From the Meiji Restoration to 1945: Bifurcating into an Industrial Mentality

  • Wei-Bin Zhang


Japan’s modernisation is generally said to have begun with an event known as the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The event overthrew the Tokugawa family who had held the reins of central government for over two hundred years. The revolutionaries claimed the ‘restoration of imperial rule’ to justify their actions, but behind this conservative goal was to emerge a commitment by the new imperial government to fundamentally change Japan. The restoration of the Meiji emperor brought to power a government which came to define and adopt new goals aimed at the modernisation of the country. It stood as a turning point where an agrarian society was to be transformed into an industrial one. Japan was rapidly transformed from a feudal state to a modern, Western-style state in the 20 years following the Restoration. Feudalism was abolished in 1868; in the following year came the abolition of the independent political and economic powers of the domains and the removal of the status divisions of the Tokugawa system. A civilian government was formed in 1885, a constitution adopted in 1889, and the first election of a parliament took place in 1890. The social and legal distinctions between classes were declared to be abolished and all Japanese men became equal in the eyes of the law. Japan became a unified and centralised state.


Filial Piety Military Power Western Power Imperial Government Imperial Rule 
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Copyright information

© Wei-Bin Zhang 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei-Bin Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.Swedish Institute for Futures StudiesStockholmSweden

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