Meiji Restoration in Japan – 2

Abolition of Feudalism:

            The compensation package for the daimyos (feudal lords) was in the form of a pension amounting to one-tenth of the revenue they would have derived from their fiefs. In some cases, it included the debts incurred by them. In any case the one-tenth compensation was indeed higher than the nominal income they were deriving earlier. It was the samurai class which was affected badly. It faced near extinction since the old feudal army retained by the lords and the emperor no longer continued. In their place the emperor raised a national army to which the samurai offered their services. However, nor all of them got recruited since the new army was not based on any class or caste.

So far as the peasants were concerned the government replaced the old masters. It received its revenue not on the basis of production of crops but on the value of the land. They had to suffer since the government gave them the option to pay a high land tax or sell their lands. Rigorous collection of land tax by the new government put many poor and marginal peasants to great hardships. The new revenue policy thus caused great discontent which resulted in what is called ‘rice riots’. Along with the disaffected samurais, the poor peasants fought pitched battles against the government officials who had come for collection of revenue.

Educational reforms

The Superiority of the west mainly rested upon is scientific and technological know-how. Thos was the product of the advanced educational system. Hence, the emperor laid stress upon introducing a new educational system based on the western system of education. This implied the revamping of the existing educational system. The necessity to catch up with the west becomes an important item on their agenda. The Japanese Government was determined to bring about the changes and hence followed a series of reforms.

  • All travel restrictions to go abroad for higher education were removed. Student were encouraged to go abroad to acquire knowledge of science and technology which would be useful to the country after their return.
  • Imparting of education which was restricted only to the children of the elite in Japanese society was extended to all.
  • Education became compulsory for all children by 1871.
  • Every boy and girl from the age of six had to go to school by an imperial decree.
  • The government provided liberal grants to secondary and university education.
  • Women’s education at the advanced level was recognised by 1902.

The educational system acted as a powerful catalyst of change and Japan emerged out of the cocoon of medievalism and entered a modern era.