Japan: The Meiji Restoration overview

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Information about Japan: The Meiji Restoration overview
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Published on March 4, 2014

Author: jubileecoast

Source: slideshare.net

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Introduction to the Meiji Constitution, historiography and in class activities.

The first twenty(ish) years 1868 – 1890 “Maple Leaves at New Palace,” artist unknown, December 1888 [2000.548] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston *or was it a revolution?

The British Empire in 1900

By this oath we set up as our aim the establishment of the national weal on a broad basis and the framing of a constitution and laws. 1. Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by public discussion. 2. All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state. 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. 4. Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon the just laws of Nature. 5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule. Source: From Sources of Japanese Tradition, edited by Wm. Theodore de Bary, Ryusaku Tsunoda, and Donald Keene, 1st ed., vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1964), 137.

Samurai of the Aizu clan during the Boshin war. www.yamaji.ca

Historical controversies of the Meiji Restoration:  Objectives of the Meiji leaders  The degree of success or failure  The nature and degree of changes initiated by the Meiji government "Shimbashi Station” by Hiroshige III, 1874, [Y0185] Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Smithsonian Institution

The Meiji leaders were a united group of enlightened, far sighted statesmen who accomplished their goals with speed and at little cost or conflict. The shishi fought to awaken the sleepy bakufu to the threat from Perry and the foreigners. Two images of Okuba Toshimichi, as a young samurai and Meiji Statesman (wikimedia commons)

 Marius Jansen (1989): This idea promulgated by Japanese education system after 1872. The ‘romance and colour’ of the Restoration figures ensure their place in history.  Daisuke Furuya (2008): A Confucian Legacy, appropriated by the Meiji government to legitimise changes.

It was socio-economic factors that overthrew the shogun and motivated the Meiji Reforms. The Meiji leaders were the old samurai elite and landlords. The Meiji Restoration basically a bourgeois movement that ended feudalism.

 Tokutomi Soho quoted in Marius Jansen (1989): Modernisation can be explained in terms of material advances, and it is trends in history, not the Meiji leaders, that had created the new Japan. Note: Tokutomi not a Marxist, but a liberal populist whose politics moved to the right after 1895

The ‘New Left’, post Vietnam War era, criticized the modernisation theory of the Marxists and focused in on the costs of industrialisation. Bamboo Basket Factory (1904) www.oldphotosjapan.com

 E. Herbert Norman (1965): the transition that took place in military was a means to defend Japan from western powers and to emulate them in hopes of catching up with the west militarily.  Andrew Gordon (2003): revived the old arguments about the influence of western powers but also adds that in his opinion the effect that the outside world had on Japan was greater than any of the effects on the inside that led to change.

 Okuma, Fifty Years of New Japan (Kaikoku Gojunen Shi), 2d Ed., (London: Smith, Elder, 1910), passim. Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text. • Read and sequence the extract from Okuma. • To which school of thought does Okuma belong?

prints labelled A to K (no ‘J’)  Examine each of the woodblock prints. Select one image for the front cover for:  Woodblock a) An orthodox history book on the Meiji Period b) A Marxist history book on the Meiji Period c) A Revisionist history book on the Meiji Period  Be prepared to justify your choice.

A collective oligarchy  24 decision makers  Neo-Confucian  Many from Western Japan  Many had military experience  Many had contact with the west Four Opinion Shapers:  Okubo Toshimichi  Kido Takayoshi (aka Kido Koin)  Saigo Takamori  Iwakura Tomomi Activity: Research an individual and feedback to class

If the restoration is viewed in the period 1867 to 1868, then it was ‘little more than a coup’ that shifted rule from one section of the ruling class to another. But when considered as a larger process between 1868 and 1900, then it can be seen to have brought revolutionary changes to Japanese society.

“Album of Ten Prints Illustrating Sericulture: Unwinding Strands from Cocoons by Means of a Silk Reeling Machine” by Toyohara Chikanobu, 1880 [2000.096.09] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 Cameron on the Meiji Constitution • P42 to 55 (pdf) or 130 to 143 (book page numbers)  Noble essay from Concord Review

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