Explaining Meiji Japans Top Down Revolution
Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States
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Meiji Japanese leaders consisted of an oligarchy that strived to overcome Western imperialist pressures in Asia. They did so by overturning some deeply rooted Tokugawa-Era traditions in Japanese society and replaced them with Western ones. They understood that Western norms dictated world affairs, so they sought to make Japan strong along Western norms. Modeling the West provided enough traction for Japan to meet Western threats and maintain its sovereignty. Meiji leaders reshaped Japans foreign policies by emphasizing foreign affairs, emulating Western boundary-making, revising the unequal trade treaties, and asserting themselves regionally with Korea. They simultaneously created a centralized military to support new foreign policies by conscripting soldiers from across the country equipping, training, organizing them in a Western fashion instilling self-discipline and creating a symbiotic relationship between domestic industries and the military. Meiji Japans foreign policy evolution and military reforms enabled Japan to not only maintain its sovereignty, but also challenge the regional hierarchy. This paper thus focuses on Meiji Japans foreign policy and military.