World History


























Meiji Restoration

Emperor Meiji led Japan during a period of rapid modernization.

In Japan of the early 1800s, the Tokugawa Shogunate was still trying to preserve Japan’s cultural traditions through measures such as banning firearms and maintaining isolation from foreigners. But there was a problem. The Americans, like the British, believed in free trade even when a country didn’t want to trade.

In 1853, a squadron of American warships arrived in Japan and threatened bombardment unless Japan opened trade with the United States. At gunpoint, the shogunate agreed. In the political unrest that followed, members of the samurai class armed themselves with surplus weapons from the American Civil War and overthrew the Tokugawa Shogunate. Japan’s feudal system with its shogun and regional warlords was replaced by a modern centralized government that granted equal rights to Japanese citizens.

Although the Japanese emperor had long been mainly a ceremonial figure, the samurai restored power to a new emperor named Meiji . Devotion to the god-like emperor became central to Japanese nationalism. The Meiji government sent officials to the West to learn about constitutional governments and new technologies.

Meiji Restoration = A turning point in Japanese history in 1868 when the last shogun was overthrown and the emperor assumed direct control over the nation. The following Meiji Period (1868–1912) was marked by Japan's opening to the West and the establishment of a strong centralized government.

With help from Western advisers, Japan joined the Industrial Revolution, building railroads, factories, and a modern navy. For the first time, Japan was stronger than its big neighbor China.