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Impact of Meiji Restoration to the Socio-Political and Economical Sectors of Japan

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Impact of Meiji Restoration to the Socio-Political and Economical Sectors of Japan


The term may sound too cliché nowadays but basically, change is the only constant thing in this world. The concept of this so called inevitable change can be seen in various aspects present in the society. The evolution of man from an ape-like creature to human being capable of thinking and doing various tasks is an example of change. One can also associate change to a ruler’s form of governance as he take over the throne as the newly-elected leader of a certain group or country. In the Philippine context, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been initiating major changes in the country from the very start of his office. President Digong is on his battle against illegal drugs, corruption, poverty, and other pressing issues that the Philippines had been facing for how many years already. After all, the president’s campaign tagline was “Change is coming”, thus may he live up with what his platform was during his presidential campaign and do whatever is needed to be done for the benefit of the common good. So much about associating change politically, the idea of it is also apparent in nation modernization and globalization.

In the world we now call the 21st century, almost everything can be in one’s possession in an instant and with that said, it can be inferred that there is change happening in the society. Since men are beings with the gifts of thinking and doing, many unknown personalities have been regarded and credited for their discoveries, innovations and inventions that contributed to the advancement of technology and modernization. Speaking of which, one cannot tackle modern nation building without mentioning the Land of the Rising Sun at some point. Aside from the fact that Japan is one of the countries referred to as the Asian Tigers, it has also been regarded as one of the countries which top the list in the field of modernization. But before one can fully understand the beauty of such country, he must also take into account the occurrence in the past which led and open the gate to modern Japan.

Whatever history book an individual reads about the history of the Land of the Rising Sun, the first emperor listed in there would be Emperor Jimmu. Then as one would further read such book, he might come to the conclusion and understanding that the imperial house of Japan is the oldest continuous monarchy in the world with the tennō myth or simply called the Emperor System as its primary basis for the succession of power. From the country’s first ruler up until its current 125th leader, Emperor Akihito, Japanese believed that their emperors are the descendants of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. But then, this line of succession was broken and altered during the Edo Period in the 16th century. During this period, the emperor system of Japan was disregarded – meaning there was still an emperor but it has no power or any authority to rule and that power and authority to rule the country was given to the shogun . In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu was appointed Shogun by the emperor and established his government in Edo after acquiring unlimited power and wealth through defeating the Hideyori loyalists and other Western rivals. Ieyasu brought the whole country under a tight military control and another significant event that happened during this period was the isolation of Japan from any contact of the outside world and influence of the Western people. It was said that the only port opened for trading was the port of Dejima in Nagasaki but then only the Chinese and Koreans were permitted to trade with the Japanese and that Ieyasu forbade any form of Christianity within the country. For over two centuries, the country was operating like that and it was only when the US demanded that Japan should open its ports for trading that the self-imposed national isolation came to an end in 1853.

Well, that was just the end of the isolationism of Japan but not the fall of the Tokugawa period. In 1868 external pressure combined with growing internal unrest and led to the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogun and the restoration of the Meiji Emperor. This period marked the comeback of the country’s emperor system and the modernization of Japan along with the western lines. And it was through the restoration of the Meiji emperor that Japan was able to adopt Western political, social, and economic institutions in just a short period of time.

The Downfall of Tokugawa

In July of 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan with the demand that Japan open its country to foreign trade with the United States. The Tokugawa shogunate realizing that resisting with force was impossible had no alternative but to sign the Kanagawa Treaty with the United States in 1854 and this was just the beginning of a series of treaties the shogunate was forced to sign with the Western powers seeking trade with Japan.

Since Japan was secluded for over 250 years, the impact of the signing of the Kanagawa Treaty to the Japanese was unpleasant. When the Japanese ports were re-opened for trading in 1859, protests and sentiments against the foreign presence in the country became a problem of the nation. At this critical juncture, the shogun, Tokugawa Iesada died and was replaced by Il Naosuke but then, he was assassinated in March 1860 by a group of loyalist from Satsuma. The situation was fast becoming an impossible one for the shogun to control. The numbers of Westerns in the treaty ports were increasing and alarming chaos occurred between the reactionary feudal lords and the foreigners. Foreigners were frequently attacked and occasionally killed by rebellious samurai who thought they were aiding in the expulsion. The Western powers demanded of the shogun a severe punishment of the ferocious daimyos, but the shogun had no power to do so. On one hand, the shogun had orders of the emperor to expel the foreigner. However, the shogun could not comply, for he knew that he was powerless against the cannons of the foreign gunboats. Hence, it can be inferred that during these times, the shoguns are slowly losing its control over the country and it signifies that the Tokugawa Shogunate is on the verge of its downfall.

All factors combined, the anti-government feelings were growing and caused other movements such as the demand for the restoration of imperial power and anti western feelings. But the final collapse of the Shogunate was brought about by the coalition of the two traditional rivals of the Tokugawa clan, Satsuma and Choshu or in Japanese history; it was referred to as the Sat-Cho Alliance.

The Tokugawa Shogunate came to an official end on November 9, 1867, when the fifteenth shogun,



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