Meiji Restoration


Meiji Restoration
(1868–1912)
   A palace coup of 1868, which overthrew the Tokugawa Shogunate and “restored” power to the Japanese emperor, followed by the rapid socioeconomic and political changes that occurred during the reign of the Meiji emperor from 1868 to 1912. In 1868, a coup led by disgruntled nobles toppled the enfeebled Tokugawa Shogunate that had ruled Japan since the feudal era, shifted power to the emperor, and moved the imperial court from Kyoto to Tokyo. The political revolution of 1868 vested de jure sovereignty in the emperor, but de facto power was wielded by the genro, an oligarchy of nobles and former samurai. The new Meiji government governed a militarily weak and economically backward nation threatened by Western encroachment, and under the banner of fukoku Kyohei - a rich nation, and a strong military - embarked on a series of reforms that radically transformed and modernized Japanese society. The Meiji government abolished feudalism, made large investments in modern infrastructure and industries, and introduced a national education system. The government dispatched Japanese students overseas to study the latest aspects of Western science and technology, and foreign experts were hired to teach in Japan. Military modernization was a key goal of the Meiji government, and a conscript national army based on the Prussian model and a modern navy based on the British Royal Navy were established. In 1877, the government used the army, trained in modern European infantry tactics and equipped with the latest weaponry, to quell the Satsuma Rebellion and destroy the last vestige of Samurai resistance to the Meiji reforms. The Meiji Constitution, based on the Prussian constitution, was drafted by Hirobumi Itō and adopted in 1889. Elections for the first diet were held in 1890, but suffrage was limited to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population. In the later Meiji period, Japan triumphed in the Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War, negotiated an alliance with Britain, and abolished the unequal treaties with the Western powers. By the end of the Meiji period, Japan was counted among the ranks of the Great Powers.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Beasley, William G. The Meiji Restoration. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1972;
    Jansen, Marius, ed. The Emergence of Meiji Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995;
    Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2002.
   ADRIAN U-JIN ANG

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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