The Nature and Characteristics of the Meiji Modernization Essay

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The Nature and Characteristics of the Meiji Modernization The samurai leaders, mainly Satsuma and Choshu men’ who engineered and led the Meiji Restoration had no pre-conceived program of social and economic reforms in mind - i.e. the developments in the post-1868 period were not planned before the Restoration. The Meiji Restoration (1868) was essentially a political samurai movement aiming at the destruction of the Shogun’s power so as to effect a new national unity in resistance to western encroachment. After the restoration, the task of national defence fell on that group of men who now dominated the government (the Meiji oligarchy). If they failed in resisting the western challenge, then, they…show more content…
Its aim is to achieve national independence and security by building up the nation’s strength and thus forcing the Occidental Powers to give up the ‘unequal treaties’ especially as the existence of ‘extra-territoriality’ and ‘fixed tariff’ in the post 1868 period constantly reminded the Japanese of the impending foreign threat. Not surprisingly, the Meiji government gave special emphasis to the development of heavy and strategic industries (ship-building, building of arsenal etc.) immediately after the Restoration since they realized that the new western force could only be overcome by technological superiority (not cultural superiority). Because of the urgent need to get rid of the western threat, the Meiji modernization is a very ‘speedy process’. The transformation of Japan from a backward and feudal society to a modern and technologically advanced one took place within a few decades whereas the political and economic transformation of Europe, for instance, took about 3 centuries (16th -19th). Moreover, because Meiji modernization is ‘defensive’ in purpose, its leaders saw to it that there should be as little reliance as possible on foreign capitals so as to prevent financial reliance and subordination to foreign powers. It is thus a ‘self-regulating’ process. Another important point to note is that
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