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Meiji restoration

Meiji restoration, The term refers to both the events of 1868 that led to the "restoration" of power to the emperor and the entire period of revolutionary changes that coincided with the Meiji emperor's reign (1868–1912). The power of the Tokugawa shogunate, weakened by debt and internal division, had declined, and much opposition had built up in the early 19th cent. The intrusion of Western powers, particularly the Americans under Admiral Matthew C. Perry, precipitated further discontent. Under pressure, the Tokugawa shogunate submitted (1854) to foreign demands and signed treaties that ended Japan's isolation. The powerful Choshu and Satsuma domains of W Japan tried to resist the foreigners on their own and were defeated (1863). These domains, excluded from the Tokugawa governing councils because of their status as tozama, or outside daimyo, then demanded creation of a new government loyal to the emperor to expel the foreigners. In Jan., 1868, samurai from these domains, with the support of anti-Tokugawa court nobles, succeeded in a palace coup that abolished the shogunate and "returned" power to the emperor. The court was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo, where a centralized administration was created. The new Meiji government moved quickly to discard the feudal system and launch a series of reforms that profoundly changed Japanese society. These reform programs—administrative, economic, social, legal, educational, and military—were carried out under the slogan "fukoku Kyohei" (enrich the country and strengthen the military). The government adopted many policies designed to create a modern economy and society. Students were sent to Europe and the United States to study modern science and technology, while foreign experts were hired to help establish factories and educational institutions. In 1889 the Meiji Constitution was adopted. In the late Meiji years, Japan won the Sino–Japanese war in 1895, defeated Russia in 1905, abolished the treaties with the West, and became a world power.

See K. B. Pyle, The New Generation in Meiji Japan (1969); W. G. Beasley, The Meiji Restoration (1972); C. Gluck, Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period (1985); M. Umegaki, After the Restoration: The Beginning of Japan's Modern State (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Japanese History


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