To what Extent did the changes Brought in by the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) Constitute a Revolution

Topics: Empire of Japan, Samurai, Abolition of the han system Pages: 6 (1908 words) Published: April 7, 2008
The Meiji Restoration brought enormous changes in Japan's structure. It eliminated the Tokugawa Shogunate, which allowed the emperor to regain full power, and transformed Japan from a feudal system to a modern state. The new era established the Meiji Constitution, which created a new structure for the government and laws, reformed the military and education system, experienced westernization and was the catalyst towards industrialization. However, it cannot be completely considered as a revolution. Although there were changes in the nature of Japan's economic and social system, and some aspects proved itself to be a complete transformation, a few were still practiced traditionally, mainly the political structure. Also, a revolution is defined as 'a quick and complete overthrow or repudiation of an established government or political system through replacement by the people governed', and although there were major changes, it was by no means a quick and complete change.

It is without a doubt that the new government created by the Meiji constitution of 1889, a Prussian like constitution, appeared to have had drastic changes. Their aim was to build Japan into 'A Rich Country, A Strong Army' and achieve national unity, and westernization was inevitable since westernization presented itself a universal path of progress. To introduce a new and centralized government authority, known as the Prefecture System, the Meiji Government abolished the Han system in 1871. Undoubtedly, there were obvious transformations. The new government was now based on a national assembly, an appointive Council of Advisors (Sangi), and eight Ministries: Civil Affair/Home Ministry, Foreign Affairs, Finance, War, Imperial Household, Justice, Public Works and Education. The emperor was the central symbol of the political system, for example being able to exercise all executive authority, being in supreme command of the navy and army and the right to suspend temporarily the Diet ( the bicameral legislature), unlike before. He was the only one who could make amendments to the constitution, dissolve the Lower House and present ordinances when the Diet is not present in the session. The imperial government now consisted of Genro (elder statesmen), Military Boards, War and Navy ministers, Prime Minister, Cabinet, Privy Council and the Diet. The Lower house of the legislature was elected by males paying taxes of 15 yen or mor, which was only around 5 percent of the male population, and the Upper house was to serve as a check on the Lower House The decision-making in the government was restricted to a closed oligarchy of around 20 individuals from Satsuma, Chōshū, Tosa, Hizen clans and from the Imperial Court .However, political power was simply seen as being changed from the Tokugawa Shogun to an oligarchy consisting of themselves and the transformation proved itself slow as they spent a lot of time getting consensus on what type of constitution they wanted. Some rejected democracy, others disputed about which type of western constitution to follow. This illustrated their belief in the more traditional practice of imperial rule, whereby the emperor performs his high priestly duties and his ministers govern the nation in his name, and was just their intention of restoring the ancient administration of Japan, which was a restoration, not a complete change.

Education was another element that witnessed great modification, but was not a complete change. Unlike before, the new Meiji government stressed the need for universal public education to spread western and modern ideas. The Ministry of Education was established in 1871, and the school system began to be based on the American structure, with a utilitarian system, and with a centrally controlled school administration similar to the French one. However, the early educational system met many oppositions and a new curriculum was established which emphasized conservative, traditional ideals more reflective of...
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