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The Meiji era: The opening of Japan to the West

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The Meiji emperor.
  3. 1868-1912: A time of great reforms in Japan.
    1. An overall description of that expansion time.
    2. A deeper analysis of the changes.
  4. 1868-1912: The expansion of the Japanese imperialism and its entrance in the 'Chorus of the Nations'.
    1. The war against China.
    2. The war against Russia.
  5. Conclusion.
  6. Bibliography.

In the Westerners' mind Japan remains a country which sometimes presents an extreme modernism (with the painful consequences which one knows nowadays). On the other hand, Japan tries to preserve the old traditions which make imaginations wander and return us to the novels of Pierre Loti. This modernization has a relatively recent history. In 1868 began the Meiji era, or "Enlightened Rule", which was that of the large building sites and upheavals, as much on the internal level: currency, calendar, land reforms and political ones, than external: annexations and expansion. The Meiji restoration of 1868 initiated many reforms. The feudal system and the samurais were officially abolished and many Western institutions were adopted. New legal systems and of government as well as important economic, social and military reforms transformed Japan into a regional power. These changes gave rise to a strong ambition which was transformed into war against China and Russia (1905), in which Japan gained Korea, Taiwan and other territories. At the end of the Meiji era, in 1912, Japan was a large modern country.

[...] The battle of Liaoyang, which took on August 25th, was completed on September 4th by a new Japanese victory and forced the Russians to withdraw back on Mukden (currently Shenyang). A very hard seat engaged then, all the more as the Russians regularly received the reinforcement of additional troops, conveyed by the Trans-Siberian one, while the Japanese reserves started to become exhausted. Conscious of its numerical superiority, Kouropatkine launched two offensives in Manchuria, which both failed. Finally the two armies, facing a hard winter, withdrew back. [...]


[...] ¶China, there, recognized the independence of Korea, yield to Japan the island of Formosa (currently Taiwan), the archipelago of Pescadores (currently Penghu), and the peninsula of Liadong, in the current province of Liaoning, in South Manchuria. China also committed itself to pay to Japan important war reparations, and conceding considerable commercial privileges to it. Russia, disregarding the diplomatic victories of Japan at the end of this war, allied with France and Germany to force Japan to restore the peninsula of Liadong in China. [...]


[...] Parallel to the organization of the State, the government made everything to improve the means of production and to increase exports, in order to limit the deficit of the trade balance; while at the same time Japan needed the more to introduce from abroad equipment and consuming goods which fulfilled the requirements of modernization. The remunerative products of export were silk and tea. Initially, it was necessary to import articles hitherto unknown in Japan, as wool, or matters still produced in too small quantities, like metals, in particular steel. [...]

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