ASIA212Varley

In reading the diary we are struck not only with the

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Unformatted text preview: shû. At this critical point, Satsuma, whose loyalists had already formed a secret alliance with Chòshû, refused to join the shogunate’s expedition, and in the ensuing conflict the shogunate forces were defeated. Encouraged by this demonstration of military weakness on the part of the shogunate, Satsuma and Chòshû loyalists, joined by men from other domains, carried out a coup in Kyoto at the end of the year and proclaimed an imperial restoration. The shogun, realizing the futility of further resistance, capitulated; and, although there was some scattered fighting by stubborn supporters of the shogunate, the restoration was completed by early 1867 with very little loss of blood. The Meiji Restoration, named after the Emperor Meiji (1852–1912) who ascended the throne in 1867 at the age of fifteen, was a political revolution from above carried out by younger, enlightened members of Japan’s ruling samurai class.1 These men and their supporters had called for a “return to antiquity” ( fukko), and, in the early days following the Restoration, there was a certain heady excitement about recapturing the spirit and ways of the past, especially through temporary reinstatement of the ancient institutions of imperial government as originally set forth in the eighth-century Taihò Code. But the new Meiji leaders, who included some Kyoto courtiers along with samurai, were men of the future, not the past. They made this clear from the very outset of the Meiji period by quietly dropping the cry of “Expel the Barbarians!” which they had so recently used to embarrass the Tokugawa shogunate. They may have continued to harbor personal animosities toward the West, particularly for forcing Japan to accede to the unequal treaties; but the Meiji leaders were by and large pragmatic men who respected the material superiority of the West and wished to emulate it by undertaking modernization. Sharing an overriding concern for Japanese territorial independence, they believed that, quite apart from the obvious benefits and enjoyments it would bring, modernization was essential if Japan was to be protected against possi...
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