In the recent past, the world has experienced paradigm shift in the political arena as a result of the emerging uprising movements in different parts of the world. Most of these uprising movements have been experienced in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and other nations in the Middle East. These revolutionary waves are characterized with protests, riots, and demonstrations and aim to set the pace for political reforms by overthrowing dictatorial leaders from power. Many people may perceive the emergence of uprising and revolutionary movements as spectacular and unique aspect, but this is not the case because revolutionary movements have existed for many years. Many developed and developing nations have undergone through many transformational periods in their development and experienced the emergence and collapse of numerous revolutionary movements aimed to achieve distinctive goals. However, some of the revolutionary movements stood the test of the time and left an indelible mark that exists until today.
Meiji Restoration is one such movement that played an integral role in transforming and changing political and social structures and promoted modernization and civilization in Japan, during the twentieth century. Meiji Restoration movement created the foundation upon which Japan’s history, economic growth and development, culture, and social and political stability is premised on thus forming the epicenter of nationhood and integration. Like any other revolutionary movement, Meiji Restoration had certain goals and objectives, which it intended to achieve, especially in political and economic cycles. It spearheaded political reforms coupled with economic development and brought significant changes in other facets of the society in Japan. Although this is the case, the question that needs to be addressed is to what degree was the Meiji Restoration a political revolution in Japan during the twentieth century.
The Meiji Restoration refers to series of events, which were characterized with struggle, fights, and conflicts, which liberated and restored Japan from the imperial and dictatorial leadership. Meiji Restoration was formed in 1868 and spanned until 1912, and was mandated with the responsibility of spearheading political and economic reforms in Japan by removing imperial rulers from power. The process of establishing Meiji Restoration had started in 1866 when Kido Tokayoshi(leader of choshu) and Saigo Takamori(Satsuma) decided to form an alliance that formed Meiji Restoration (Albert 94). The two leaders were devoted and determined to support and restore Emperor Komei and overthrow and challenge Togokawa Shogunate regime (bakufu). In 1867, Empeor Komei died and Empeor Meiji (Komei’s son) was appointed and inaugurated as the ruler. Empeor Meiji carried the dream and ambitions of Japanese and worked tirelessly to accomplish the wish and desire of his predecessors and forefathers in liberating Japan from the imperial rulers. During the reign of Empeor Meiji, Meiji Restoration gained a national recognition and attained its crescendo in reforming, shaping and restoring imperial rulers, and spearheading economic and political reforms in the country (Maurins 78). Meiji Restoration gained momentum and national recognition because Japanese understood that they lagged behind in terms of economic, political, and technological development. Japanese people wanted to compete with developed nations, but their efforts were trashed by imperial rulers.
The emergence of Meiji Restoration marked the end and the beginning of a new era in Japan’s history as it brought numerous changes in almost all facets of the society. It created a new government that formed and implement laws, established favorable business environment for investors, reformed and improved the education system and the military, and transformed peoples’ lifestyle. Despite these tremendous changes, there has been a continuous debate among historians and scholars on whether Meiji Restoration quantifies as a revolutionary movement or not. Some argue that Meiji Restoration does not qualify as revolution movement because the political power was not devolved to the ordinary people. Others argue that it does not quality as revolution because the power remained with the elite people. Despite this diverge views; Meiji Restoration was a political revolution during the twentieth century.
First, it created a new era by overthrowing and eliminating Tokugawa Shogunate imperial regime from power. For many years, Japanese people were oppressed, marginalized, and intimidated by the imperial rulers and they supported Meiji Restoration for its effort in creating a new Japan. The country had lacked behind economically, socially, technological and political because imperial rulers had prevent the people and the nation develop. In essence, the idea to challenge the legitimacy and eliminate Tokugawa Shogunate regime is a true revelation that, indeed, Meiji Restoration was a political revolution. Eliminating imperial regime through a revolution process accorded the emperor with more power and enabled him to form a strong government that obeyed and observed the provisions of the constitutions and laws; for the benefit of its citizens. The act of removing Tokugawa Shogunate regime from power does not solely identify and qualify as a revolution action, but the idea that many groups were involved in the process validates the action (McClain 90). In essence, Meiji Restoration did not only represent the interests and desires of the proponents and the supporters, but also interests of the ordinary people and social groups. Based on this assertion, Meiji Restoration qualifies as political revolution as it eliminated imperial regimes and represent interests and desires of different social groups.
Second, Meiji Restoration qualifies a political revolution in the sense that it promoted industrialization and reforms in the economic and political sectors. Over the years, Japan had lagged behind economically because its imperial rulers formulated and implement policies and established structures, which prevent ordinary people from climbing the social ladder. Initially, the rulers controlled all factors of production, taxed ordinary people, and owned a larger part of the national resources thus hindering economic development. Japanese had skills, knowledge, and competence to engage in business and viable income generating activities rigid social and political structures prevented them from realizing their dreams and ambitions. However, Meiji Restoration reformed and changed the trend by implement policies, which provide ordinary people an opportunity to contribute in national development (Swale 56). In essence, it promoted equality in sharing national resources. This moved also fuelled the idea of changing Japan from a feudal to a modern state that embraces integration. Based on this assertion, setting the space for economic growth, reforms, and industrialization affirms that Meiji Restoration was indeed a political revolution.
Third, the act of forming a new government and it’s constitute structures tend to identify and qualify Meiji Restoration as a political revolution. Before the establishment of Meiji Restoration (1868) Japan adapted traditional form of governance that was premised on traditional norms, principles, and communal leadership; an idea that fuelled oppression, intimidation, and marginalization of the ordinary people by the imperial rulers. In other words, the nation lacked a constitution that would govern the people effectively and reduce power and authority accorded to the leaders to the people and other arms of the government. However, Meiji Restoration facilitated the drafting and implementation of the constitution; a move that revolutionized, transformed, and changed the political arena by introducing a central government and abolished Han system. Based on this assertion, Meiji
Restoration promoted radical changes in government structures by introducing central form of government.
In conclusion, Meiji Restoration refers to a chronological of events, which restored and liberated Japan from imperial rulers. It was mandated with the obligation of eliminating imperial regimes, promote economic development, restore good leaders, and enhance integration. Meiji Restoration qualifies as political revolution in the sense that is eliminated Tokugawa Shogunate regime, promoted industrialization, and established a constitutionally constructed government thus leading to subsequent and radical changes in Japan.
Maurins, Jansen. The Making of Modern Japan. New York: Cambridge , 2002. Print.
McClain, James L.. Japan, a modern history. New York, N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 2002. Print.
Swale, Alistair. The Meiji Restoration: monarchism, mass communication and conservative revolution. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print.
Albert, Craig . Chōshū in the Meiji Restoration. New York: Cambridege, 2005. Print.