that Japan"s modern-day industrial sector.

The government also introduced a nationwide educational system and a constitution, developing an chosen parliament referred to as the Diet. They go this to administer a good environment for nationwide growth, win the respect of the Westerners, and also build assistance for the contemporary state. In the Tokugawa period, popular education had spread out rapidly, and also in 1872 the government developed a national device to education the whole population. Through the end of the Meiji period, nearly everyone attended the cost-free public colleges for at the very least six years. The government carefully controlled the schools, making certain that in enhancement to an abilities like mathematics and also reading, every students studied "moral training," which stressed the prestige of their duty to the emperor, the country and their families.

The 1889 constitution was "given" to the world by the emperor, and also only the (or his advisers) could adjust it. A parliament was elected beginning in 1890, but only the wealthiest one percent that the populace could poll in elections. In 1925 this was adjusted to permit all males (but no yet women) to vote.

To win the acknowledgment of the western powers and convince them to change the unequal treaties the Japanese had been forced to authorize in the 1850s, Japan readjusted its entire legal system, adopting a new criminal and civil password modeled ~ those of France and Germany. The west nations finally agreed to revise the contract in 1894, acknowledging Japan together an equal in principle, although no in global power.

The global Climate: Colonialism and also Expansion

In 1894 Japan combated a war versus China end its interest in Korea, which China declared as a vassal state. The korean peninsula is the closest part of Asia come Japan, much less than 100 miles by sea, and also the Japanese to be worried the the Russians might gain regulate of that weak nation. Japan winner the war and gained control over Korea and gained Taiwan as a colony. Japan"s sudden, decisive victory over China surprised the world and worried some European powers.

At this time the European nations were start to case special rights in China — the French, with their colony in Indochina (today"s Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia), were connected in south China; the British also claimed special legal rights in southern China, near Hong Kong, and later the entirety Yangtze valley; and also the Russians, who were building a railway through Siberia and Manchuria, to be interested in phibìc China. After Japan"s success over China, Japan signed a treaty through China which gave Japan special rights on China"s Liaotung peninsula, in addition to the manage of Taiwan. But Japan"s success was brief lived. In ~ a week, France, Russia, and Germany an unified to push Japan to provide up legal rights on the Liaotung peninsula. Each of these nations then began to pressure China to give it ports, naval bases, and special financial rights, through Russia taking the exact same Liaotung peninsula the Japan had actually been required to return.

The Japanese federal government was upset by this incident and also drew the lesson that for Japan to maintain its independence and receive equal therapy in international affairs, it was crucial to strengthen its military even further. Through 1904, as soon as the Russians were again threaten to establish manage over Korea, Japan was lot stronger. It declared war ~ above Russia and, utilizing all that is strength, won success in 1905 (beginning through a surprise naval assault on harbor Arthur, which acquired for Japan the control of the China Sea). Japan thus accomplished dominance over Korea and also established itself a early american power in east Asia.

The period 1912-1941

The Meiji reforms brought great changes both in ~ Japan and in Japan"s location in civilization affairs. Japan strengthened itself sufficient to continue to be a sovereign nation in the confront of west colonizing powers and also indeed came to be a colonizing strength itself. During the Taishô period (1912-1926), Japanese citizens began to questioning for an ext voice in the government and also for much more social freedoms. During this time, Japanese society and the Japanese political mechanism were significantly an ext open 보다 they were either prior to or after. The period has often been dubbed the duration of "Taishô democracy." One explanation is that, until civilization War I, Japan took pleasure in record breaking financial prosperity. The Japanese people had an ext money come spend, an ext leisure, and far better education, supplemented by the development of mass media. Increasingly they resided in cities where they came into call with influences from abroad and where the traditional authority of the prolonged family was much less influential. Industrialization in chin undermined traditional values, emphasizing rather efficiency, independence, materialism, and individualism. Throughout these year Japan experienced the appearance of a "mass society" very similar to the "Roaring 20s" in the unified States. Throughout these year also, the Japanese people began to demand universal manhood suffrage i m sorry they winner in 1925. Politics parties enhanced their influence, becoming an effective enough to appoint their own prime ministers between 1918 and 1931.

At the finish of civilization War I, however, Japan gotten in a severe economic depression. The bright, optimistic setting of the Taishô duration gradually disappeared. Political party government was marred by corruption. The government and also military, consequently, flourished stronger, the conference weaker. The progressed industrial sector became increasingly controlled by a couple of giant businesses, the zaibatsu. Moreover, Japan"s international relations to be disrupted by profession tensions and also by farming international not say of Japan"s tasks in China. However success in competing with the European strength in east Asia strengthened the idea the Japan could, and also should, further increase its influence on the eastern mainland by armed forces force.

Japan"s require for natural resources and also the repetitive rebuffs native the West come Japan"s do the efforts to increase its power in Asia led the way for militarists to climb to power. Insecurity in worldwide relations enabled a right-wing aggressive faction come control very first foreign, then domestic, policy. Through the military significantly influencing the government, Japan started an aggressive military campaign throughout Asia, and then, in 1941, bombed Pearl Harbor.

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The most necessary feature that the Meiji duration was Japan"s struggle for recognition of its considerable achievement and because that equality with Western nations. Japan was extremely successful in organizing an industrial, capitalist state on west models. Yet when Japan additionally began to apply the lessons the learned from europe imperialism, the West reaction negatively. In a sense Japan"s chef handicap was that it gotten in into the west dominated people order at a so late stage. Colonialism and the racist ideology that add it, were too entrenched in Western nations to permit an "upstart," nonwhite nation to get in the gyeongju for natural resources and also markets as an equal. Plenty of of the misunderstandings between the West and Japan stemmed native Japan"s feeling of alienation indigenous the West, which seemed to use a different standard in managing European nations than it did with a rising eastern power choose Japan.

Discussion Questions

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

What personage to be at the center of Japan"s new civic ideology? Why was making use of this personage as a symbol of nationwide unity effective?

What role did the main government pat in growing industry? giving education?

How did colonization affect 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 often used interchangeably. What perform these terms median to you? Why do you think they often mean the exact same thing?

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

How would you define the political situation in Japan in ~ the finish of human being War I?

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