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Japan And Its Entrance Into The West

1324 words - 6 pages

In 1945 Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru was told by General Douglas MacArther that postwar reforms were necessary to eliminate the growing malady that had formed after the Meiji period. When the Meiji emperor was restored as head of Japan in 1868, the nation was a militarily weak country, was primarily agricultural, and had little technological development. It was controlled by hundreds of semi-independent daimyo. The Western powers, Europe and the United States, had forced Japan to sign treaties that limited control over its own foreign trade and required that crimes concerning foreigners in Japan be tried not in Japanese but in Western courts. When the Meiji period ended with the death of ...view middle of the document...

The government also directly supported the prosperity of businesses and industries by means of large governmental investments. This was very expensive, however, and strained government finances, so in 1880 the government decided to sell most of these industries to private investors, thereafter encouraging such activity through subsidies and other incentives. Some of the samurai and merchants who built these industries established major corporate conglomerates, also known as zaibatsu, which controlled much of Japan's modern industrial sector. Unfortunately, due to large governmental expenditures, a financial crisis was seen in the middle of the 1880's, which was followed by a reform of the currency system and the establishment of the Bank of Japan.1 The textile industry grew fastest and remained the largest Japanese industry until WWII. The people of Japan were well on their way to formidable power in the East.Political reforms made during the Meiji period succeeded in creating a highly centralized bureaucratic government. On the political sector, Japan received its first European style constitution in 1889. An authoritarian constitution, drafted by Ito Hirobumi and others, established the Diet, but for most of the Meiji era, an informal Choshu and Satsuma oligarchy outside constitutional control exercised power. The Diet provided a good environment for national growth, won the respect of the Westerners, and built support for the modern state. In the Tokugawa period, popular education had spread rapidly, and in 1872 the government established a national system to educate the entire population. By the end of the Meiji period, almost everyone attended the free public schools for at least six years. The government closely controlled the schools, making sure that in addition to skills like mathematics and reading, all students studied "moral training," which stressed the importance of their duty to the emperor, the country and their families. The emperor maintained sovereignty, however: he stood at the top of the army, navy, executive and legislative power. The ruling clique, however, kept on holding the actual power, and the able and intelligent emperor Meiji agreed with most of their actions. Political parties did not yet gain real power due to the lack of unity among their members. To win the recognition of the Western powers and convince them to change the unequal treaties the Japanese had been forced to sign in the 1850s, Japan changed its entire legal system, adopting a new criminal and civil code modeled after those of France and Germany. The Western nations finally agreed to revise the treaties in 1894, acknowledging Japan as an equal in principle, although not in international power.In order to regain independence from the Europeans and Americans and "to become a great and respected country, equal to the most advanced nations on the face of the globe,"2 it was necessary that Japan establish herself as a respected nation in the world. Like...

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