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700-705. Japan Modernizes. Historical Background Information:.

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historical background information
Historical Background Information:
  • Japan’s government was a shogunate, in which the emperor was revered but had no power, a military leader (shogun) was the actual ruler, and local lords (daimyos) controlled their own lands with very little interference from the shogunate. Because a shogunate is too weak and decentralized to resist foreign invasion, shoguns minimized exposure to foreign influences by making travelling abroad a crime punishable by death. However, many lords in Southern Japan ignored these laws and profited from black-market operations.
  • Russian and British ships spotted off the coast of Japan in 1792 brought the threat of foreign invaders, causing daimyos to develop their own reformed armies, arsenals, and shipyards. Satsuma and Choshu in southern Japan became particularly wealthy and self-reliant.
  • The civil war ended in 1868 with the rebels overthrowing the Tokugawa shogunate and putting in place Emperor Mutsuhito and the talented Meiji oligarchs. This was called the “Meiji Restoration.”
  • The new government’s motto was, “Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world and thus shall be strengthened the foundation of the imperial polity.” They wished to utilize all foreign ideas that could strengthen Japan. They copied the government structure of Germany, the navy of Britain, and the army of Prussia. Interest in foreign technology led to the introduction of Western-style postal and telegraph systems, railroads, harbors, banks, clocks, and calendars. The Meiji regime even encouraged Western fashion and pastimes.
  • The new government was interested in a literate and competent yet loyal and obedient population and a new educational system was put in place. Students were sent to Britain, Germany, and the United States in order to learn the secrets of Western strength. Vocational, technical, and agricultural schools were founded, in addition to four universities where foreign experts were brought in to teach about medicine, science, and engineering. Japan had the highest literacy rate in Asia at the time.
historical background information1
Historical Background Information:
  • The Meiji regime encouraged industrialization in Japan by opening state-owned factories that produced goods to be exported. Workers were exploited as Japan became and industrialized society. The government later sold these enterprises to private investors to pay off their debts.
  • The modernization of Japan protected it from Western invasion but also allowed it to become an imperialist power itself. Yamagata Aritomo, a leader of the Meiji oligarchs, convinced the government to engage in a vigorous program of military industrialization, especially building battleships, in order to protect their “sphere of influence.” The sphere of influence included Korea, Manchuria, and part of China. Aritomo believed that if foreign powers invaded a country within this sphere, Japan would also be at risk.
  • The Sino-Japanese war between Japan and China began in 1894 over Japanese encroachments in Korea. It resulted in China evacuating Korea and Japan receiving Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula, and a heavy indemnity. France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and the United States were upset at the appearance of a new imperialist power and forced Japan to give up Liaodong.
  • It was evident that Japan was becoming an increasingly powerful militaristic force. Their military strength was demonstrated not only when they helped suppress the Boxer Rebellion, but when they defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. As a result of the war and the Treaty of Portsmouth, Japan established a protectorate over Korea. They also gained control of southern Manchuria. Japan became a colonial power in 1910 when it annexed Korea.

What were the responses to imperialism within the region or country? Who were the individuals or groups that aided resistance within the country or region? When and how did your country or region gain independence?

  • Britain took advantage of China’s weakness after the Taiping Rebellion by demanding treaty ports, taking over customs, and allowing opium to be imported. China responded with an attempt at a “self-strengthening movement” in which they tried to reduce government expenditures and corruption. Empress Dowager Cixi began to oppose European technology such as railways that could expose the interior to foreign influences. Government officials feared resisting the British but secretly encouraged crowds to attack and destroy foreign devices. These methods slowed foreign intrusion but also prevented China from being exposed to modern technologies that could have helped them resist European invasion.
  • Russian and British ships spotted off the coast of Japan in 1792 brought the threat of foreign invaders, causing daimyos to develop their own reformed armies, arsenals, and shipyards. Satsuma and Choshu in southern Japan became particularly wealthy and self-reliant.
  • American Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan in 1853, demanding that Japan open its ports for trade and that it allow American ships to stop for fuel and supplies when they were travelling from China to California. He returned a year later with the Treaty of Kanagawa, which the Tokugawa shogunate planned on signing despite the fact that it was modeled after unequal treaties between China and western powers. This angered some provincial leaders, who began to encourage an underground movement to overthrow the Tokugawa regime and ban foreigners. Satsuma and Choshu joined forces in 1867 to rebel against their government.
  • China was forced to grant Western powers territorial and trade concessions in exchange for protection. Under the rule of Empress Dowager Cixi, Chinese officials encouraged a series of anti-foreign riots in 1900 known as the Boxer Rebellion. European powers, the United States, and Japan suppressed the rebellion and occupied Beijing. Japan and Russia competed for control of Manchuria, a mineral-rich province of China.
analyze the effects of imperialism from historical and modern day perspectives
Analyze the effects of imperialism from historical and modern day perspectives:

Local Japanese leaders were initially opposed to any contact with foreigners. This led to rebellion and an overthrow of the Tokugawa regime, which was replaced by the emperor Mutsuhito and the Meiji oligarchs. After the Meiji Restoration, Japan was greatly modernized as the government encouraged European ideas that would help strengthen Japan. Japan became industrialized, a new education system was put into place, and advanced technology was being used.

Modernization and Westernization of Japan allowed it to grow into a strong imperial force with a powerful military. However, the growth of this nation did not come as a result of imperialism. Japan was not exposed to European influence because it was occupied by a European country. Instead, the country flourished under the leadership of Emperor Mutsuhito and the Meiji oligarchs because they employed European ideas and practices in order to strengthen Japan. The example of Japan proves that countries could bring themselves into the world of modern Europe without being occupied by a European force.

japan annexes korea
Japan Annexes Korea

Japan’s military strength was apparent when it helped suppress the Boxer Rebellion and defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. It became a colonial power in 1910 when it annexed Korea. Linda Sue Park’s historical novel, When My Name Was Keoko, describes Japanese imperial rule of Korea from the point of view of two children. The Japanese government prohibited the use of the Korean language and forced all Koreans to take Japanese names.

emperor mutsuhito and the meiji restoration
Emperor Mutsuhito and the Meiji Restoration

Emperor Mutsuhito and the Meiji oligarchs replaced the Tokugawa shogunate after it was overthrown as a result of civil war. Under their reign, the “Meiji Restoration,” Japan was modernized as European ideas, practices, and technologies were put into place. The changes that Japan underwent during this period led to it becoming a powerful imperial force.

maps of east asia china manchuria korea and taiwan
Maps of East Asia (China, Manchuria, Korea, and Taiwan.)

The area highlighted in red is Manchuria.