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Why was Meiji Modernization Successful?

One of the reasons that accounted for the success of the Meiji Modernization was the able leadership of the Meiji Government. The government had an evident vision of what they wanted, and that was ‘fukoku-kyohei’ which meant a rich country and a strong military. In order to have a strong and prosperous country, the country must first have a strong economy. Thus, the Meiji Government sent abroad almost half the government on the Iwakura Mission.

The officials toured around the world and learned how to develop their economies from different countries. Another example of good leadership from the Meiji Government was that they were very pragmatic and did not try to rush anything too soon. They were evident in what they wanted and set obvious goals, for example, their industrial policy, economic infrastructure and control of inflation. They were also very keen to learn Western ideas and were very open to them.

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They were ready to adopt whatever ideas they felt were best for Japan, such as having a postal and postal saving system based on the British, learning from the German army and having their military and ordinary police based on the French. This showed that the Japanese government learnt and based their goals on what they believed were the best at their times. By copying the supposedly strongest army at that time, Germany, they hoped to emulate the German army and become as strong as them. By having such a forward-looking government, it was not surprising that the Meiji Modernization was successful.

Another reason why the Meiji Modernization was successful was because of the end of the domains. This was because, when the daimyo was in charge, there were a few incompetent and ineffective leaders, as the position of daimyo was based on hereditary and not on meritocracy and ability. Therefore many of their domains were having financial problems, thus by abolishing the domains, the court could have more centralized power, and it would be more effective for the government to rule.

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The creation of a National Army was implemented by conscription; all non-disabled men would be made to serve the army regardless of social background. Creating a National Army would very likely be critical to a successful Meiji Modernization. This is because the country would be more united and soldiers loyal to the government, thus ensuring that plans would be made smoother and more accessible. Furthermore, having an army, which could be ready to fight, would give the opposition something to think about and thus very unlikely to hinder the government’s plans; in this way, creating a National Army was vital to the Meiji Modernization.

Another factor was the effective system of National Taxation. Tax payments were replaced by a uniform money payment, making this revenue independent to the price of rice, sale and disposal of land were made legal, and tax was assessed according to the value of the land. They were doing so encouraged farmers to increase their capital investment. Therefore this contributed to the steadily increasing agricultural productivity, and this contributed to three-quarters of tax revenue. This was instrumental to the Meiji Modernization as it provided the capital and money needed to modernize Japan. By having this capital and money, Japan could now improve their economy and modernize quicker and faster. Thus this was highly vital to the success of Modernization.

The Meiji Modernization was also successful because of the change of social structure. The government had decided to do away with the samurai class as the samurais were responsible for 25 to 100 percent of ordinary revenue, proving too much of a burden for the government as they had other important issues such as Western-style reforms deal with. As a result, by making everyone equal by law, the government need not shoulder such a heavy burden and thus could concentrate their money on making Japan a strong country as they now had more money to improve their economy and infrastructure.

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Another reason was the nationalism of the Japanese. They were very patriotic to their country and were willing to make radical changes. One example that showed us how united the Japanese were was the alliance between Choshu and Satsuma. National unity was strong at all levels, and the leaders of Japan enjoyed the cooperation of the people at large. Therefore, Japan was highly united in reaching its goal of “Fukoku Kyohei. ” Thus, by having a well-prepared mindset for change, it was easier for the government to make the Meiji Modernization successful, as they would not receive any opposition from the public. And having a large group of supporters helped smoothen the process of transition of modernization.

The Japanese’s attitude to the West was also crucial to the success of Modernization. It understood that only by imitation and copying from the West could Japan save herself from being colonized and be seen as equals with western powers. So, the Japanese were enthusiastic about modernization. They were ready to impart their knowledge from the West; they wished to learn from them to become a solid and prosperous country. For example, the Iwakura Mission, which I mentioned above, hiring foreign experts to help improve their economy and army, borrowing Western technology, and reading their books to understand their culture.

The Japanese also used the Western calendar and borrowed many day-to-day practices from the West. This shows that the Japanese were sincere in learning more about the West and tried thoroughly to understand their culture and values. By doing so, they were earnest about learning from the West and modernizing. Hence, having such a severe and curious mindset for Western technology and ideas proved successful for the Japanese Modernization as they could learn quickly and grasp the Western concepts easily.

The growth of commerce and merchant class was influential in the success of Japan’s Modernization. According to Reichschauer and Craig, ‘it was the private imitative that produced the bulk of Japan’s economic modernization and growth.’ The urban merchants were mainly tending to merchandising and banking whereas the samurais invested their stipends into bonds which were a good source of investment capital. The wealthy peasant class also made a significant contribution and some became major business leaders. By having private capital, Japan could rely on its citizens to help improve its economy.

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Therefore, this lifted off some burden from the Japanese leaders as they had an external cash flow now. An example of the success of the role private capital played was the samurai Iwasaki Yataro, with his own money he managed to become the founder of Mitsubishi. This private capital certainly helped the more traditional areas of the economy such as agriculture and traditional forms of manufacturing. This was a factor for the success of Modernization because Japan could now rely on some of her wealthy citizens to improve her economy.

Japan’s Meiji Modernization was successful also because of the fact it was carried out on a national scale. Everyone was involved in the modernization, thus it could be successful as work was allocated and by carrying it out on a national scale, the whole country would be modernized and hence with more developed parts in Japan, the efficiency of production would increase as there are more places which are economically developed and able to produce goods. When compared to China’s modernization which only involved the coastal areas. Thus, this shows us how important it is to have a country modernized in every area and not only in concentrated parts of the country. By making full use of the are available, Japan is able to maximize their profit and thus improve their economy.

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Why was Meiji Modernization Successful?. (2021, Sep 24). Retrieved August 14, 2022, from