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Meiji Restoration 明治維新

Samurai of the Choshu clan, during the Boshin War period

The Meiji Restoration is a series of events taking place during the bakumatsu period that led restoration imperial rule to Japan in 1868 after centuries of military rule under a shōgun.

The movement was initiated in 1866 by a group of disgruntled samurai from the remote provinces of Satsuma and Chōshu, who feared that Japan had become too weak compared to Western powers and strove for a more powerful and modern government under the rule of an enlightened emperor. The name 'Meiji' (明治), who was given posthumously to Emperor Mutsuhito, means "enlightened rule" in Japanese.

The so-called Satsuma Rebellion was in great part the consequence of the American Commodore Perry and his black ships forcing the Tokugawa Shogunate to open its ports to trade, thus demonstrating the immense superiority of the Western military power over Japan at the time. The aim of the rebellious samurai was to restore the pride and power of Japan, by modernizing the country at all cost.

More than just a political shift, it brought a profound transformation of Japanese society on a scale probably never experienced by any other country in recent history. A true cultural and economic revolution, the Meiji Restoration changed everything from the dressing and eating habits of the Japanese to the political, military, economic and education systems.

After over a year of intense fighting, the shōgun abdicated in favor of the 15 year-old emperor, Mutsuhito. The capital was transferred from Kyōto to Edo, which was subsequently renamed Tōkyō (meaning 'Eastern Capital').

The Meiji Restoration saw the fast modernization and westernization of Japan, with many Japanese scholars and politicians (such as Ito Hirobumi or Saionji Kinmochi) sent to study the Western system and technologies in Europe and North America, and Westerners invited to Japan to help develop new industries. For instance, beer brewing, the manufacturing of dairy products and Japan's first railway were all introduced under the supervision of Westerners like the Scots Thomas Blake Glover and Richard Henry Brunton.

For more information check the page on the Meiji period.

Foreign trading ships arriving in Yokohama in 1861 (painted by Sadahide)
Foreign trading ships arriving in Yokohama in 1861.
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