The Meiji Restoration.

Essay by cestlavie August 2003

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(a)Describe the modernisation of Japan:

The Meiji Restoration describes a period of events which led to a dramatic change in the political and social structure of Japan following the downfall of the Tokugawa period. This period, called the Meiji period, lasted for 4 years (1866-1869), changing the traditional political system and revolutionizing Japan in a global context with Emperor Meiji reigning. Through this modernisation, Japan became accepted in the western countries and prospered economically, socially and as a nation evolved from a traditional feudal state to a modern imperial nation.

At the rise of the Meiji period, many Asian nations, including Japan were being overpowered by Western powers, even forced to sign unequal treaties which were in economical and legal favour of the Western powers. An example of this was extra-territoriality, in which the foreign powers had the right to apply their own laws to their nationals staying in Japan.

These were forced to the Japanese through military and social superiority. Due to this Japan was become weak and suffered constant fear of defeat by the Western powers with no advantages. Meiji Japan saw the need to upgrade its powers to recuperate independence, gain respect from the Western powers and become stronger against the Western powers politically, militarily and economically to get rid of the inequalities that were present. This was the basis of the Meiji modernisation with their slogan "rich country and strong army" (fokoku kyohei).

A new government was formed, eradicating the traditional Tokugawa* government of shoguns* and samurais who formerly had complete power over the Japanese government (see appendix 1). With the emperor and Satsuma, Choshu families* controlling. To achieve a successful parliamentary structure, foreign structures were observed and imitated. As a result, Meiji Japan was the first in the world to use a democratic government system,