Japanese and western scholars are desperately arguing on the over-all definition of modernization. Japan is a perfect example of a country which is product of modernization. From a rural setting to an industrialized one, that is how modernization occurs. Modernization changes the lifestyle of people; fashion, work, and mindset. From a conservative type to a liberal one, that is the evolution made by modernization. Modernization is accompanied by success especially in one country’s economy
Japan, a culturally bound country, tremendously transforms itself to a modernized one. The year 1868 is time when Japan decides to be open to western representations and eventually adopt them due to the perception that they were more advanced and preferable. Through the adoption of western ideologies, they can able to compete with other industrialized nations. The modernization of Japan is better explained through studying its history starting from the Meiji period.
Western imperialism took political and economical forms. Politically, the foreign powers obtained many privileges from Japan but all these gains were supported up by Western military superiority. By that Japan’s national right was violated. Economically, foreign imports into Japan tremendously increased due to the low tariff fixed by the unequal settlements. By 1870, foreign imports reached 70% of all Japanese trade.
Cheap foreign goods, like English textiles, transferred into Japan and bankrupted native Japanese handicraft industries which make Japan suffered from critical balance of payments. Although loans were extended to Japan by Westerners but in return, they still received more privileges from them.
. Due to this threat to the country, self modernization of Japan has its way. Strengthening military is one key to oppose the political threats of imperialism consequently “rich country and strong army” (fokoku kyohei) was the slogan of Meiji modernization in which the final objective was to build a strong political rule in Japan eventually to be able to get rid of the unequal treaties forced by the Western powers. The Meiji leaders has a fear that Japan would fully embraced westernization and totally turn away traditional ways.
They decided to make the country modernized in order to defend it from foreign attacks. The self-modernization of Japan in the Meiji period has both advantage and disadvantage. They decided to make the country modernized in order to defend it from foreign attacks. The self-modernization of Japan in the Meiji period has both advantage and disadvantage.
The idea of modernization of Japan by Meiji leaders somehow more a political reason rather than nationalism, which is the disadvantage. Although it can be a political reason, it can also be a military strategy to protect the country from such invaders, which is the advantage one. Japan undergoes step by step process of modernization; starting from modernizing some certain aspects into an over-all modernization. First transformation is from the military. As an example military reform called for the production of weapons, which only economic reform could successfully were given.
At the same time, development of long-term educational, were carried out in order for the people to accept these political, economic, and political aspects.
Although preliminary step for modernization was done, there are still some weaknesses that arise such as indirect and incomplete political control over the country at large because the daimyo with their samurai, still ruled the clans, lacking state revenue for complete modernization in which the Meiji government obtained most of its tax income from former Tokugawa lands only, and absence of any national army for the new government depended on only a few western clans (mainly Choshu and Satsuma) for its military force. In order to strengthen the state, the Meiji government took actions, both negative and positive in which the negative measure was the abolition of feudalism and the positive one was the introduction of modern land taxation and military mobilization.
There are still problems arise in strengthening the Meiji state such as dissatisfaction among the poor samurai and hard-pressed peasants led to the outbreak of many local rebellions which were nearly 200 uprisings from 1868 to 1878 and partly because of the new land taxation which consequently had a very serious inflation from 1868 to the early 1880s.and by that he income of both the samurai and the government was badly affected.
In terms of economic modernization, the Meiji government had a good foundation to start with because the late Tokugawa commercial economy was successful in which many rich merchants had saved large amounts of capital, and if devoted in modern industries, would greatly stimulate industrialization and secondly, from 1854 (when Japan was opened by the West) to 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate and some other clans had already developed significant ship-building and arms-manufacturing industries and there were already some Japanese engineers and technicians who knew Western technology.
By 1870, Japan was still largely an agricultural country and modernized agriculture is the basis of and requirement for successful industrialization in which agricultural students were sent abroad to learn more advanced agricultural techniques, foreign experts were working to give recommendation on agricultural development, importation of new kinds of plants and seeds , and foundation of experimental agricultural stations and agricultural colleges throughout the country to test new methods of planting and advise farmers on new agricultural techniques.
As a result, more agricultural products were being exported which contribute to Japan’s economy as well as farmers in which .many poor tenant-farmers went from the villages to the towns, thereby providing cheap labor for urban industrialization, but as more and more farmers became tenants, the countryside was increasingly under the control of conservative landlord-merchants.
Industrialization placed the necessary foundation of a modern state. As the Meiji government had a strong and modern economy to rely on, the extent of government power was enlarged thus, its efficiency increased. The rapid industrialization strengthened the Meiji state’s autocratic rule, as it provided new instruments for power concentration. The government could therefore effectively put down internal oppositions and carry out a stronger foreign policy. In the long run, industrialization destroyed Japan’s traditional agricultural economy. First, the local economically self-sufficient village society was returned by increased agricultural commercialization and specialization.
Secondly, with greater exchange of goods, capital and even labor, localism of village society broke down thus the village people felt that they belonged not only to the village but to the nation as a whole. Thirdly, industry replaced agriculture as the nation’s most important economic activity. And also, industrialization reduced economic discriminations of the old Tokugawa society. Steadily, however, new concentrations of wealth and power were built up by the zaibatsu, which restricted much of the entire country’s economy.
The standard of living was raised due to the improvement of the economic conditions of the people in which in return the people supported the environment. On the other hand, social mobility was help out by which successful industrialists or businessmen became modern Japan’s social leaders. In terms of educational background, there is a further improvement pre-1868.
Before 1870, many of the late Tokugawa schools already taught Western science and technology. Thus the people were better prepared to accept Western knowledge after 1870. A sound basis for attaining more Western knowledge had been set. As years passed by, there is an increase in the literacy of the Japanese. By 1870, nearly half of the male populations were literate.
In late Tokugawa times the Meiji leaders were all educated in the Confucian schools that have a Confucian respect for learning and interest for educational modernization. Through education, the government could widen its popular support by the people. From the 1880s on, however, education was used gradually more by the government to teach nationalistic ideas that makes an attempt for the Meiji government to strengthen the national and social unity, thus conservation of national safety in an age of foreign imperialism.
Despite of becoming more undemocratic of education due to politics, it is still a great help for them. Still there are problems that arise for it is not that easy for some conservative ones to accept western teaching and there are times that there is lacking of teachers. To further improved the educational system, the government made bills such as Education Act of 1879, making , Education Act of 1886, Imperial Rescript on Education of 1890 , and Authoritarian education after the 1890s until higher universities were established. Education is the key to make good leaders.
Political modernization is intensified to retain power of Meiji leaders. Although there is a splitting of power in 1873 by two issues: the question of the composition of the new modern army to be created and the problem of national defense against Western imperialism. There is suppression against the government which makes hard for them to built solid links to the people. Constitutions were made and promulgate to further develop the political modernization.
The Meiji constitution 1889 was attained by the Emperor to the people but in contrast to it, the ideal liberal constitution was made. Although the constitution was undemocratic, Japan had at least approved a Western political structure which helped Meiji government become a modern state. Consequently the state is politically strengthened. The achievements of the constitution were not institutionalized The Emperor was above the constitution. who could be influenced by Military leaders and the Genro outside the restrictions of the constitution. The whole constitutional government could easily be turned into a militarist autocracy.
Eventhouh there were still that went wrong the transformation of Japan enables them to prove to the whole world that a small country can be powerful one.
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