Meiji Oligarchy and Industrialism of Japan

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To create a country internally stable, strong enough to repel foreign ambition, and progressive enough to be seriously regarded by the international community, the oligarchy of the Meiji Era felt that they needed to make a break with the past and begin anew. They spent years studying successful nations and used the lessons learned to invent a system that not only moved Japan forward into the modern age, but also took into consideration the traditions and history that made Japan unique.

The overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate had restored the emperor to primacy in Japan. He now stood as the wellspring of political power and legitimacy. Although not a political decision maker, and perhaps because of this, the emperor stood as a unifying symbol, a common foundation for further changes by the oligarchy. The foremost concern of the new government was ridding the country of the remains of despotic shogunate rule and establishing a system that could adapt to the demands of a modern era and whose authority was recognized throughout the country. The oligarchs realized that only through a centralized authority would Japan remain and be recognized as sovereign and through stability would additional reforms be possible. Among their first steps were issuing the Charter Oath, and the Seitaisho which established the Dajokan as the principal policy making and administrative body. In a succession of moves, the oligarchy effectively stripped the daimyo of their status and independence by replacing the domain system with prefectures and later abolishing stipends. Control of the prefectures lay with the Dajokan, later reformed as the cabinet, eliminating the daimyo as a threat to political centralization and serving as the first step in breaking down the social class barriers. Further, by allowing daimyo to remain as governors in the prefectures, they were forced to not only recognize the Emperor's power to remove them from their long held positions but they...
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