Meiji Restoration in Japan – 1

Introduction:

The Meiji Restoration also known as the Meiji Ishin, Renovation, Revolution, Reform, or Renewal, was an event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan in 1868 under Emperor Meiji. Although there were ruling Emperors before the Meiji Restoration, the events restored practical abilities and consolidated the political system under the Emperor of Japan after actual power had been wielded by the Tokugawa Shogunate from 1603 to 1867 in the emperor’s name. The goals of the restored government were expressed by the new emperor in the Charter Oath. The Restoration led to enormous changes in Japan’s political and social structure and spanned both the late Edo period (often called the Late Tokugawa shogun) and the beginning of the Meiji period. A new era began with the emperor Declaration of the Right of Man of the days of the revolution. The new era was to be characterised by the harmonious mixture of the old and new, the old denoting all the best elements of the ancient Japanese culture, and the new suggesting the absorption of all that was good in the western civilisation. In this respect Japan differed widely from neighbour, china, who looked upon western civilisation with contempt and suspicion. Japan seized the choice make in view of the anti- foreign felling. Fortunately, the new emperor, Mutsuhito (although very young 16 years) was nevertheless bold and dynamic. Under his able leadership Japan was to chart a new course in order to become a mighty Asiatic nation during the next three decades.

The New Political System:

The new political system which was to replace the old, was democracy dominated by a centralised oligarchy. The process of change from the old to the new system was made easy by the voluntary surrender of power to the emperor by the four most powerful western clans in 1869- namely, the Satsuma, Chosu, Hizen and Tosu. It must be remembered that they were the ones who were instrumental in bringing about the Meiji restoration. This was followed by all the retainers, daimyose and samurais. The emperor was highly impressed and provides compensation through a revenue settlement so that they could retain their respect and dignity. The members of the four great clans were permitted to stay at Tokyo (earlier called Yedo), the new capital of Japan.