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Meiji Restoration The Tokugawa shogunate or Tokugawa bakufu (a de facto central administration) was a feudal military dictatorship established in 1603 by Tokugawa Ieyasu. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, central authority fell to Ieyasu who received the title of Sei-i-tai-shogun ("Great Barbarian Quelling General"). This was originally an imperial title bestowed on the commander of armed forces employed against the turbulent frontier tribes of the north, i.e., against the indigenous Ainu. Imprisoned in the Tokyo Imperial Palace and virtually under 'house arrest' the emperor was forced into a powerless de-jure role while the Shogunate conceived strategies to permanently retain their power. In an effort to isolate enemies and maintain rule, the Tokugawa initiated a process of land relocation where Han (domains) were divided into fuadi daimyo (friends-direct vassals) and tozama daimyo ('outside' daimyo). One way of ensuring a static society was to reduce social mobility to a minium by rigidly separating the various classes of society and forbidding movement between them. A caste system developed comprising of daimyo (land lords) followed by, samurai (warriors), nomin (peasants), chonin (townspeople/ merchants) and eta (untouchables). The samurai had a hereditary superiority over the other three lower classes and enjoyed the privilege of kirigesute-gomen- the right to cut down with one of their two swords any non-samurai who insulted them. Samurai devoted their body and soul to their master daimyo in accordance with the religious code of honour, the oral code of Bushido. The nomin and chonin formed more than 90% of the population and shouldered the burden of supporting the state through excessive taxation. Strongly encouraged by the bakufu, Confucian teaching treated rulers as uniquely fitted to govern and provided an ethical backing for the demand of absolute loyalty. The re-allotment of fiefs after Sekigahara left samurai without an overlord and many became ronin, literally 'wave men'-masterless warriors. A morbid fear existed in the bakufu that the ronin and hostile daimyo in the southwest would invoke foreign help to create civil disruption and threaten the Tokugawa hegemony. ...read more.
The need for a military establishment based on western organization and technology, paid from the resources that commerce and industry made available, was necessary to withstand the forces of colonisation that already infected Asia. The Meiji oligarchy, predominantly young junior rank samurai from Satsuma and Choshu, realised progress must be based on imitation so the can "catch up and overtake". The Iwakura Mission in December 1871 (led by Iwakura Tomomi) gathered knowledge from America and Europe to facilitate nationalism, which in turn fed the fires of imperialism. Western ideas ultimately bred insecurity about themselves and although the Restoration was a return to the patterns of antiquity, international competition required the acquisition of modern tools. In 1869, daimyo voluntarily surrendered their lands to the emperor "so that a uniform rule may prevail throughout the empire allowing Japan to rank equally with other nations of the world". The daimyo received compensation and were relieved from supporting their samurai. Disbanded in 1876, samurai were pensioned off, their traditional feudal privilege discontinued and their right to wear distinctive dress and carry two swords was abolished. Their stipends were replaced with government bonds leading to poverty and humiliation at their loss of status though some learnt administration skills and entered the bureaucracy. The liberation of people from feudal restrictions increased geographic mobility. Another blow to samurai pride was the introduction of conscription (1871) implying that any Japanese could acquire the martial virtues regarded for centuries as the attribute of a minority privileged class. A national army raised by universal conscription, in which the peasants provided submissive and disciplined soldiers, indoctrinated the idea of service to the state and reverence for the Emperor. Training and organisation were western style where officers from France and Germany supervised the nucleus of a modern army while the British provided naval instructions. Saigo Takamori of the Satsuma clan proposed that Japan advance her national prestige and provide military employment through a foreign war, particularly against Korea, as means of "giving vent to samurai frustration and energy" (Pyle 1996). ...read more.
Then in 1902 through an Anglo-Japanese alliance came the clearest acknowledgment of Japan's acceptance as an equal by the West. It gave assurance that they could strike at enemies with success. In 1894 Japan engaged in war with China over their mutual interests in Korea, which was won by Japan the following year. The acquisition of Korea was vital as 'dumping ground' for their excess population and resource exploitation. The Sino-Japanese War reinforced their 'might is right' view of international relations and established itself as a colonial power in East Asia. Russian possession of Port Arthur, completion of the Trans-Siberian Railway, development of Vladivostock, and Russian commercial activity in the Korean peninsula resulted a conflict of interests and inevitably the Russ-Japanese War (1904/05). The war in Manchuria was a humiliating defeat for the Russians and the end of Tsarist pretensions in Korea and South Manchuria. The Treaty of Portsmouth in 1905 gave Japan the railway, Liatung and recognised her "paramount interests" in Korea (which it subsequently annexed in 1910). It demonstrated that the policy of modernisation was producing impressive results because for the first time in modern history a non-European nation defeated a European power in a full-scale war. It restored Japan's self-confidence when they turned European skills and ideas against her, elevating Japan to the "peers of western peoples" (Richard Storry). The supply of entrepreneurs, liquidation of feudal restraints, infrastructure of modern state, an indigenous arms industry, a high credit rating and large amounts of capital saved during Edo period gave the Meiji government a superb foundation after taking over these pre-1868 industrial undertakings. However compounded with financial instability, Western belligerence displayed in the Opium Wars initiated rapid changes and forced the Japanese government to emulate their imperialist stance against other nations in the Pacific region. Hence the arrival of the West accelerated predestined technological progress and provided the final impetus towards total modernisation. According to Beasley, "a nationalism rooted in conservative view of society already dissolved much of the tradition it developed to defend. ...read more.
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