In 1868 the Tokugawa rule that began in 1603 came to an end.The Tokugawa shogunatewas replaced by the Meiji Restoration.This era consolidated a political systembased on rule by the Emperor of Japan.In reality, the ‘restoration’ of the emperor was purely symbolic. It helped give the new regime the legitimacy they needed to transform Japan. The new rulers seized control of the Tokugawa government in Edo, changing the name of the city to Tokyo. In 1889, Meiji created a constitution and gave it as a gift to the people of his country.
Westernisation of Japan occurred during the restoration period. Commodore Matthew Perry travelled from America and explored South East Asia, arriving in Japan in 1854. Perry was one of the reasons that Japan became aware of the fact they were behind developmentally in comparison to theWest. The word ‘Meiji’ means ‘enlightened rule’. Meiji wanted to combine Western advances with traditional Japanese values. Perhaps the most prominent example of this is the implementation of a Western style schooling system, but the school continued to include many aspects of the traditional curriculum.
The impact of the West was not limited to cultural ideas. The Meiji also sought to create a nation-state capable of standing equal among Western powers. This was done by military modification. In 1871 there was a formation of a national army. Then, by 1873 there was a universal conscription law. The attempts to create a Japanese army eventually led to the country’s rise as a military power by the year 1905. The success of military policies was solidified by the 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War, the 1902 Anglo-Japanese alliance, and the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.
The acceleration of industrialisation was another primary goal of the newly instituted government. Industrialisation was seen as another route Japan should take to be recognised and respected on the world stage. They developed strategic industries, transportation networks and communication links. In 1872 the first railroad was built and by 1890 there was more than 1,400 miles of track. Following this, in 1880 the introduction of the telegraph linked major cities. Then, in 1882 a European-style banking system was introduced.
The death of Emperor Meiji in 1912 marked the end of the restoration period. It needs to be acknowledged that, building on the foundations established in the Tokugawa period, this was the governmentthat was responsible for the emergence of Japan as a‘modernised’ and powerful nation in the early twentieth century.