Japan Imperialism

Topics: Empire of Japan, Japan, Samurai Pages: 5 (1725 words) Published: October 30, 2013
The Meiji Restoration was a chain of events that restored imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji. The Meiji Restoration ended 250 years of self-isolation for Japan. The Restoration led to changes in Japan's economic standings. The period from 1868 to 1912 was responsible for the start of Japan as a modernized nation in the early twentieth century. The country’s new rulers adopted the slogan “Rich Country, Strong Army," because they wanted Japan to become economically and militarily powerful, so it could retain its independence. During the time Japan entered, was during the time that exploration and imperialism had already taken place for a long period of time; however, Japan still entered the modern world at full force.

Japan’s main focus was mainly to avoid becoming part of a European empire by managing worldwide equality. Thus, the rulers of Japan prepared the country for imperial expansion through the modernization of its social, political, educational, industrial and military institutions.

By the turn of the nineteenth century, after many years of peace and stability, a widespread sense of discontent and a general readiness for change had spread among the people of Japan. Hoepper (1996, p271) notes that during the Tokugawa era, which lasted for 264 years, a series of regulations, known officially as the Tokugawa Seclusion Policy, were drafted to formalize Tokugawa power. Smith and Patrick (1997, p24) theorize that the policy was ultimately enforced upon Japan as the Tokugawa were determined to maintain the status quo within society and prevent any uprisings against their rule. Such regulations included the prohibiting of local ships from sailing abroad; the enforcement of the death penalty for Japanese whom ventured outside the nations boarders; insisted that those who had been living overseas were to be executed upon their return; offered rewards for people who exposed Christians and demanded that children of foreign parentage be killed unconditionally.

Rajenara (1984, p185) suggests that Japan’s latter international success was in fact a result of its indoctrination of order and schematic way of living during the Tokugawa reign. The feudal system, introduced initially during the eleventh century, saw that all citizens of Japan knew their place within society and what was expected of them. The cultural values and traditions cultivated by the Japanese were indicative of just how rigidly conservative they were and arguably still are. This unquestionable obedience worked in favor of the Tokugawa rulers at first, however the Tokugawa Shogunate was built for war and groups, particularly the Samurai class, were most affected by this prolonged period of peace.

In 1853, uninvited and ultimately unwelcome foreigners, who sought diplomatic and trade relations with Japan, shattered its centuries old ‘system of exclusion,’ as claimed by (Gilhooly, 2002, p18). Pressure had began to be exerted on Japan from the 1850’s to open up trading ports as foreign ships probed Japan’s isolation with increasing insistency. In 1853, Commodore Perry sailed into Edo Bay with a letter from the American President requesting the opening of Japan’s doors to trade. “No nation can cut itself off from the rest of the world,” president Adams had declared. (Rajenara and Lower, 1984, p186). Gilhooly (2002, p18) highlights that the arrival of Perry’s black ships equipped with cannons made the request rather more of a demand, however, internal dissatisfaction with the Tokugawa government also played a role in 1854 where the first of many treaties with Western countries were thereby established.

Most Japanese were opposed to the forced intrusion by foreigners and felt that their Shogun had shown his weakness by signing the treaties. Thus, in 1868, Japan’s military government was overthrown and replaced by a new imperial government under the fifteen-year-old Meiji Emperor. In April...
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