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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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- Spring '13