The Encounter of Civilizations
Nineteenth Century Japan
Woodblock print of "modern" Japanese women at a bazaar
Imperial Icon
Woodblock print of Dejima
The Opening of Japan
Woodblock print of Commodore Perry's Black Ship
Imperial Icon of Japan
Photograph of Commodore Perry

Will the "Real" Commodore Perry
Please Stand Up!!!

Woodblock print of Commodore Perry
Sonno Joi (Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians
Map of Tokugawa Japan highlighting the "rebellious" regions of Choshu and Satsuma
The stage was ... set for the last series of events that were to lead to the downfall of the shogunate, the restoration of the emperor’s power, and the modernization of Japan, already begun but soon to gain momentum as a matter of deliberate policy. In this last struggle there were five groups in constant and confusing interaction: the shogunate, the imperial court, the Choshu clan, the Satsuma clan, and the foreign powers acting in concert. A key to the understanding of these crucial years 1858-1868 is an awareness of the rivalry of Satsuma and Choshu, both demanding change and both in a better position than any other clan to bring it about, but neither wishing to yield primacy of leadership to the other. When these two clans agreed to combine their efforts, events proceeded to a climax. The victim was the shogunate; the means to victory was to possess military power and to become, in the ancient pattern, the spokesman for the emperor; and the shifts of policy were determined by the iron necessities of confrontation with the foreigners. (Japan: Its History and Culture, 143-4)
Imperial Icon of Japan
The Meiji Oligarchy (Elder Statesment who ran the early Meiji government)
The Meiji Restoration

Portrait of the Meiji Emperor
The Meiji Emperor (r. 1868-1912)
What changes did the leaders of the
Meiji Restoration initiate ... and why?
Members of the Satcho Alliance (which overthrew Tokugawa Japan and played a dominant role in the subsequent Meiji government)
Restoring the Emperor
Restoring the Land

There is no soil within the Empire that does not belong to the Emperor ... although in the Middle Ages the Imperial power declined and the military classes rose, taking possession of the land and dividing it among themselves. But now that the Imperial power is restored, how can we retain possession of land that belongs to the Emperor, and govern people who are his subjects? We therefore reverently offer up all our feudal possessions ... so that a uniform rule may prevail throughout the Empire. Thus the country will be able to rank equally with the other nations of the world. (Memorial addressed to the emperor by lords of the four western fiefdoms, 1868-9; East Asia: A New History, 307)
Who was the real "Last Samurai"?
Poster for the movie "The Last Samurai"
Tom Cruise ... or SaigoTakamori?
Imperial Icon

Woodblock print of a Japanese steam ship

The industrial development sponsored and financed by the government proved a costly item. It was made possible only by a deliberative decision to favor industry at the expense of agriculture. In 1880 about 75 percent of the population was engaged in farming, and 80 percent of the tax revenue came from the agricultural yield. This tax revenue enabled the government, among other things, to pay for imported industrial machinery and the services of foreign experts. Foreign loans could be negotiated, but these were expensive and involved an unacceptable measure of dependence on foreign governments; no one had invented foreign aid, and Japan had to pay as she went. ...
Woodblock print of a Japanese train
The 1870s had been a decade of unprecedented expenditure. In addition to the payments to samurai and daimyo and the industrial financing, it had been necessary to make new outlays for the development of Hokkaido, the northern island. ... Then at the end of the decade came a period of serious inflation, which added to the difficulties of the government. ... The members of the government considered requesting a foreign loan, which they could have secured from London, but on the advice of the able finance minister, Matsukata Masayoshi (1835-1924), they decided on a policy of retrenchment and economy instead. ... Among the economy measures introduced by Matsukata was the sale to private buyers of factories and enterprises which had originally been financed by the government. For some of these enterprises it was not easy to find purchasers, and the prices were not advantageous to the government as sales were made at figures varying from 11 to 90 percent of the original investment. Ready cash, however, was made available to the government, and the losses were more than balanced by the advantage of new industries to the nation as a whole. ...
Illustration showing the structure of Zaibatsu (large Japanese corporations)
Some of the firms which benefited most from the purchase of government financed concerns were the great business houses which emerged as the so-called zaibatsu (“financial clique”) firms.
Logo for Mitsui (one of the early Zaibatsu)
The first in order of size was Mitsui, which started in Tokugawa as a
and branched out into the sale of dry goods and into banking ...
The Bank at the center of the Mitsui Zaibatsu
[establishing Japan’s first private bank on July 1, 1876]. ...
Woodblock print of the Tomioka Silk Factory
The firm bought the Tomioka silk-reeling mill from the government ...
Contemporary Mitsui ship
  ... began to engage in heavy industry ...
Contemporary Mitsui mining operation
... and set up the great Mitsukoshi department store business as a separate entity.
(Japan: Its History and Culture, 159-60)
Woodblock print of Mitsukoshi Department Store
Mitsukoshi Logo
Photo of the interior of Mitsukoshi Main Branch at Nihonbashi
bamboo page divider
Mitsubishi Logo
Shipyard at the center of the early Mitsubishi Zaibatsu
The second zaibatsu firm of Mitsubishi owed its origin to a Tosa samurai, Iwasaki Yataro (1834-1885), who, with the help of the resources of the Tosa domain and government subsidies, set up his own shipping line.
NYK Line (a.k.a. Japanese Mail Line)
From this in turn developed the famous N.Y.K., Nippon Yusen Kaisha, or Japanese Mail Line. (Japan: Its History and Culture, 159-60)
Mitsubishi automobiles
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Parliamentary Democracy
Woodblock print of the opening ceremony of the Japanese Diet (Parliament)
Opening Ceremony of the National Diet: November 29, 1890
The Meiji Constitution was promulgated in February 1889, the first system of representative government to be adopted in Asia. In spite of numerous safeguards it was regarded by many as too liberal; but Ito [Hirobumi] ingeniously warded off criticism by the conservatives through his arrangement that the constitution was made as a gift from the emperor to the people of Japan. Sovereignty was fixed in the person of the emperor, declared to be “sacred and inviolable.” ... The constitution set up a Diet with a House of Peers, appointive, and a House of Representatives, elective. Each was of equal status, which meant that the upper house had the power of veto in addition to the veto power vested in the emperor. The House of Peers consisted of the upper nobility, representatives of the lower nobility (counts, viscounts, and barons), distinguished public figures, often scholars, and representatives of the highest taxpayers. The House of Representatives consisted of 300 members, later raised to 466, elected by all adult males in Japan over the age of twenty-five and paying at least 15 yen per annum in taxes. In practice this turned out to be at first only 1 percent of the population. The premier was to be appointed by the emperor on advice from the elder statesmen. ... The Diet used its budgetary powers to show its resistance to the government ... [so a] succession of premiers fell back upon their second weapon, the proroguing or dissolution of the Diet. ... Two factors, however, made for a series of uneasy compromises: the government leaders were unwilling to see the new constitution fail, and the parliamentary party leaders did not want to incur the constant expense of new elections. ... The machinery of representative government, although creaking, did function, and gradually the political parties began to operate more normally by opposing each other rather than by combining to hamstring the executive branch. The pattern of control already established in the hands of the members of the Choshu and Satsuma clans continued, for the premiership alternated between Choshu and Satsuma men from 1885 to 1898. (Japan: Its History and Culture, 162-3)
Imperial Icon
Woodblock print of the First Sino-Japanese War
The Rise of Imperial Japan
Map of the Japanese Empire from 1870-1942