Japan/Meiji

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The Tokugawa bakufu (Military government, shogunate, whatever you want to call it) came to a certain end in 1868 with the defeat of the Shogun's forces and drafting of the Charter Oath The year 1867 is often given as the start of the period because that is when the 14-year-old emperor Mutsuhito succeded his father as emperor, taking the title Meiji (明治) meaning "enlightened rule." The Meiji Restoration, as the revolution came to be known, was ostensibly brought about to restore the emperor's powers from the previous regime. This is not in fact true. The power simply changed hands from the Tokugawa Shogun to a new oligarchy of the daimyo who defeated him. These oligarchs were mostly from the Satsuma province (Okubo Toshimichi and Saigo Takamori), and the Choshu province (Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo, and Kido Koin.)

The Charter Oath was a declaration of 5 principles given to the young emperor to sign, setting the path of Japanese history to the present day. These articles were:

1. "Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by public discussion." This in fact never really happened. A parliament with no real power was established, and the oligarchy remained in real political control. On the bright side, they did allow more in the way of public assemblies and political discourse.

2. "All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of the affairs of state." This one was important, especially in conjunction with article three. Essentially, it means that all people can be employed by the government, and that everybody should help the government as much as possible, regardless of position.

3. "The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall each be allowed to pursue his own calling so that there may be no discontent." This statement abolished the long standing feudal order of Japan. Very, very important.

4. "Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon the just laws of Nature." This doesn't actually mean anything per se. It's just a vague, blanket declaration of reform.

5. "Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of Imperial Rule." If you've read about the Taika Reforms, this might seem familiar. The difference here is that instead of borrowing from the Chinese, the Japanese are borrowing from Western powers, mostly the U.S. Amongst other things, this policy brought baseball, business suits, and the military muscle flexed in World War II to Japan.

The Meiji Restoration is most renowned as being the period of Japanese modernization, making Japan a world superpower by the end of World War I. Considering that the economic structure and production of the country as of 1868 were roughly equivalent to those of Elizabethan England (in my view, anyway), this is widely regarded as remarkable progress. This process was closely monitored and heftily subsidized by the Meiji government, bringing to power the great zaibatsu firms, such as Mitsubishi. Hand in hand, the zaibatsu and government guided the nation, always borrowing technology from the West. Japan gradually took control of much of Asia's markets for finished products, beginning with textiles. The economic structure became very mercantilistic, importing raw materials and exporting finished products. This isn't much of a surprise considering Japan has never had much in the way of raw materials on its home islands to begin with.

Japan's breakthrough into international stardom came about with World War I. While allied with the British, and lending some token support in the Pacific region, (gaining some German territory in China in the process) Japan remained largely out of the conflict. After the dust cleared on the war, European powers undertook a massive rebuilding effort, leaving international markets to the U.S. and Japan, which emerged in relatively (stressing relatively) good shape. The European powers could no longer fill the needs of their colonies in Asia, let alone China and Thailand, leaving those two lucrative markets, along with India, Indonesia, and others, to Japanese manufacturers.


Sources: That which I didn't know from memory, including the exact text of the Charter Oath and the names of the Meiji Oligarchists, was taken from: Murphey, Rhoades. East Asia: A New History. Addison Wesley Longman, New York 1997.


For more, see a paper I wrote on the Japanese industrialization process, here: (http://www.simons-rock.edu/~seckstu/JapanIndus.html). My bibliography got lost somewhere along the way, so sources aren't cited. I don't know if that's illegal or not. There aren't any quotes, I know that. Well if it is illegal, then feel free to remove the link.


First of all, this is a good reason why subpages are usually a bad thing. Does Meiji have anyrelevance outside of japan? I don't know how to stick a good Talk page onto here. Anyway, I am requesting some information. I heard that after the Meiji reformation, the Samurai packed up their stuff and moved to Hokkaido, which is why there is more of an old-fashioned culture there. Does anyone know enough about this to write about it?