Meiji restoration

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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 MeijiMeiji
, 1852–1912, reign name of the emperor of Japan from 1867 to 1912; his given name was Mutsuhito. He ascended the throne when he was 15. A year later the shogun fell, and the power that had been held by the Tokugawa military house was returned to the emperor.
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 emperor's reign (1868–1912). The power of the TokugawaTokugawa
, family that held the shogunate (see shogun) and controlled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Founded by Ieyasu, the Tokugawa regime was a centralized feudalism. The Tokugawa themselves held approximately one fourth of the country in strategically located parcels, which they
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 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. PerryPerry, Matthew Calbraith,
1794–1858, American naval officer, b. South Kingstown, R.I.; brother of Oliver Hazard Perry. Appointed a midshipman in 1809, he first served under his brother on the Revenge and then was aide to Commodore John Rodgers on the
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, 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 daimyodaimyo
[Jap.,=great name], the great feudal landholders of Japan, the territorial barons as distinguished from the kuge, or court nobles. Great tax-free estates were built up from the 8th cent.
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, 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.

Bibliography

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).

Meiji Restoration

 

in a broad sense, the political events and socioeconomic changes in Japan during the middle and second half of the 19th century that resulted in the abolition of the feudal system and the creation of a centralized bourgeois-landlord state; more narrowly, the term refers to the incomplete bourgeois revolution that occurred in Japan in 1867–68.

During the period preceding the Meiji Restoration the actual ruler of Japan was the shogun from the powerful Tokugawa feudal house, and the emperor was virtually eliminated from the country’s political life. Together with his direct vassals, the shogun personally owned about one-fourth of the country’s land. All other land was under the feudal control of the princes, or daimyos (there were approximately 260 domains during the 18th and 19th centuries). The daimyos had their own vassals from the lower nobility—the samurai—who generally received compensation in the form of rice allotments. With the disintegration of the principalities many samurai went to the cities, where they became small shopkeepers, officials, and teachers. The peasants were merely hereditary holders of their land. Peasant land frequently passed into the hands of creditors, called new landlords (shin jinushi, goshi), and the peasants were becoming tenants without rights. Growing feudal oppression resulted in large peasant revolts. Differentiation among the peasantry was giving rise to a stratum of prosperous peasants, called gono. The feudal organization of society was disintegrating, and the urban commercial and to some extent industrial bourgeoisie was expanding. On the eve of the Meiji Restoration the country had 420 factories. From 1830 to 1844 and, later, from 1865 to 1868 a wave of uprisings of the urban poor, or uchikowashi, engulfed Japanese cities, caused by the rising cost of living and the depreciation of money. The largest revolts occurred in Osaka in 1837 (the Oshio revolt) and in Edo (Tokyo) in 1866.

Thus, by the mid-19th century, the economic and social disintegration of the feudal system had intensified, and separatism of the domains had increased. The domestic crisis during the 1850’s and 1860’s was aggravated by the “discovery” of Japan by foreign powers, particularly the United States, which imposed the unequal Ansei treaties. The movement for national independence merged with opposition to the shogunate. The struggle to overthrow the shogunate was headed by the southwestern domains of Choshu, Satsuma, Hizen, and Tosa, which demanded the restoration of the emperor’s power. In Choshu, radical representatives of the lower samurai, relying on the support of the prosperous peasants, merchants, and entrepreneurs, created their own “plebeian army” (Kihetai) and in 1865 assumed control of Choshu’s administrative apparatus. In other southwestern principalities control of the administration also passed to the lower samurai.

In March 1866 a military alliance was concluded between Choshu and Satsuma, which became the focal point of the movement to overthrow the shogun government. A military campaign of the shogunate against Choshu, undertaken in July 1866 with the aid of France, was repulsed by a coalition of southwestern domains. Peasant unrest in the rear of the shogun army contributed to its defeat.

In the domains various volunteer units (nohei) were formed by rural samurai (goshi) and prosperous peasants for a campaign against Edo, the administrative center of the shogunate. The nascent industrial bourgeoisie, which was dependent on agriculture and had not yet evolved into an independent political force, neither could nor wanted to lead the struggle of the peasantry and urban poor to abolish the feudal system. The movement was headed by the lower samurai, who had been strongly influenced by the bourgeoisie even though they were part of the ruling noble class.

On Jan. 3, 1868, the leaders of the southwest coalition, with the support of an army concentrated in Kyoto, announced the overthrow of the shogun government in the name of the emperor Mutsuhito and the formation of a new government headed by the emperor. The shogun and his supporters attacked Kyoto but were routed in a battle at Toba and Fushimi near Kyoto in late January 1868. In May the shogun Keiki, who had taken refuge in the Edo castle, capitulated, and the forces of the new imperial government entered Edo without a struggle.

The victory of the revolution cleared the way for bourgeois socioeconomic changes, but feudal vestiges survived to a significant degree, as a result of which the revolution was incomplete. Guild monopolies were dissolved in 1868, and the feudal class structure was abolished in 1871. The new government proclaimed the right of persons to freely buy and sell land (1872) and select professions and places of residence, as well as other bourgeois liberties that facilitated the formation of a national market. The abolition of the domains through redemption payments by the government (the princes were granted monetary pensions roughly equivalent to 10 percent of the previous gross income of their holdings), introduction of a system of prefectures (1871), reform of the state bureaucracy, and universal military service (1872) put an end to feudal fragmentation and led to the formation of a monarchical, bourgeois-landlord state.

The land-tax reforms carried out between 1873 and 1879 (numerous feudal assessments were replaced by a single monetary tax collected by the central government) contributed to the abolition of feudal property, introduced bourgeois-landlord ownership of the land, and strengthened the position of the new landlords and prosperous peasantry. Although these reforms were a compromise, they created the preconditions for the development of capitalism. The Meiji government promoted the development of capitalist relations in the 1870’s and 1880’s by instituting protectionist policies and building model enterprises at the state’s expense.

REFERENCES

Ocherki novoi istorii Iaponii (1640–1917). Moscow, 1958.
Topekha, P. “Padenie segunata.” In Iaponiia: Voprosy istorii Moscow, 1959.
Eidus, Kh. “Meidzi isin, kak nezavershennaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia ν Iaponii.” In Doklady delegatov SSSR na XXV Mezhdunarodnom kongresse vostokovedov ν Moskve 9–16 avg. 1960, vol. 5, part 2. Moscow, 1960–61.
Topekha, P. P. “K voprosu o kharaktere’Meidzi isin’.” In Istorikofilologicheskie issledovaniia. Moscow, 1967.
Toyama Shigeki. Meidzi isin: Krushenie feodalizma ν Iaponii. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from Japanese.)
Meiji ishin-shi kenkyu koza (Essays on the History of the Meiji Ishin), vols. 1–6. Tokyo, 1958–59.

P. P. TOPEKHA