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In the middle of the 1800’s Japan had been a closed country for
hundreds of years. There was a governmental policy which
essentially stated that Japanese people would be killed if leaving
the country and anyone entering would also be killed. There was a
small island in the south of Japan where the Japanese imported
goods from the Dutch, Chinese, and Korean nations, but there was
little or no trade with any other country. Thus, the country of
Japan was closed to outside influences, partly to maintain
political domination control and to prevent the foreigners from
stealing their gunpowder. In the mid 1860’s an American diplomatic
fleet of steam powered battleships arrived and insisted upon the
opening of Japanese trade with the US. The feudal Shogun
government, however apprehensive of the threat to their control
over the people of Japan, had no choice but to allow trade with the
US. This opened the door for international trade and relations with
the world beyond Japan for the first time in hundreds of years. I
1868, the shogun(the military leader) was forced to step down and
the sixteen year old Emperor Meiji was “restored ,” so that Japan
might catch up military with the West.
There was the end of a relatively stable number of years of Shogun government called the Edo period. During this period a primary Shogunate (military dictatorship) was essentially running the government and the various different Samurai clans of the country were managed by this primary Shogunate, which was based in Edo (the city now known as Tokyo). Thankfully this particular military dictatorship was a relatively noble group monetarily, but their own noble and self-sacrificing way was actually part of what allowed the imperial family to take over the government of Japan at this rather pivotal moment.
Essentially Meiji was the heir son of the imperial family and so those who stood to benefit from him being placed in as leader of the country helped to make it happen. The leadership of the Shogunate in Edo was handed over rather effortlessly as the Shogunate was apparently duped by Meiji and his supporters. Meiji’s primary supporters, of course, were leaders of some of the primary opposition to the Shogunate. This assertion of the leadership of an imperialistic family was known as the “Meiji Restoration”, yet it was not really a restoration as there had apparently never been a truly united Japan ruled in such a way before. Suddenly Meiji took over and any Samurai opposition to the changes was essentially stopped with force until the Samurai class was finally outlawed.
The Meiji constitution was written as part of this “restoration” and basically fabricated a national identity for Japan. It also conveniently fabricated a nationalistic mythology which attempted to falsely present Meiji and his family as Shinto divinity. The result was a fanatical religious theocracy with a false history and deluded national patriotism. This ultimately led to the sad events of WWII and the immense disgrace of the Japanese people. It was essentially a nation-wide cult fabricated by politicians.
Westernisation influence in Japan during the Meiji Restoration Period:
In 1889, a constitution was promulgated which established a parliamentary government but left it accountable to the emperor rather than to the people. Administrative power was centralized in a national bureaucracy, which also ruled in the name of the emperor. There as a change in the feudal system. The classes were declared equal, so that samurai and their lords lost their feudal privileges, while the role of merchants began to be respected.
Japan received its first European style constitution in 1889. A parliament, the Diet was established while the emperor kept sovereignty: 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.
In order to transform the agrarian economy of Tokugawa Japan into a developed industrial one, many Japanese scholars were sent abroad to study Western science and languages and businesses, while foreign experts taught in Japan. The progression and improvements in education would boost the economy because of the increase in knowledge and skills. Industrialization created more importance on businesses and the prospering of them, than the farming and agrarian economy. After means of large governmental investments, the transportation and communication network in Japan were improved. The government also directly supported the prospering of businesses and industries, especially the large and powerful family businesses called zaibatsu.
The large expenditures led to a financial crisis in the middle of the 1880s which was followed by a reform of the currency system and the establishment of the Bank of Japan. Thus, Japan’s economic grew tremendously during the Meiji restoration period.
A universal education was implemented. The education system was reformed after the French and later after the German system. Among those reforms was the introduction of compulsory education. Compulsory public education was introduced both to teach the skills needed for the new nation and to inculcate values of citizenship in all Japanese. This means that the money is going towards education, which goes to the people, and creates more capital, because of more knowledge.
There was a high priority for Japan in an era of European and American imperialism. Universal conscription was introduced, and a new national army modelled after the Prussian force was established, and a navy after the British force was established.
In 1876, the government opened the Technical Fine Arts School (Kobu Bijutsu Gakko) and invited the architect Giovanni Cappelletti (d. ca. 1885), the sculptor Vincenzo Ragusa (1841–1928), and the painter Antonio Fontanesi (1818–1882), who was deeply influenced by the Barbizon school, to teach its students in Western techniques and media. Fontanesi’s students Yamamoto Hosui (1850–1906), Kuroda Seiki (1866–1924), and Asai Chu (1856–1907) all later travelled to Europe to study academic painting, and are looked upon today as the Meiji period’s greatest producers of Western style paintings (yoga). On the other hand, the government took the acquisition of Western art techniques as a means of fostering industrial development, as opposed to promoting an appreciation of Western aesthetics or art theory. This was to let the young Japanese gain appreciation for the potentially important role of the museum in society, and the establishment of Japan’s first public museum at Yushima Seido Confucian shrine. Conder taught at the University of Technology (Kobu Daigakko). His students Tatsuno Kingo (1854–1911), Katayama Tokuma (1853–1917), and Sone Tatsuzo (1853–1937) were responsible for many of the major architectural monuments during the Meiji period.
Education system in Japan during the Meiji Restoration period:
School system reform:
The reform of the school system has contributed the most to the enlightenment of the Japanese people. By the 1906, the school attendance was as high as 95%, which Japan boosted the one of the highest literacy rates in the world. The resorted Imperial government immediately realised the importance of universal education to the nation’s pursuit of modernisation and progress of Japan. Gakusei, a education system was implemented in the 1872 and the promulgation of the Imperial Rescript on education in the 1890, these laid the foundation for modern education system in Japan. The school system was then modelled after the westernisation.
Universities as well as technical and professional schools were established to promote higher education to meet the demands of a labour force. Except for the terakoya, small regional schools providing basic education, most traditional schools from the Edo period were almost exclusively reserved to boys belonging to the samurai class. Despite this, the level of literacy in the late Edo period was remarkably high, which no doubt paved the way for the Meiji educational reforms.
The nationalisation of the education system made primary school compulsory for both boys and girls. At first, the attendance was very low. However, after tuition was abolished for elementary schools in 1900, then there was an increase in attendance. Many things in the school was influenced by the westerners. Firstly, the school was furnished western-style were built throughout the Japan. Secondly, the school curriculum was also based on western models. This includes history, science, geography and arithmetic. Schools also continued to give moral instruction based on Confucian tradition, which encouraged patriotic loyalty and filial piety. Games like sugoroku, the New Year’s game, were used to introduce young children to the scripts in a fun way. The sugoroku board shown here illustrates the different steps a student must follow before earning a degree.
Education in the Empire of Japan was a high priority for the government, as the leadership of the early Meiji government realized the critical need for universal public education in its drive to modernize and westernize Japan. Overseas missions such as the Iwakura mission were sent abroad to study the education systems of leading Western countries.
After 1868 new leadership set Japan on a rapid course of modernization. The Meiji leaders established a public education system to help Japan catch up with the West and form a modern nation. Missions like the Iwakura mission were sent abroad to study the education systems of leading Western countries. They returned with the ideas of decentralization, local school boards, and teacher autonomy. Such ideas and ambitious initial plans, however, proved very difficult to carry out. After some trial and error, a new national education system emerged. As an indication of its success, elementary school enrollments climbed from about 40 or 50 percent of the school-age population in the 1870s to more than 90 percent by 1900, despite strong public protest, especially against school fees.
By the 1890s, after earlier intensive preoccupation with Western, particularly United States, educational ideas, a much more conservative and traditional orientation evolved. Confucian precepts were stressed, especially those concerning the hierarchical nature of human relations, service to the new state, the pursuit of learning, and morality. These ideals, embodied in the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, along with highly centralized government control over education, largely guided Japanese education until the end of World War II.
There are two different perspective to the modernization of Japan. Some Japanese think that it is a chance to achieve collective, national glory. However, others do not really encourage modernization. Change to them meant danger, decadence and loss of moral virtues. They fear of three areas: gender disorder, cultural concern and political disorders.
Firstly, for the gender anarchy, the Japanese banned women from adopting short hairstyle in the 1872. It emerged again when the government sharply restricted women’s political activity in 18890. However, during the Meiji period, the primary duty of the women was to serve the twin roles of good wife and wise mother was not purely reactionary or restrictive. During the Meiji formulation, wise women needed schooling. This was to ensure that the mother raises the children well in a new era, thus the mother needs to be literate. They had to know something about the world beyond the home. “Good mother, wise mother” was aggressively promoted by the Japanese government that the women have to be educated. The imperial institution took part in the project to prescribe new roles of women for men. The imperial signaled that men should have western haircuts by adopting that style of him. While the hair of the women should be kept long and braided up. The women’s appearance was also influenced by the westerners. the westernized facial appearance encourages the women to stop shaving their eye brown and blackening their teeth. However, it was later changed with support from the throne in the face of western examples and criticisms.
Secondly, the Japanese fear of political disorder. They fear that a restless populace might challenge their political control which led to the decision for a conservative constitution. It inspires for a call for scarification for the state in Imperial Rescript. It also inspired a spark for military drills in school.
Thirdly, it is the open of the port to the outside world. Japanese fear that people from across the sea would poison the soul of the Japan. They fear that they would influence the Japanese or to convert them into Christianity and demolish their true identity and cultural, they fear the lost of their cultural.
Due to the rapid modernization and adapting many things from the westerners, they start to fear that there is no unique identity of Japan. Thus a magazine “ The Japanese” was published. The writer thinks that the nation followed a path towards the so-called civilized. They feared that it might “forfeit our nation national character and destroy all the elements in
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