TheMeiji Restoration: Significant to Japan or Not
MeijiRestoration was a significant Japanese event that happened in 1868bringing with it political economic and social change to the peopleof Japan (Jansen 781). Meiji Restoration was a political revolutionthat was marked by the Boshin War that brought an end to Tokugawaimperial rule. The Tokugawa government had lasted in Japan forcenturies, between 1603 and 1867. This political revolutionintroduced a more direct imperial rule under the control of Mutsuhitowho was also the empire of Meiji. The exact impact of the MeijiRestoration cannot be easily determined without taking into accountof the impact the revolution had. While the revolution was hadpositive impacts for Japan, it also had negative effects that can beargued as not good for the country.
Thequestion in this research and discussion is whether the MeijiRestoration was good for Japan or not. Taking note of the ways thatthe revolution impacted on Japan’s history, the analysis anddiscussion of the Meiji Restoration will present the conflict as goodfor the country. To do this, the discussion will analyze thepolitical, social and economic impact of Meiji Restoration as well asits causes. It will also critically highlight all other significantevents that were as a result of Meiji Restoration and investigate thecosts associated in the context of modernization and alsowesternization to the Japan nation as a whole.
Meijirestoration was in form of a coup d’état that took place in thecapital of Kyoto which was Japanese an imperial in the ancient Japanin 3rdJanuary, 1868 (Beasley 12). Those who organized the coup hadannounced the pan of ousting the then empire and ruler TokagawaYoshinobu. However it is worth noting that Tokagawa was no longerheld any powers by late 1867. At this time, he had relinquished themafter proclaiming another younger empire who was supposedly to be theruler of Japan. Japan held nationwide civil war that saw the end ofTokagawa’s rule after he surrendered together with his imperialforces in the month of June, 1869 (Beasley 14).
Onepositive impact that the revolution had on japan was on theintroduction of new and young leaders. The most leaders that wereinvolved in the Meiji Restoration were mostly the young Samurai whocame from the feudal domains in that region. History has it that theSamurai were traditionally hostile towards the rule of Tokagawa andthey often rebelled against his authority (Lu 39). The people whorebelled were mostly composed of young men from Choshu who hailedfrom the far Western of Honshu as well as the Satsuma who on theother hand hailed from Southern Kyushu (Craig 21).
Themain motivational factor that propelled these men to show rebellionto Tokagawa was mostly due to the domestic problems that the Japancomers were facing and also the new threat of foreign encroachment.The foreigners were pressuring Japan to open its doors to the rest ofthe world and recede from its traditional political system that wasmostly isolationist. Foreigners were mostly from western nations andthey feared that Japan would become like China, which was facingserious Imperialistic pressure (Craig 23).
Inthis sense, the western nations wanted Japan to open its doors bothpolitically and mostly economically with the main intention of makingJapan an equal to the rest of the world nations. This intention wasregarded as a sinister motif by the young Japanese who led the MeijiRestoration for the purposes to reject such foreign advances.
Themoment that new political power took control in Japan, they drew uptheir aims and ambitions which they assumed to be ideal improvementstrategies to ailing Japan. In this regard, all these were publiclyexpressed in the Charter of Oaths that was drawn up in the month ofApril, 1868 (Wilson 9). In this Charter, the first and foremostchange that was effected in Japan was the relocation of the ancientimperial capital of that kingdom that was Kyoto.
Thismeant that Kyoto was to be relocated to the capital of Edo identifiedas Shogunal (Wilson 11). In the modern context, Shongunal was laterrenamed the current city of Tokyo that was located in the Easterncapital. The new system of government was very keen at dismantlingthe old feudal system of governance. Therefore, there it had to bringabout new reorganization of the old administration that wascompletely revised by 1871. Some of the domains that were changed andeffectively replaced with new prefecture system of administrationthat has typically remained and sustained to this present day (Wilson16).
Theold administrative system had a stratified kind of privilege systemthat favored those of higher social standing. This was a conservativeand traditional way if favoring higher social classes than the lowerclasses. The new form of government abolished this system of socialbias. It is also important note that the old system of governance ledby Tokagawa was military based (Jansen 201). However, the new systempreferred the national army that was officially formed in 1871. Inaddition, this national army was later guided by a new law that hadbeen adopted universally two years later after its formation (Jansen201). In regards, to the economic position of Japan, the new form ofgovernance introduced economic policies that were primarily aimed atunifying the tax and monetary system of Japan.
Oneparticular policy that which ensured the new government implementedthe monetary system was the agricultural policy that was aimed atreforming the traditional agricultural tax system by ensuring thatthere was the provision of monetary services by the government (Craig32). Additionally, the new Japanese government wanted to reform theeducational structure of Japan. Therefore, they introduced universaleducation in the country, which was aimed at providing education toevery child in Japan in the year 1872 (Craig 32). One important thingto note in this regard was the fact that the education system thatwas introduced during that period laid most emphasis to the westernkind of learning.
Bymid 1870’s, the new government system in Japan faced a number ofpressures and tensions from those opposing its way of acting onbehalf of the emperor. In this time, the emperor was a significantperson, who marked not only the unification of the country but alsoauthority. Therefore, there was a symbolism that was associated withthe ruler of ancient of Japan and in particular the emperor (Beasley45). The empire was regarded as a sanctified leader who was chosen bysupernatural being. In this regard, the Japanese had deep culturalrespect to the position held by the empire. In this, although theyparticipated in the civil war to ouster out the previous empire frompower and control, they did not regard the new system of governmentas one chosen by the supreme being and therefore, they did notappreciated the fact the fact that Meiji Restoration was using theposition of an empire to control and rule, thus forming some form ofcultural resistance that went on growing year after another.
Anotherimportant fact to note is that the key participants in thesedeveloping and growing rebellions were the same young individualssuch as Saigo Takamori who hailed from Satsuma (Jansen 211). The armyofficials of the Meiji side of the revolution had a stronger forcethat was composed of stronger samurai warriors from Satsuma andChoshu (Gordon 63). Therefore one is able to notice the trend ofrebellion led leaders who are not typically the old people in thenation who were patriotic.
Therevolution involved both the old who had safeguarded the traditionsof Japan and also the young Japanese leaders. The young people had aquest to see new changes that were genuinely as a result of theexisting Japanese traditional practices and cultures that were angledat a different and new perspective (Jansen 210). The new governmentalso tried to suppress these growing and increasing uprisings butthere was some form of difficulty in doing so mostly because theseindividuals were passionate about what they fought for and theybelieved in it as well.
Themost important factor that made such rebellious difficult to suppresswas the fact that common Japanese civilians such as the peasants tookpart in such revolts, an action that strengthened them (Jansen 213).The main reason that the peasants participated in such revolts wasthe fact that they were dissatisfied with the agrarian policies thatwere newly introduced, which seemed to affect them negatively. Inthese regard, their participation heightened such revolts in the mid1880’s (Beastly 61).
Atthe period of Meiji’s Restoration that ensured the Meijiestablished the fact that Meiji was Japan’s emperor from 1868, thatJapan nation was formerly characterized by weak military form ofgovernance that was inherited from Tokugawa (Wilson 49). In addition,the typical economic activity that existed at the time wasagriculture as well as underdeveloped agricultural practices. Thesesemi-developed sectors were mostly run by many feudal lords summingup to hundreds of them. It is import ant to understand that foreignencroachment was the main reason that drove to formation of MeijiRevolution (Jansen 214).
Inthis regard, there were many western countries including the UnitedStates that was forcing and coaxing the nation of Japan to enter intointernational agreements and treaties that limited Japan’s controlon its foreign trade. Moreover, such agreements were biased in thatthey insisted that Western or foreigners who were found guilty wereto be charged and tried in their own homeland countries but not inJapan (Craig 51). This means that Japan would inevitably relinquishits jurisdictional powers over any foreigners who committed crimewithin the territories of Japan.
Thepolitical impacts of Meiji Revolution were very significant ascompared to the traditional form of governance that had existed atthe time. At the time of imperialist rule, Japan developed a highlycentralized system of government that was dominantly bureaucraticgovernment (Craig 49). In addition the Japanese adopted a newconstitution that established an elected member in parliament thatwas supposed to be responsive to problems that existed to the commonJapanese people.
Themain intention of this strategy was to tackle Japanese domesticproblems that were eventually having setbacks to Japanese economicand social wellbeing (Wilson 38). The most significant improvementthat was made in the economy was the economic development ofeffective infrastructural systems. This was established through goodcommunication and transportation systems that would ensure thattrading activities were happening in the most reliable way possible(Beastly 56).
Inaddition the universal education led to more students and thuspopulation getting access to educational facilities. This is despitethe fact that Japan was divided into two major struggling economicclasses of individuals the poor and the rich. Universal educationensured that all students disregarding their economic or socialbackgrounds were allowed to access the opportunity of education. Thisform of educational structure thus brought about increased highlyeducated population that was characterized with the expressions suchas liberalization that was devoid of all class restrictions.
Themost important economic impact of the Meiji Restoration was thedevelopment and rapid growth of the industrial sector that was drivenand propelled by the new and developing technological advancements inJapan (Craig 66). In addition, industrial sector was protected by thepresence of powerful army as well as navy that ensured securitythroughout the trade. During this period, Japan was able to havestable government through its new government, had regained new for mof government that was fully responsible for Japanese foreign trade(Craig 66). In addition, this new government was also controlling thelegal system that existing during that period in that particularcontexts.
Oneof the major political impacts of the Meiji Revolution was the factthat it actually restored the empire in power (Wilson 79). However,this time round the empire did not directly rule the kingdom as itwas before. The only difference that existed in this type of empirewas the fact that he accepted advices from all the groups that hadoverthrown the former empire. That group which was mostly led byyoung Samurais was usually able, patriotic ambitious and werepredominantly composed of individuals from very lower classes (Wilson81). Although this group came from lower class had very significantimpact to the way the political structure if Japan was established.In essence, the young Samurais who came from lower classes had directimpact to Japan’s political system.
Lookingat the impact of this new political system that was established inJapan gives a view of the nation’s future as anticipated by theyoung Samurais. At first, this political system had recognized theirimpact to the political framework in Japan and offered them theprivilege of advising the empire who never ruled directly while someof these young men were also incorporated to the new military system(Craig 44). However, the majority of the other young Samurais had toform their own military (Gordon 63). Worth noting is that they wereable, ambitious and very patriotic to their country, Japan.
Thenew political system knew this and they knew their influence to therest of Japanese society thereby incorporating them to decisionmaking processes of the political administration of Japan (Wilson102). Therefore, the majority of these young Japanese as mentionedearlier formed their own military and also economic system. They alsoadvised the new political administration to force the feudal lords ingiving up their properties which was later prefecture and transformedto be owned central state. This means that the feudal lords systemswere completely abolished in Japan by 1871 (Jansen 233).
Themilitary systems that were in existence before the Meiji Restorationwere not restored, but disbanded (Craig 59). In this regard, theyoung samurais forced the new political administration to implement anew army system that was based on a universal idea that was encryptedon an universal inscription established in 1872. This new militaryservice typically required a three year service from every man,Samurais and any other commoner to perform its function. This was aform of military service that was based on the idea of inclusivity ofindividuals from all spheres (Wilson 107).
Thesamurais advised the political administration to have a form ofnational land taxing system that involved the common people payingtheir taxes in form of money instead of the traditional system ofrice (Wilson 103). This was a viable economic idea because it enabledthe administrative political system to stabilize its national budgetthat was vital to the economy and well being of every individual ofJapan. In addition, this economic idea was relevant to the newadministrative political system in fulfilling its obligations, goalsand responsibilities of ensuring that it met the much needed strengthin building a strong economy and nation of Japan (Beasley 83).
Allthese changes were made in the name of building national defense aswell as in the name of the empire that was constituted with thesystem of inclusivity. This system of inclusivity brought about a lotof resentment to the group of individuals that were formerlyprivileged in the former system of governance (Craig 77). Thispropelled them to have resentment to this new politicaladministration that resulted to some form of rebellion that isexperienced in any government administration.
Thenew system of administration was predominantly based on the westernways of political administration (Beastly 222). In this regard, theymade regular travel arrangements that ensured that they travel tocountries in Europe as well as the United States of America with themain intention of observing and studying and investigating thepolitical systems that made such nations thrive in the internationalplatforms.
However,in 1872 the conservative groups that still existed in Japan insistedto the administration of Japan in responding to the neighboringKoreans refusal to to imperialistic advances (Beastly 121). At thesame time, Korea was in fact facing political challenges that wereconsequently forcing it to form treaties with imperialisticcountries. However, Korea remained steadfast in its stand on refusingto agree into agreements with such nations and asked neighboringcountries like Japan to enforce its refusal.
Thisin turn was very significant to Japan but not as whole but wasactually meant the significance if the Samurai group as they feltthat their importance was recognized after all (Jansen 244). Worthnoting is that they were the main participants and revolutioniststhat brought about Meiji Revolution. They were individuals who weretypically politically able as they had mass support from the rest ofthe Japan commoners who felt their course was genuine and ofpolitical significance.
Themost important fact that made Japan’s Samurais be pleased withKorean’s urge for support in protecting its territories was theidea of patriotism. The samurai warriors were fighting for thecountry and were very patriotic. They were individuals who werealways ready to do anything that would help protect the patrioticinterest of other groups from other nations (Wilson 215).
Despitethe fact that they were ambitious, they were not actually inclined tothe idea of imperialism. This was the main reason that Japan wasready to help Korea in protecting its patriotic interests. However,the main cause of Meiji Restoration that was actually the foreignersencroaching Japan’s territories (Jansen 210).
Thereforethe new political administration was very keen at ensuring that Japanshouldn’t concentrate so much on western way of administration.They demanded that Japan should have its own control and mostly relyon its own distinct culture of modernization without necessarilyengaging any involvement of any foreigner.
Whilethe Meiji Restoration had positive impacts to the country, it issometimes observed that the conflict was not good for the country.The revolution led to the altering of the political state that thecountry was used to at the time. According to Wilson (94) theimperial rule that was in place before the restoration of the MeijiRule was more disciplined. This is in comparison to a more relaxedtype of rule by the Meiji Regime. While this is relative to eachside, the impact of the Meiji Restoration was evident on the strictrule that the country was used to before, even if the country changedfor the better.
Atthe same time, the conflict and the tensions of the Meiji revolutionled to the breakout of the Boshin War in 1868. This war was inspiredby the changes that had taken place during the revolution conflict aswell as the adoption of a conflict climate. This is because the wartook place shortly after the restoration of the Meiji rule in thecountry. While the war was not a direct impact of the restoration, itwas a resultant of the tense political climate that existed betweentheex-shogun`s army against the Satsuma and Choshu forces(Gordon 63).
TheBoshin War, which was part of the conflict that led to the revolutionin Japan led to loss of lives. In this war, many soldiers on bothsides were killed and destruction of property was a significanteffect. The Meiji revolution was the larger result that presentedmilitary conflicts that led to loss of lives. This was a result ofthe conflict, just like any other war. Therefore, it shows that theMeiji restoration had positive impact on the country, but had theeffect of bringing an environment that led to loss of life.
Despitethe loss of lives and wars in the time of the Japanese revolution,the restoration of the Meiji rule was central in the development ofthe country. The Meiji rule was accompanied by law and order in thecountry that was vested on the young ruler, Meiji. Under this newpolitical rule, the new government officials were composed of peopleknown to Meiji (Gordon 64). They started the new government thatreplaced the previous bureaucratic and clumsy leadership under theimperial ruler Yokugawa Yoshinobu (Gordon 64). In this new reform,Japan had no room in the country as an imperialist. He thereforeresigned his authority and abdicated power to Meiji, the new rulerwho controlled the country.
TheMeiji restoration was a significant event in the history of Japan.The main political impact was the restoration of the Meiji rule,which gave Japan new political structures and political reforms(Gordon 63). The restoration of the Meiji rule led to significantsocial changes in the country as the political environment waspeaceful for the development of the country. Despite the negativeimpacts of the war and the revolution as a military conflict, Japanwas left a better country than before. The positive impact that thewar had on the political, social and economic scenes in Japanesehistory makes the Meiji restoration good for the country.
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