Japan Through Meiji Notes FromText.doc - asianempires by zhangyun


Since its ancient beginnings, Japan has been influenced by the traditions of other
conntries. Much of its language, culture and style of government was derived
from the world’s oldest living civilisation, China. The impact, many hundreds of
years ago, of Confucianism and Buddhism, two successful Chinese imports, is still
apparent in Japan today. Respect for authority, loyalty to one’s family and pride
in one’s nation are now inherent traits of Japanese culture. Later influenced by
West. As an island country, Japan’s history has heen shaped by its relative
isolation from the Asian mainland and the continent of North America. This
aspect of its geography has protected Japan from the threat of invasion by
Mongol hordes in the thirteenth century and the intrusion of Christian
missionaries in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Change, however, was
never far away, indeed only across the Pacific, as Japan was to find in 1853.

CH1 - Early Japan
Originally part of the Asian continent, Japan consists of four main islands,
Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu and hundreds of smaller ones.
One of the first people to come to Japan were the Ainu. The Ainu are very
different from the modern Japanese. Their eyes lack the Mongoloid fold that
gives a person distinct almond-shape eyes. Often known as ‘the hairy Ainu’, the
men tend to have long beards and rough, matted hair. It is generally believed
that the Ainu have similar origins to many tribes of northern Russia.
they are slowly dying out as a
separate cultural group.

From an early date, the people of Japan believed in and worshipped the kami, a
word which generally refers to ‘gods’, ‘deities’ or ‘spirits’. People believed that
some kami took a human form, while others took the shape of natural features.
They put different types of kami into groups:
 invisible powers: spirits of creativity, fertility and productivity
 natural events: wind, thunder, rain
 natural objects: sun, mountains, rivers
 certain animals: fox, dog
 ancestral spirits: spirits of the dead.
This system of worship later formed the basis of the Japanese religion known as
Shinto (‘The Way of the Divine Spidt’).

CH2 - China and Korea
For much of its history, Japan has been heavily influenced by China, which lies to
the west across the Sea of Japan. As the early Japanese had no knowledge of
writing until it was introdnced from China during the fifth
century AD

Confucius considered that a person had to obey their conscience to lead a
virtuous life. He believed that kindness was the greatest of virtues and the source
from which everything flowed. Perhaps his most famous teaching is that of filial
piety. Part of its meaning can be found in the old saying ‘Honour thy father and
thy mother’, but to Confucius it meant having absolute respect and concern for
one’s parents and oneself.
The teachings of Confucius appealed to the Yamato rulers of Japan. Like the
Chinese, they greatly vaJued the idea of obedience to authority, either of a ruler,
or a mother and father. This was reflected in the hierarchical (pyramid-shaped)
structure of Japanese society where everyone had their place and knew it.
Buddhism reached Japan-in AD 552.
Prince Shotoku came to power in AD 593 as he was a Buddhist. During his reign,
he proclaimed Buddhism as one of ‘the three treasures’ of life. The other two
were Confucianism and Shintoism.

CH3 - How Japan was Ruled
Early Japanese society was composed of many clansThe head of the
most powerful uji often ruled the country with the emperor as a figurehead.

Prince Shotoku, ruler of Japan from AD 594-622, was
a great admirer of all things Chinese. He sought to
create a system of government based on the Chinese
model with the emperor as head of state supported
by a bureaucracy (civil servants) selected by
examination. These ideals of government later
formed the basis of the Taika Reforms called the
‘Great Transformation’ of 645.
Beginning in 1185, a person who was both a political and military leader, called a
The final period of shogunal rule was under the
Tokugawa clan, which ruled from Edo (later Tokyo)
between 1603 and 1868 while the emperor remained at
Although the focus of loyalty for all Japanese remained the emperor, the shogun
was able to rule in his name (like the leaders of the most powerful uji before
him) and control Japan for more than six centuries.

CH4 - Feudal Japan
A feudal system had existed in Japan since Heian times (794-1185). It was based
on the idea that the different social classes had certain rights or duties to one
another. Peasant farmers, for example, had a strict duty to serve their lord in the
field. In return they had a right to be protected.
Feudal lords recognized the emperor as the head of Japan, but he had no
political power. Real power lay with the shogun who ruled in the emperor’s
name. By the middle of the sixteenth century, the shogun too had lost control

and Japan was a mass of small warring states.
Social Classes
Shogun (military ruler)
Feudal lords
Samurai (professional soldiers - practiced Bushido: the way of the warrior -
absolute loyalty, bravery and honor)
Peasants (farmers - major part of population)
Artisans and craftspeople
Merchants (their status grew over time as trade became more important)

Since ancient times women had gained considerable influence in Japan. Their
early high status was largely due to a woman-centred marriage pattern in
Japanese society. Up until the elevenfh century, within all social levels, a husband
either joined the family of his wife (mukoirikon) or lived separately from her and
visited on certain nights (a practice called kayoi kekkon). Attitudes towards
women began to change after the arrival of Buddhism and Confucianism in
By the end of the twelfth century, fhe status and position of women in Japan was
greatly affected by the change to a war-oriented fendal economy under the
1111e of a shogun. The ever-present danger of warfare made it practical for only
one person to inherit the family’s property, often the oldest or most able son. So
women losttheir property rights and became more dependent on fheir male
By the seventeenth century, the role of women was strictly outlined in the
Confucian-styled work known as the anna Daiguku (Great Learning for Women).
It stressed that a woman’s interests shonld be secondary to those of fhe family
and that she should obey her parents until marriage, fhen her husband (and his
family) and then her sons in her old age.

CH5 - The Europeans Arrive
The first Europeans to arrive in Japan were Portuguese. In 1543, Portuguese
traders from Macao were driven off course and came ashore on the island of
Tanega, near Kyushu. They were welcomed by the local daimyo, who bought
guns from them known as harquebuses which were later used in clan warfare.
Catholic missionaries were not far behind the traders.
At first Jesuit missionaries received no serious
opposition from the rulers of Japan.

Hideyoshi did not favout the Portuguese and

their new religion. He believed that Christianity was in
many ways hostile to Japanese traditions and law. In
1587, he issued an edict which ordered all Jesuit
missionaries to leave Japan.
The defiance of the Christians, especially the Franciscans, angered Hideyoshi. In
February 1597, he ordered the death of twenty-six Christians by crucifixion at
Despite great persecution, the Christian.church continued to grow. By the time of
Hideyoshi’s death, there were close.to 300 000 converts in Japan.

CH6 - Japanese Isolation
in 1616, two more
European countries made contact with Japan. Dutch
traders arrived in 1609 and English merchants came
in 1613.
In 1614, all foreign priests were ordered out of Japan, churches were destroyed
and converts were told to renounce their faith.
The number of Christian executions between 1613 and 1626 amounted to about
750, but this figure did not include the thousands who had died from exile,
imprisonment and torture.
In 1623, Hidetada installed his son, Iemitsu, as
shogun and together they ruled the country for the
next ten years. After expelling the Spanish in 1624, father and son sought to close
Japan from the rest of the
world. In 1636, the Tokugawa shogunate did so, issuing
an edict which allowed no Japanese to leave the country
nor return from abroad on pain of death.
After 1641, the Dutch were the only Europeans left in the country. They were
confined to the tiny island of Deshima in Nagasaki harbour and allowed the visit
of only one vessel per year.
For more than two centuries, Japan was cut off from the great agricultural,
industrial aud scientific changes that were taking place in the Western world.
During this time, the Tokugawa shogunate tried to regulate every aspect of life in
Japan’s isolation proved costly. By creating a long period of peace, the
Tokugawas condemned the samurai to a life of inactivity, with no military duties.
The art of fighting became theoretical. Out of touch with the realities of warfare,
the samurai continued to train in the outdated arts of fighting with swords, bows
and arrows, using them mostly as character-building exercises.
Although the Tokugawa

shogunate was not on the brink
of collapse when Commodore
Perry arrived in 1853, new
trends had weakened it

CH7 - Commodore Perry Visits Japan
On 8 July 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry, Commanderin-Chief of the United
States naval forces in the Far East, led a fleet of four warships into Uraga Bay
(near Edo). The Japanese had never before seen such awesome vessels. Unlike
Chinese and Japanese ships, they were fuelled by coal and painted black.
President Fillmore requested
       the United States of America and Japan should live in friendship and trade
        with one another
     Japan should provide American ships with coal and additional supplies on
        entering its ports
     shipwrecked American sailors should be protected by
local authorities.
The President’s letter, although polite, contained a
veiled threat.

On 31 March,
both nations concluded a treaty at Kanagawa (near Edo),
in which Japan agreed to:
  maintain friendlYl peaceful and permanent relations
   with the United States of America
   open two ports-Shimoda and Hakodate-to the
   Americans for trading purposes
   provide protection for shipwrecked American sailors
 accept an American Consul to reside at Shimada
grant the United States of America the same privileges
given to other nations in future treaties.

CH8 - The Fall of the Tokugawa shogunate
Townsend Harris, the first
American Consul to Japan, persuaded the JapaneSe to
sign the Treaty of Edo (or Harris Treaty) in July 1858.
This established fonnal diplomatic relations hetween Japan
and the United States of America; opened up fj.ye more

Japanese ports for trade; and contained a ‘mqst favoured
nation’ clause which granted the United States of America
the same rights which might be given to any other country
in the future. Later in the same year, similar treaties were
concluded with Britain, France, Holland and Russia.
manY’ Japanese people were
outraged by the new treaties with the West. They
regarded them as unfair or ‘unequjl

An important consequence of the ‘unequal treaties’ was
the increasing number of foreigners in Japan, who were
viewed with great distrust and hostility by the Japanese.
In 1866, Satsuma and Choshu formed a secret alliance with two other important
provinces in south-west Japan-Tosa and Hizen. In the following year, Emperor
Komei died. The way was now open for Satsuma and Choshu to unify the country
under his young successor, Mutsuhito, who took the name Meiji, meaning
‘enlightened rule’.
Late in 1867, the last of the Tokugawa shoguns, Keiki,
surrendered his powers to the emperor

With the fall of the
Tokugawa shogunate, a new era began known as The
Meiji Restoration.

CH9 - Emperor Meiji and the Charter Oath
The Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) was a revolutionary period in Japanese
history. With the return of political power to the emperor, Japan was thrust into
the modern world in an attempt to avoid Western dominance which was already
the fate of China, the Dutch East Indies and the Indian subcontinent.
Japan adopted excessive Westernization. Western ideas, technology, fashion and
food dominated the early part of the period. The status of Japanese women,
however, did not improve. Under the Meiji Constitution of 1889, they were not
accorded with political rights and continued to playa subordinate role to men.
In a period of less than fifty years, Japan was able to retain its independence and
find ‘a place among the aggressors instead of among the victims of aggression’.
When Mutsuhito became emperor of Japan in 1867, he was only fifteen years old.
In the following year, he dismissed the ruling shogun and ended more than two
and a half centuries of Tokugawa rule.
The driving force behind the economic, social and political changes of the Meiji

Restoration were the young samurai from the Satsuma, Chashu, Hizen and Tosa
clans who had helped defeat the shogun and restore the emperor to power.
In April 1868, Emperor Meiji made clear his government’s intention to
modernize the country when he issued an Imperial Oath of Five Articles (often
known in English as the Charter Oath). It became an important statement of
imperial policy regarding Japanese reform.
By this oath we set up as our aim the establishment
of the national weal on a broad basis and the
forming of a constitution and laws.
Article 1
Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established
and all matters decided by public discussion.
Article 2
All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously
carrying out the administration of affairs of state.
Article 3
The common people, no less than the civil and
military officials, shall each be allowed to pursue
his own calling so that there be no discontent.
Article 4
Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and
everything based upon the just laws of Nature.
Article 5
Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world
so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule

Japan’s new leaders
realised that unless their country modernised and became
strong militarily it would forever be at the mercy of
Western demands.
Japan’s first constitution (Seitaisho} was drawn up in June 1868, having been
hastily prepared, proved unworkable and was later abandoned.
The new government’s first task was to establish its power over all the 260
feudal domains (han). Some of them had become almost independent states
ruled by their daimyo during the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate.

25 July 1869, Emperor Meiji issued an imperial decree

which forced all feudal lords to surrender their lands (fiefs)
and the powers that went with them.
Two years later, the process was complete.

CH10 - Building a Modern Economy
In 1868, Japan was a non-industrialized country, Three
quarters of the workforce was employed in agriculture
or farming and related handicrafts
Industrialization became a key aim of the Meiji period.
Government policy of sponsoring industry and promoting enterprise.
The Meiji government gave priority to developing defense ‘industries which
could withstand the Western menace, strategic industries on which modern
military power depended: heavy industry, engineering, mining and shipbuilding.

Foreign instructors were employed to give technical training
Engineering, technical and naval schools were founded using foreign instructors
while the best Japanese students were often sent abroad
The government took over all of the mines and employed the best foreign
experts to increase mineral production. By the end of the Meiji period, Japan
ranked as one of the world’s largest producers of coal and exporters of copper.
The cost involved in crushing the clans required heavy public spending at a time
when revenue was very difficult to obtain leading to a deficit

Inflation ran high, internal revenue dropped and the currency lay in a
state of chaos

The yen was officially adopted as the basic unit of currency in 1871
In 1872, the American system of national banking was taken as the model for
Japan and four national banks were established, but by 1875, all were in serious
financial trouble
In 1882, a centralized, European-style system of banking took the place of the
earlier American system Bank of Japan, the nation’s first central bank, was
1873, the government needed to reform taxation, and a 3% of annual crop land
tax was introduced. The land tax became Japan’s largest source of revenue
during the Meiji period and financed its transition to a modern economy. It
remained a heavy burden on Japan’s farmers
Economic changes to Japan quite quickly. The most visible were modern
communications such as the telegraph and railway
On 5 November 1880, it published the Regulations on the Transfer of Factories,
abandoning the policy of government control of industry.
The government began selling off certain industries to private companies, often

on very generous terms. These favored companies grew into large business
called Zaibatsu.

CH11 - Social Change and the West
Westernization brought problems for the samurai. The government gradually
removed the privileges they enjoyed.
1869 The old feudal hierarchy was replaced with new social classes

1871 The government made the wearing of swords optional and allowed men to
off their topknots

1872 Conscription was introduced

1876 In March, the Hatori Edict prohibited wearing of swords in public
1877 The Satsuma Rebellion (30,000 ex-samurai led by Saigo Takamori) lasted
6 months but the government won (with its conscripted commoner army)
Many in Japan felt that in order to be accepted as equals it was necessary to
not only Western science and technology, but all aspects of Western culture.
‘Civilization and enlightenment’
Many Japanese writers and intellectuals rejected their traditional institutions
and the learning that underlay them for the path of ‘universal progress’
In 1872. The Meiji government decided that Western dress should be worn for
all court and official ceremonies.
Western-style haircuts became a major symbol of Westernization.
Meat eating was encouraged at the expense of traditional Buddhist beliefs -
Bread, beer and dairy products also appeared.

Ballroom dancing emerged as a particularly popular pastime
The Meiji government believed that a modernized society needed an organized
system of education
In 1871, a Ministry of Education Was established to provide education to all
people, regardless of their social class or gender. In 1872, it was decreed that all
Japanese children must have at least four years of primary schooling. By 1910,
98 per cent of Japanese students were receiving compulsory education.
Tokyo University, was founded in 1877.
In 1890, Emperor Meiji introduced his famous, ‘Rescript on Education’, which
stressed the importance of harmony and loyalty to the throne.

CH12 - Ito Hirobumi and the Constitution of 1989
It was widely believed that constitutions (systems of fundamental laws and
principles of a government) provided the unity that gave Western powers their
Under Japan’s first constitution, the ‘Constitution of 1868,’ a Grand Council of
State consisting of seven departments, held all political power. However, it did
not provide Japan with a modern constitution and a national parliament· that
would earn Western respect and popular support.
During the Restoration, Japan was run by a small group of men known as oligarchs .
A number of them left the government over the question of invading Korea in 1873.
This division led to the creation of The Freedom and People's Rights Movement.

Consisting mainly of ex-samurai and commoners, The Freedom and People's Rights
Movement demanded a popular assembly or government so that decisions would
reflect the will of the people. It eventually became the Liberal Party

Osaka Agreement. It called for the creation of a constitutional government in gradual
stages and a new body of officials called the Senate was appointed by the emperor to
draft a second constitution.

Between 1876 and 1878, the Senate prepared four draft constitutions which were too
liberal for the powerful oligarchs

Ito Hiroburni, an ex-samurai who had worked to restore the emperor to power and
who was a member of
the new government, was the architect of Japan's second
constitution, The Constitution of the Empire of Japan between 1881 and 1889

Determined to base it on the best possible practices of the
West, adapted to Japan's special needs, Ito and his
colleagues travelled to Europe on a study mission in
1882. On their return in August 1883, Ito decided that a
constitutional system that operated under an absolute
monarch or emperor was best suited to Japan. The model
he adopted was based on the Prussian (German)
parliamentary system.

A German, Hermann Roesler, helped to complete the new constitution. On 11
February 1889, Emperor Meiji handed it down.

The main points of the constitution were;

The emperor was the absolute ruler. He was sacred and inviolable and had complete
control of the armed forces and the nation's foreign policy.
The emperor could dissolve the parliament or veto any legislation
Individual ministers who belonged to the cabinet (the decision making body of the
ruling government) were responsible to the emperor

The Diet was comprised of two Houses - the House of Peers (former ruling class

appointees), and the House of Representatives was the lower house of parliament
which consisted of a group of 300 men who were elected every four years.

- Japanese women could neither vote nor become political representatives of the Diet
at this time.
- About only 1 per cent of the population had the right to vote due to tax

Although it appeared that the emperor had far reaching powers under the new
constitution, he remained essentially a symbol or figurehead of the nation. The
powerful group of oligarchs often acted in his name.

CH13 - Sino-Japanese War

During the Meiji era Japan began to challenge China’s authority as the dominant
nation in Asia

Korea (the Hermit Kingdom) was isolationist, but had been paying tribute to China
for many years.

Many ex-samurai wanted Japan to invade Korea, especially after Korea refused
initially to recognize the Meiji government

In 1876, Japan forced the opening of Korea using gunboat diplomacy. The resulting
Treaty of Kanghwa opened three Korean ports for trade, but more importantly Japan
recognised Korea as au independent state in order to detach it from China's control.

Yamagata Aritomo, leader of the Japanese military, saw conflict with China over
Korea as inevitable, and believed that some measure of control over Korea was
essential to Japan

1894, rebellion against the corrupt government of the King of Korea by a popular
religious group, the Tong Hak Society which wished to preserve 'EasternLearning'
aud to rid the country of all foreign influence, iucluding Japanese.

China aud Japan sent troops to help quash the rebellion By the time they arrived in
Korea, the rebellion had already been put down by loyal Korean forces. Both
countries refused to withdraw their troops On 23 July 1894, Japanese troops seized
the king's palace and ordered him to declare Korea's independence from China.

The war with China lasted less than a year and, on both land and sea, the Japanese
won decisive victories.

The Manchurian fortress of Port Arthur was considered one of the strongest in Asia.
The Japanese siege of Port Arthur was a bloody, drawn out affair lasting nearly three
months. Japanese soldiers, over several days, had massacred up to 60,000 Chinese
The Japanese soldiers' loss of control at Port Arthur threatened Japan's international
reputation, especially with nations such as Britain.

On 17 April 1895, China and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki,

• the Liaotung Peninsula, Formosa (Taiwan) and the
Pescadores Islands were given to Japan
• 4 new Chinese ports opened to Japanese trades
Japan gained most-favoured nation rights in China, a
privilege long desired
China had to pay an indemnity of 200 million taels

CH14 - Russo-Japanese War

In a Triple Intervention which shocked the Meiji government, Russia, with the
diplomatic support of France and Germany, forced Japan to give up its claim on the
Liaotung peninsula.

Japan gave up the Liaotung Peninsula in exchange for an additional sum of thirty
million taels.

Russia's designs on Manchuria worried the Japanese. In 1898 Russia forced China to
grant it a twenty-five year lease on the Liaotung Peninsula It was also given the right
to connect the Chinese Eastern Railway, which ran across Manchuria to the Russian
port of Vladivostok, with an extension line south to the major ports of Darren and
Port Arthur. This new development, known as the South Manchurian Railway, greatly
alarmed Japan.

By 1900, Russia had gained considerable control over Manchuria through its railway

In Cina, however, the Dowager had stopped the 100 Days Reform and supported the
Boxer rebellion. During the rebellion, regular Chinese forces were ordered to attack
Manchuria. In reply, Russia sent troops stationed in Siberia to crush the Chinese. By
October, they had been successful; Manchuria, an established province of China, was
now in Russian hands.

The Boxer Rebellion was finally crushed by an international army that included a
Japanese force.

Russia's advance iu the Far East worried both Britain and Japan. On 30 Jannary 1902,
the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed. Its main features were:
      both countries agreed to recognise the special interests
of Britain in China and of Japan in Korea
      each nation could take necessary measures to protect
its special interests if they were threatened by the
aggressive action of another power, or by disturbances
within China or Korea
      both countries promised to remain neutral if either
became involved in a war to protect those interests
      both agreed to aid the other if a third power entered
into ky such 'wulon the enemy side
      the agreement was to remain in force for five years

Japanese leaders wanted to get Russia to recognise and respect its special position in
Korea. It would not agree to Japan's proposal to use Korea for 'strategic purposes' as it
might threaten Russia's exclusive line of communication, its railway

Withont warning, on 8 Febrnary 1904, Japanese naval forces torpedoed the Russian
naval fleet anchored at Port Arthur, causing severe damage

Within three months, Russian troops had been driven out of Korea. Although
snffering heavy losses, the Japanese army pushed north into Manchuda, crossing the
Yalu River and capturing Port Arthur (after a five month siege) and then the city of
Mukden. At sea, the Japanese navy under Admiral Togo routed the Russian fleet in
Straits of Tsushima

It was the first time any Asian power had beaten an established European nation.
Russia and Japan accepted the offer made by Theodore Roosevelt, President of the
United States of America, to act as peacemaker. The signing of the Treaty of
Portsmouth (at New Hampshire in the United States of America), on 5 September
1905, finally brought the war to an end. Its main provisions were:

Russia recognised Japan's interests in Korea
the lease of the Liaotung Peninsula was transferred to Japan
Russia surrendered its coutrol of the South Manchurian Railway to the Japanese
Japan acquired the southern half of the island of Sakhalin
both nations agreed not to interfere with any decision China might make in the future
to develop Manchuria.

CH15 - Effects of the Meiji Restoration
By 1910, Japan had acquired Formosa (Taiwan) as a colony, obtained extensive·
economic control in southern Manchuria, won the southern half of the island of
Sakhaliu and annexed Korea. This rapid expansion provided the security for Japan to
preserve its independence aud meet the challenge of theWest. By the time of
Emperor Meiji's death in 1912, Japan had strengthened itself through war and
industry, becoming a modern nation and an imperialist power.

Improving the status of women was not one the reforms of the Meiji Restoration.

1882The Meiji government forbade women from making political speeches.
1889Women were banned from participating in any political activities, even listening
to political speeches.
1898The Civil Code gave the (male) head of the extended Japanese family absolute
He now had the right to control family property, fix the place of residence of every
member of the household and approve or disapprove of farnily marriages and
Wives could not undertake legal action aud under one provision were considered to
have the same rights as cripples and disabled persons.

Brothels were sanctioned by the Meiji government. Thousauds of Japauese girls,
bought or abducted from their parents by procurers (zeegen), found themselves
trapped into working in foreign brothels by the threat of violence and the obligation of

For many women, the Restoration years· were a disappointment. Their status in
society saw little change despite their contributions to the success and speed of
Japan's industrial revolution. The traditional ideal of women as 'good wives and wise
mothers' (ryosai kembo) was so ingrained that mauy were simply forced to submit
and endure.


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