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Matthew Perry’s arrival in Japan would have profound consequences for Japanese and world history. Ultimately it would impress Japanese officials on the need to reorient their nation’s geography to modern advantage. At the time of Perry’s arrival, for nearly two centuries Japanese leaders had attempted to isolate Japanese from the rest of the world, using the country’s island nature to keep the outside world at bay and Japanese at home. Important exceptions notwithstanding: Japanese were allowed to leave Japan; return meant their execution.
Leading explanations for the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 using international relations theory adopt some version of the “rise of Japan” narrative. The focus of these studies is to explain the outbreak of war in 1894 as a result of the disruption in the systemic status quo or as an early warning signal toward Japan’s expansionism by highlighting the newly acquired military power and status of Japan – and the challenge this posed to China. Rather than treating the war as a purely bilateral interstate conflict, I instead characterize the clash between China and Japan in the late nineteenth century as part of a series of militarized crises involving multiple stakeholders from both in and out of the region during the breakdown of the treaty port system in East Asia. I also show how the Sino-Japanese War had both immediate and enduring consequences for East Asian international relations: intensified strategic competition over East Asian territories among not only Japan and China but Western powers such as Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.
The most powerful gender ideology in twentieth-century Korea was the ideal of the “wise mother, good wife” (hyŏnmo yangch’ŏ). This chapter examines the genealogy of hyŏnmo yangch’ŏ, demonstrating the diachronic, multivalent, and transcultural sources that contributed to it. The chapter specifically examines the dynamic interactions between the Korean tradition of womanly virtue (pudŏk) from the Chosŏn dynasty, Meiji Japan’s gender ideology (ryōsai kenbo), which gained prominence during the Japanese colonial era, and the Victorian notion of domesticity introduced by American Protestant missionaries. The chapter puts forward the argument that the prevailing notion of “wise mother, good wife” as the ideal for womanhood in Korea was a modern construct that grew out of these transcultural interactions. It was also an expedient framework that redefined domesticity in a way that was appropriate for the changing national and global milieu.
The Meiji era (1868-1912) dramatically transformed Japan from a feudal nation into a great power in little more than three decades. This chapter analyzes the Meiji Constitution as an instance of authoritarian legality. It begins by describing the intellectual and historical origins of the Meiji Constitution, originating as a reaction to the threat of Western colonialism. It then goes on to explain the institutional choices that established the bureaucratic-authoritarianism that has come to dominate modern Japan. The formal rules of the Meiji Constitution, complemented by a set of informal rules that channeled the actual exercise of power, were critical underpinnings for modern Japanese political and economic development.
This chapter clarifies the nature of interstate relations and challenges the claims that the Chinese tributary system could not adjust to the Westphalian system. The alleged incompatibility between East Asian conceptions of international order and the Westphalian system is overstated. This chapter surveys arguments that intellectual stagnation and a myopic worldview caused Chinese decline and eventual collapse. Instead, it is argued that China engaged in intellectual adjustment to meet the global pressures caused by the imperial colonial powers. This adjustment and change in the collective imagination also carried over into the political realm.
This chapter examines the life of Imai Nobuo, a Tokugawa retainer, to highlight first the level of violence that marked the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration, and second, the motivations and experiences of armed groups, such as one led by Imai, that fought against the Chōshū-Satsuma alliance throughout the Boshin War. The chapter also reveals how following the war’s end, financial support from local and regional entities helped Imai and other Tokugawa “losers” start new lives in Shizuoka prefecture, in Imai’s case initially as a prefectural bureaucrat and later as a tea farmer. Imai’s life thus underscores how personal reinvention in Meiji Japan was made possible by the forgiving stance of regional and central government leaders. Exemplifying the global connections at the heart of this volume, the chapter additionally charts the ways in which US demand for green tea, which expanded in the 1870s, helped to make tea farming a viable profession for Imai and other ex-Tokugawa stalwarts. Overall through the life of Imai, it pinpoints some of the internal and global factors that helped facilitate reconciliation and by implication, nation-state formation in the early Meiji Japan.
This chapter presents an overview of the book’s main arguments as well as summaries of its chapters. It begins with an accounting of recent historiographical trends, primarily in the West but also in Japan, concerning the Meiji Restoration and the creation of the Japanese nation-state. It follows with a brief discussion of the development of the fields of global and world history in the West and Japan. It then details the thematic threads - economic trends, internal conflicts that raged throughout the 1860s, and post-Restoration reconciliation/resolution - that run through the volume, highlighting the ways in which the book shows the immediate and contextual intersections of each with the nineteenth-century world. In its concluding pages, the chapter presents how the book’s three sections - global connections, internal conflicts, and domestic resolutions - are formulated, pointing out ways in which the chapters connect across the span of the volume.
Discussions of the Emperor Meiji are typically absent from histories of modern Japan’s interstate relations; modern Japanese diplomacy does not feature in the many extant studies of the emperor. I propose that these are shortcomings that need addressing. In this chapter, I argue that the Meiji emperor played a critical role in the development of modern Japan’s interstate relations, and that he did so by deploying what I call “ornamental diplomacy.” “Ornamental diplomacy” refers to the emperor’s engagement with foreign sovereigns through the exchange of collars, cordons, medals and ribbons, those material objects that constitute all modern honors systems. I explore the fashioning of the modern Japanese honors system in the early Meiji period, and its deployment by the emperor in rituals of diplomacy within the imperial palace. I highlight the strategic, contested nature of this sovereign-centered diplomacy by making special reference to the ornamental dimension to Japan’s relationship to China and to Britain. The time frame for this discussion is 1868 to 1894.
This chapter describes the experiences of a farmer-merchant, Shinohara Chūemon, in the new Yokohama treaty port between 1859 and 1873. By examining the activities, decisions, and fortunes of one individual in the context of the new global space of Yokohama, the chapter offers an interpretation of continuity and change during the turbulent final years of the Tokugawa shogunate. It explores the ways in which the opening and expansion of foreign trade in Yokohama led to far-reaching transformations of Japan’s society, economy and culture. The chapter interprets the transformation of Japan in the mid-nineteenth century as not only a top-down revolution initiated by the leaders of the Meiji Restoration, but also a bottom-up process led by countless individuals in search of greater economic well-being.
Using the lens of military history, this chapter examines the broad significance of the Boshin War. It details how over the course of that conflict, early modern military structures were swept away as lords (daimyo) adopted Western rifle technology and its accompanying modern military systems. Moreover, the nascent Meiji government used mobilization for the war to eventually force all lords to adopt new military practices and methods. In addition, the chapter presents a social history of the battlefield, exploring for example, logistics and how armies were supplied. It also examines the military equipment employed and the shifting nature of battlefield practices and customs, while revealing the ways in which civilians and their communities tangibly experienced the Boshin War, and thus the larger historical moment of the Meiji Restoration.
Western arms played a significant role as a new means of violence leading to the Meiji Restoration and in the ensuing civil war in Japan 1868–69. This chapter explores how industrial arms manufacturing and the global arms trade in the 1860s fueled wars in multiple locations worldwide including Japan. As domains and the Shogunate prepared for battle domestic demand for foreign arms soared precipitously overshadowing any other form of international trade. With their global and regional connections local Western merchants such as L. Kniffler & Co. in Nagasaki and the Schnell brothers in Yokohama supplied several sides in the Japanese conflict with military goods ranging in size from gunpowder to gunboats. Nevertheless, the rifle became the prevalent Western weapon for combat in Japan and it is the rifle that became the centerpiece of military strategy and social reform. Contrary to the prevalent image of arms trading limited to a few young risk takers like Thomas Glover, this study shows the widespread and short-term creation of military goods trade networks through abundant foreign supply and great domestic demand.
This chapter takes up the Tengu Insurrection of 1864–1865 to consider how the Japanese people reacted to the threat of civil war in the years before the Meiji Restoration. It focuses on a small domain, Ōno in Echizen province, to highlight the reactions of domain leaders and subjects to the intrusion of the Mito rebels - loyalist samurai who tried to rid the country of foreigners after the opening of ports. Before their defeat, the Mito rebels marched through several smaller domains that refrained from confronting them due to a lack of military training and resources. Although its leadership had been an early adopter of Western learning and weaponry, the Ōno domain ended up bribing the rebels to make them bypass the domain’s castle town. The chapter details the profound fear of warfare among local commoners and even samurai. In this region far away from the treaty ports, educated commoners were well-informed of current events in other parts of Japan, yet also drew on the cultural memory of the sixteenth-century Warring States period to make sense of the fighting. The chapter emphasizes the open-endedness of thinking about war in Japan on the eve of the age of military conscription.
Hundreds of foreign whaling ships stopped in newly opened Japanese treaty ports between 1855 and the overthrow of the Tokugawa regime in 1868, particularly in the northern harbor of Hakodate. These vessels not only reprovisioned there but also trained the first generation of Japanese sailors in pelagic whaling techniques. Those men, the recipients of northern Japan’s first passports, not only embodied the first permitted travelers overseas but also later launched deep sea fishing initiatives as Japan transitioned from an Asian to a Pacific nation. This chapter traces that trajectory through whaling ships’ logs and records of the Hakodate Magistrate’s office, placing trans-Pacific documents in conversation to explore how maritime activities in the island of Hokkaido connected Restoration era Japan to global flows of human movement.
Besides the United States, the other major site of German overseas engagement in the 1870s and 1880s was Japan. This chapter analyzes the imperial bridgehead created by German scholars sent to Japan as the country opened to the West and as the Meiji government sought to reform its administration, economy, law, military, schools and universities in the 1880s. Prominent among them was Karl Rathgen, who had studied under Schmoller in Strasbourg and came to Japan in 1882. Rathgen would spend the next eight years of his life in Japan, working to build the University of Tokyo, reform Japan’s legal code, and modernize its administration and economy. While in East Asia, Rathgen travelled widely and became witness to the fierce competition for weapons sales and industrial export markets in Japan and China between European and American competitors. He also became acutely aware of the precarious position of the German interests in Asia. As German policy shifted toward China in the 1890s and as Japan became more self-reliant, German-Japanese relations cooled. The First Sino-Japanese War in 1895 led to a rupture in relations and the construction of a Japanese “Yellow Peril.”
This article compares the ways in which two major textbook publishers in East Asia – namely Kinkōdō in Meiji Japan and the Commercial Press in early twentieth-century China – practised the Western model of corporations to build a new kind of publishing business in their respective societies, which were undergoing significant transformation. The study suggests that, although the use of the model could imply global business convergence, its transplantation process was largely shaped by entrepreneurs who negotiated the Western model as an alternative newly opened to them and brought to light variant forms of practice tailored to serve their own aspirations in corporate directions such as industrial integration and ownership structure. The two cases present two distinct patterns of developing a new textbook publishing business under the same corporation model.
Western visitors to Japan are often surprised at how widely European art music can be heard. The roots of what is arguably one of Japan’s greatest success stories lie in the systematic introduction and dissemination of Western music by the government after the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Much research has focused on the government’s role; but how was Western music disseminated and received in different parts of Japan? This article discusses the roles of two brothers, Shikama Totsuji (1853–1928) and Shikama Jinji (1863–1941), who in different ways contributed significantly to the dissemination of Western music beyond Tokyo and in particular to the northern provincial town of Sendai.
Meiji melodramatic novels achieved unmatched social penetration by riding the wave of Meiji print capitalism. This chapter discusses the two major novels: First, Konjiki yasha, the blockbuster novel by Ozaki Koyo that stands as the definitive example of the form, appeared in the Yomiuri shinbun between 1897 and 1902. Second, Onna keizu, by Izumi Kyoka, was carried by Yamato shinbun in 1908. The family constituted the thematic center of Meiji melodramatic fiction for specific historical reasons. At the turn of the twentieth century, immense ideological forces were focused on the family, which the Meiji state and its propagandists sought to employ as an instrument for social stability amidst the disruptions of modernity. Japanese scholars have had difficulty positioning melodramatic fiction within modern literary history. The powerful presence of melodramatic fiction at the turn of the twentieth century and the audience it continued to hold in adapted forms call for a better accounting of its historical position.
This introduction focuses on the long three decades, from the early 1870s to the turn of the century, paying particular attention to major developments in media, journalism, the educational system, literacy, and practices of writing and reading in the larger sociopolitical context. Toward the end of 1873, a group of leading scholars and intellectuals, who played important roles in Meiji nation building as government officials, and who shared similar concerns with Fukuzawa Yukichi. The oligarchic government aggressively promoted a policy of "developing national prosperity and military strength" after leading members of the early Meiji government came back from an eighteen-month embassy to the United States and Europe, where they witnessed first-hand the modern system of industrial capitalism and its infrastructure. From the early 1900s, after Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War, the phonocentric ideology of the national language emerged as the core of systematic national language policy, in which the differences between the spoken and written languages were ideologically suppressed.
Kabuki developed along a very different trajectory in Edo, the administrative seat of the shogunate, and accounts of kabuki published there tried to present a distinctly local theatrical history. Tsuruya Nanboku IV, famous Edo playwright, produced hits during the financially unstable period when the traditions of Edo kabuki were starting to collapse. His humorous plays featured lower-class characters, murder, and ghosts, and incorporated special effects and motifs from side shows. Writers who came after Nanboku such as Segawa Joko III and Kawatake Mokuami moved away from the conventional sekai, drawing heavily on social drama taken from oral-storytelling. Narratives of nineteenth-century kabuki tend to center on Edo because, during the Meiji period what had existed as a local form came to be reinvented as a national theatrical tradition. The history of kabuki has been shaped by the modern canonization of Nanboku and Kawatake Mokuami, whose celebrity gives the impression that the nineteenth century was a highpoint of early modern kabuki.