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To what extent can we describe Meiji modernization as a Westernization?

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Introduction

18. To what extent can we describe Meiji modernization as a Westernization? Meiji modernization is a combined process. It combined the old with the West, the traditional values of the Japanese with the technology of the West. In short, westenization is a part, and only one part of the whole process of modernization. Westernization is taken in the following fields. Firstly, we can find westernization in the Charter Oath of 1868. The desire of the Japanese to borrow from the West so to strengthen the country could be clearly seen in the Charter Oath. There is the sentence in the Oath - 'knowledge shall be sought for all over the world' and thus shall be strengthened the foundation of the imperial policy. This statement was to be the basic philosophy of the whole movement. Japan was to be modernized and strengthened through the use of western knowledge. It was a surprisingly frank disavowal of the sentiment to ?xpel the barbarians'. The most conspicuous case of the Westernization was in the field of technology for a backward country like Japan, technological progress must be based upon imitation. ...read more.

Middle

Yet in each of the above areas, it is doubtful whether imitation of the West is a true Westernization. This can be shown in the following evidences. Military, although the soldiers had western equipment and military training (army based on Prussian model and navy based on British model), they were often reminded of the importance of the traditional samurai spirit (Bushido) and particularly, of unconditional loyalty to the Emperor. By this, it is not different from the past. The soldiers were just the samurai in the past. They just differed in name and appearance. In modernizing the educational system, only the 'form' was borrowed from the West. Thus the ultimate aim of the educational reforms was not to introduce these Western concepts of 'individualism' and 'freedom of thought' but rather to seek conformity and reinforce Japanese traditional values and virtues such as loyalty and patriotism. Thus only technical and practical training was based on Western lines but not moral training. Through indoctrination in traditional values, the Japanese would become a nation of patriots. Although there was the constitution of 1889 which framed by Ito, there was not a guarantee that democracy was promised in Japan. ...read more.

Conclusion

There was a growing intellectual resentment against blind and unreserved adoption of Western methods. They thought that western methods were not all right and good. Japan had to select some western methods that suited Japan and could help Japan become strong and to obtain status. Although Japan had try to modernize herself along western lines, the Westerners still refused to grant Japan better status. This led to a revival of anti-foreign sentiments. Hence, it is clear that Japan's real aim in westernization was only to obtain equal status with the West. When this failed, the Japanese could not bear. The trend of selective westernization was also accounted for by the fact that Japan discovered that western culture was not homogeneous especially as the Western nations quarrelled among themselves over their rival interests. As a result, Japan tried to be selective among the Western nations. Some people would go so far to say that the Meiji modernization is a sort of 'Japanization' rather than a 'westernization'. Anyway, Westernization is undoubtedly part of the whole process but, to stress again, it is only a part. Reference 1. Fairbank: 'East Asia: The Modern Transformation' 2. Richard Storry: 'A History of Modern Japan' 3. Beaseley: 'The Modern History of Japan' 2 2 Subject: Meiji Japan 18 Subject: Meiji Japan 18 1 ...read more.

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