One thing that is important to know about Japanese history, in order to better understand modern Japan and Japanese culture, is an event referred to as the “Meiji Restoration”. So let’s get started and learn more about why Japan is the way it is today.
What Brought About The Meiji Restoration?
In the middle of the 1800’s Japan had been a closed country for hundreds of years. A governmental policy essentially stated that Japanese people would be killed if leaving the country and anyone entering would also be killed.
There was a small island in the south of Japan where the Japanese imported goods from the Dutch, Chinese, and Korean nations, but there was little or no trade with any other country. The country of Japan was closed to outside influences, partly to maintain political domination and control.
The Arrival Of Perry’s Black Ships
In the mid-1860 an American diplomatic fleet of steam-powered battleships arrived and insisted upon the opening of Japanese trade with the US. The feudal Shogun government, however apprehensive of the threat to their control over the people of Japan, had no choice but to allow trade with the US.
This opened the door for international trade and relations with the world beyond Japan for the first time in hundreds of years.
The End Of The Edo Period
There was the end of a relatively stable number of years of Shogun government called the Edo period. During this period a primary Shogunate (military dictatorship) was essentially running the government and the various different Samurai clans of the country were managed by this primary Shogunate, which was based in Edo (the city now known as Tokyo).
Thankfully this particular military dictatorship was a relatively noble group monetarily, but their own noble and self-sacrificing way was actually part of what allowed the imperial family to take over the government of Japan at this rather pivotal moment.
The Switch Over To Meiji
Essentially Meiji was the heir son of the imperial family and so those who stood to benefit from him being placed in as leader of the country helped to make it happen. The leadership of the Shogunate in Edo was handed over rather effortlessly as Meiji and his supporters apparently duped the Shogunate.
Meiji’s primary supporters, of course, were leaders of some of the primary opposition to the Shogunate. This assertion of the leadership of an imperialistic family was known as the “Meiji Restoration”, yet it was not really a restoration as there had apparently never been a truly united Japan ruled in such a way before. Suddenly Meiji took over and any Samurai opposition to the changes was essentially stopped with force until the Samurai class was finally outlawed.
The Meiji Constitution
The Meiji constitution was written as part of this “restoration” and basically fabricated a national identity for Japan. It also conveniently fabricated nationalistic mythology which attempted to falsely present Meiji and his family as Shinto divinity. The result was a fanatical religious theocracy with a false history and deluded national patriotism. This ultimately led to the sad events of WWII and the immense disgrace of the Japanese people. It was essentially a nation-wide cult fabricated by politicians.
Hopefully now you understand much more about modern Japan and its culture.