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Unformatted text preview: ble future threats from the outside. Accordingly, they adopted as a general statement of their policy the slogan, taken
from Chinese legalist thought, of “Enrich the country and strengthen its
arms” ( fukoku-kyòhei). Japan was to be enriched through modernization for the primary purpose of strengthening it militarily.
The devotion of the Meiji leaders to modernization can also be seen in
the brief, five-article Charter Oath they issued in 1868 in the emperor’s 238 Encounter with the West name. This may be regarded as a very broad statement of purpose by
the new regime, and it is significant that at least two of its articles seem
to be explicit commitments to modernization:
Article 4. Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything
based upon the just laws of Nature.
Article 5. Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to
strengthen the foundations of imperial rule.2 In line with their determination to make Japan a modern state, the
Meiji leaders took a series of steps during their first decade in power that
together constituted a radical and sweeping reform of Japanese society.
These included abolition of the feudal han and the institution of a centrally controlled system of prefectural government; and dissolution of the
samurai class and the establishment of basic legal equalities for all people.
One of the most severe blows to the old, rigid class system, and particularly to the inflated samurai sense of superiority, was the adoption in 1873
of universal military conscription.
Despite the inevitable stresses caused by social change and the specific
grievances of many samurai as they were dispossessed of their traditional
privileges, the Japanese by the early 1870s had in general abandoned
their dreams of restoring the past and were caught up in an overwhelming
urge to join the march of Western progress. This was the beginning of a
period of nearly two decades during which the Japanese unabashedly
pursued the fruits of Western “civilization and enlightenment” (bummeikaika). That the government intended to take the lead in this quest for
the holy grail of foreign culture c...
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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