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Unformatted text preview: on the course to becoming a modern,
progressive nation. Thanks to an official diary of some two thousand
pages that was compiled from the mission, we know a good deal about
the thinking and impressions of its members during their lengthy travels.
In reading the diary we are struck not only with the members’ fascination with that great nineteenth-century utopian dream of progress, but
also with their discernment in evaluating the various Western countries in
terms of their particular strengths (and weaknesses) and their shrewd
judgment about how they could borrow selectively from one Western
country or another.
The members of the Iwakura Mission clearly perceived that the Western countries had achieved modernization not through mutual cooperation but through a constant struggle for wealth and power that entailed
fierce and sometimes violent national rivalries. Of all the ideologies that
accompanied the scientific and industrial revolutions and the West’s rush
into modernity, none exceeded the force of nationalism, and the Iwakura
Mission’s leaders did not for a moment hesitate to conceive and plan for
their own modernization in terms, first and foremost, of Japan’s national
interests. They understood that, in the age of progress, Japan had to join
in its advance quickly and vigorously, lest it be left in the West’s historical
Travel to the West became the surest means for advancement among
Japanese in the early Meiji period. Of the many youths who went to study
in Europe and the United States, the great majority were sponsored by
the government as part of its civilization and enlightenment policy. Upon
returning home, these youths had virtually unlimited career opportunities. Meanwhile, for those who could not make the trip abroad, the government and other institutions invited a number of foreigners to Japan
as teachers and technical advisers. Offering high wages, they were able to
attract generally excellent people, who provided knowledge and expertise
crucial to the modernization process.
Outward signs of modernity began to appear throughout the country,
but particularly in the metropolitan centers like Tokyo and Yokohama:
steamships, railroads, t...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13