When the emperor took the throne in 1868, he made it clear that Japan would abolish feudalism and modernise into an industrial society. This period in which Japan borrowed ideas from the West and reformed in such a short time is called the ‘Meiji Restoration’. Japan for some time was considered too remote and poor to be subjected to Western Imperialism. However Emperor Meiji and his advisors made it clear that they were determined to adapt selected features of Western civilisation to become a powerful nation, while still keeping Japans individuality. The new aspects of society included social, political, economic, military and educational changes.
One of the first symbols for great change was the Railway that was built in 1872 and ran between Tokyo and Yokohama. From the influence of Perry’s invasion, the Japanese were fascinated by the ‘toy train’ and after only 20 years they had built one of the greatest transport systems of that time, and was creating transport for over 2 million people every year.
When modernisation took place, politically Japan went through radical changes. Initially the government was run by a few leading daimyos. Ito, who was a young samurai reformist leader visited Germany and was impressed by the aspects of its form of government, as it was aimed at unification and was seen as a good model. So, in 1889 a constitution was made in which it was based on the Prussian model, which allowed the emperor and his advisors the ultimate power. The bi-cameral parliament included a house of representatives, a house of peers, an army and a navy. In the 1880s, extensive restructuring of the army and navy took place, based around the German and British models. This “copying” served to bring Japan up to speed with the rest of the world as rapidly as it did, and helped them become powerful, while still retaining their sense of Japanese nationalism. While political and military reforms (and Westernisation) were thorough reforms, they maintained and...
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