Their general position was perhaps best presented in

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Unformatted text preview: Herbert Spencer: before the world could achieve a pacific stage of fully industrialized and enlightened civilization, it must continue to engage in a militant selection process that promised survival to the fittest races and nations. Encounter with the West 249 It is to the credit of the Meiji oligarchs, who were usually far more realistic than their critics, that they always kept in mind the aim of enriching Japan in order to strengthen it militarily. In 1873 they had avoided armed intervention in Korea because it was too dangerous, but even then they envisioned a time when Japan would be able to compete for empire with the West. On the other hand, nongovernmental intellectuals and the public in general did not, for the most part, come to accept the need for more statist-oriented policies and the open pursuit of nationalistic goals until the 1880s. Overridingly the most important nationalistic goal of the 1880s and early 1890s was revision of the unequal treaties, and the repeated failure of the government to achieve revision contributed not only to growing skepticism about the West but also to the spread of conservative, Japanist sentiments. In one spectacular breakdown of treaty talks in 1888, Òkuma Shigenobu, who had been drawn temporarily back into the government as a foreign minister, lost a leg when a fanatical member of a right-wing organization threw a bomb into his carriage. Symbolic to many Japanese of their frustrations and humiliation over treaty revision was a Western-style building in downtown Tokyo called the Rokumeikan or Deer Cry Mansion. Constructed in 1883 for the purpose of entertaining foreign diplomats and dignitaries, the Rokumeikan was the scene of many festive and gala entertainments, the most notoriously memorable of which was a masquerade ball thrown by Prime Minister Itò in 1887. Affairs like the 1887 ball in the Rokumeikan were regarded as the most conspicuous examples of how ludicrously even high-ranking Japanese could behave in their desire to prove to Westerners that they Fig. 65 “Scene of Constitutional Law Proclamation Ceremony,” by Hashimoto C...
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