The transition from Tokugawa to Meiji set the course
of Japan’s development in recent centuries. With the reunification of the
country in 1600, the emergence of modern political institutions and accelerated
economic growth after World War II, the Tokugawa-Meiji is the key to an
understanding of social and economic change from the seventeenth century to the
The Meiji restauration is known as one of the
turning points of the Japanese history, because contributed to make Japan the
most powerful Asian country.
The Meiji emperor was
re-established as head of Japan in 1968. At the time, the nation was very poor
military, the primary sector of the economy was agriculture and the
technological progress was very little.
Since Japan to abrogate
its feudal system unaided and to maintain its sovereignty as united country, in
the meantime struggling against the Western powers it can be understood that
the major concern of its leaders was not so much protecting traditional culture
as mastering the secrets of the western civilisation to strengthen japan. This
was a shared concern, including late Tokugawa thinkers, as well as those who
held the power in the new Meiji government.
For a better
understanding of the Japanese grand plan of modernization we can examine the
diary of Kido Takayoshi, a councilor of state and most powerful Ch?sh? figure
in the new government.
clearly must have schools if we are to encourage our country’s development as
civilized country, improve ordinary people’s knowledge, establish the power of
the state, and maintain our independence and sovereignty. It is not enough to
have a few able men make good; nothing is more important than schools.” ( Kido
Takayoshi, 1933, vol.2 pp.126-27)
What Kido is saying
here is that the Meiji government’s ability of create a new developed country
depend on how well structure is the Japanese education. On February 1, 1872 the
Ministry of Education announced the “establishment of public elementary schools
and schools of western studies in the Tokyo metropolitan prefecture”.( Irokawa
Daikichi, 1985; 54-55)
(The idea was to get
rid of the feudal system ruled by the daimy? –one of the great lords who were
vassals of the shogun—to create a more centralised government structure
(Jansen, 1988; 18-19)
Social problems, Japan
was divided by cast system known as shinokosho, composed by Gentry (Samurai),
Farmers (N?min), Artisans (Ch?nin) and Merchants, know as well as Ch?nin. Also marriage between members of different
classes was prohibited.
Samurai were an
integral part of the Japanese culture and lifestyle, most importantly, honoured
between among other people. They had lots of privileges such as being able to
carry two swards (daisho) , or having a surname. Even nowadays people who
descend from a very important samurai family are treated with a huge respect.
With the end of the
shogun in 1868, the military class of samurai changed drastically. In 1976,with
the Meiji government, swards were no longer aloud to be wear in public,
effecting the image of the samurai, making him no longer different among
others. Additional, the government forbidden the traditional top-knot, hairstyle,
and encouraged them to wear clothes based on Western standards and expectation.
They began to wear Western style hats and pocket watches, also start to wear
coats over the kimono. Major changes seem to affect the Japanese housing. For
example the adoption of sh?ji (door, window or room divider, usually mad of translucent
paper), engawa (??
or ??)(veranda or
balcony) and fusuma (sliding wall panels) all possible because of the growing
number of salary worker. Bigger cities started to build stone and brick constructions
and bridges, mostly designed by foreigner architects.