Concise History of Japan

 We provide you a concise explanation of Japanese history and culture in chronological order. This article reflects the general view of Japanese people regarding Japanese history. For we wrote it by reconstructing such view with reference to Japanese history textbooks used in Japanese high schools. So you can know such common understanding about the Japanese history.

Ancient time

 Japan is an island country located in Far East Asia. Beyond the western ocean lies the east coast of Eurasian continent, where China and Korea are located. Beyond the southern Ocean lies the continent of Australia. To the east is the Pacific Ocean, and beyond that is the continents of the Americas. Thus, today Japan is surrounded by oceans on all sides. However, there was a time when Japan was not an island. Until 10,000 B.C., there was a time when Japan was connected to the Eurasian continent by land. During that time, humans migrated from the continent to the area of present-day Japan. Humans were hunter-gatherers using stone tools. However, the environment changed around 10,000 B.C., and Japan became a completely island. Japan entered the Jomon Period, characterized by the use of earthenware and bow and arrow. People continued their hunter-gatherer lifestyle and formed settlements. The Sannai-Maruyama site in present-day Aomori Prefecture dates from this period.
 Around the 8th century B.C., some people from China and Korea came to Japan and brought with them their technology and culture. For example, they brought with them Wet-rice cultivation technology. Rice can be stored for a long time, allowing people to accumulate wealth. As a result, they formed a large community and even a small country. This situation is recorded in Chinese history books of the time. For example, in the middle of third century, the existence of a queen, Himiko, who led 30 small states, was recorded.
 By the 4th century, powerful clans had formed a state near present-day Nara Prefecture and established the Yamato government, which interacted with countries of the Korean peninsula. In the 5th century, Chinese characters were introduced to Japan by foreigners and were used to establish the Japanese political system. In the middle of the 6th century, Buddhism was officially introduced to Japan. At the end of the 6th century, under the authority of the emperor, Prince Shotoku and powerful clans took control of the country and developed a governmental system. Prince Shotoku would become a famous historical figure that would be referenced more than 1,000 years later. They decided to send envoys to China from the end of the 6th century to learn about its institutions and technology. This dispatch of envoys would continue until the end of the 9th century.
 In the middle of the 7th century, Emperor Tenji destroyed a rival powerful family and assumed real power. He began to introduce a Chinese political system. At his death, he bestowed the family name of Fujiwara on his chief vassal, Kamatari. This was the beginning of the Fujiwara family, which would come to hold real power in 10th century. In the late 7th century, a coup d’état took place in a struggle for the succession of the emperor. The victor ascended the throne as Emperor Temmu. Under him, the imperial family assumed real power. At this time, the name “Emperor” was now officially established and the first family register was also established in Japan. Around this time, the name of the country of Japan was officially adopted.

Nara Period

 In 710, the emperor moved the capital to Heijo-kyo in present-day Nara Prefecture, marking the beginning of the Nara Period. Heijo-kyo Capital was modeled after the capital of China. The government proceeded to compile historical books, and in the first half of the 8th century, completed “Chronicles of Japan”, the first official history book in Japan. Around this time, the actual political power shifted from the emperor to those in charge of political affairs. The Fujiwara family and its opponents vied for real power. In the middle of the eighth century, political disputes between the two sides and a smallpox epidemic caused great social turmoil. In this situation, the emperor promoted Buddhism in an effort to protect the country through the power of Buddhism. For example, the Todaiji Temple and the Great Buddha in Nara were built in this period. These have become standard tourist attractions in the 21st century.

Heian Period

 In 794, the emperor moved the capital to Heian-kyo in present-day Kyoto. This marked the beginning of the Heian Period, which would last about 400 years. Kyoto would remain the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. The construction of Heian-kyo was very costly. Furthermore, since the emperor’s rule at that time did not fully extend to the Tohoku region, he proceeded with projects to control the region, which also required great expense. These projects caused opposition and were halted because they placed too heavy a burden on the farmers.
 In the middle of the ninth century, the Fujiwara family came to power continuously by crushing rivals and through the policy of “outer relatives”. What is the policy of “outer relatives”? In the custom of the Japanese aristocracy at that time, when a married couple had a child, the child was raised in the wife’s family. Hence, children were easily influenced by their mother’s family. In this custom, the head of the Fujiwara family married their daughters to the emperors and raised their children in their own homes. In other words, the head of the Fujiwara family became the maternal grandfather of the next emperor and raised the next emperor from babyhood. If the child acceded to the throne at an early age, the grandfather Fujiwara took over as regent. When the young emperor came of age, the grandfather Fujiwara assumed real power as his political assistant. The peak of this regency politics, in which such powerful aristocrats used the authority of the emperor to seize real power, was from the 10th to the middle of the 11th century.
 When the Fujiwara family was expanding its power, warriors and samurai initially appeared as military officers in the service of the imperial court. They gradually formed new organizations in rural provinces. In the middle of the nineth century, samurai rebelled for the first time.
 During this age, Buddhism developed. In particular, Saicho and Kukai, who studied Buddhism in China, played an important role. Buddhism came to have a great influence not only on the political elites but also on the people. In the 10th century, Jōdo (Pure Land) Buddhism, which advocated rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha, emerged and became popular.
 Japanese culture around the 9th century was heavily influenced by China. For example, Confucianism prevailed among the Japanese nobility. However, with the abolition of the Japanese envoys to the Tang Dynasty China at the end of the 9th century, Chinese influence waned. In the 10th century, Japanese culture developed its own unique coloring. This was known as kokufu culture, and it was centered on the aristocracy. For example, the kana syllabary was created and popularized as a uniquely Japanese writing system. In literature using kana characters, women writers played an active role. Murasaki Shikibu’s “The Tale of Genji” is a representative example.
 From the late 11th century, the emperor took back real power from the Fujiwara family. The economic base of the Fujiwara family was centered on their private fiefs called manors. The emperor destroyed this economic base by issuing the manor order, thereby increasing his own income. The main reason for the success of this measure was that it was implemented at a time when the Fujiwara family was not an outer relative of the emperor.
 Upon regaining real power, the emperor ruled in a different manner than before. That is, the emperor retired and transferred the title of emperor to his own descendants, while continuing to hold real power as guardian of this successor. The retired emperor exercised extensive power, but powerful temples served as countervailing forces. Furthermore, the present emperor and the retired emperor came into conflict. In the mid-twelfth century, the conflict between them erupted into an armed conflict due to a dispute over the succession of the emperor’s family. Significantly, the warrior class emerged that took part in these battles. Of particular importance were the Taira and Minamoto families. Among the Taira, Taira no Kiyomori finally subdued the retired emperor and seized real power. Here the first military government is said to have been born. Soon, however, the imperial family issued a decree against the Taira family. Kiyomori died of illness in the process. The Minamoto family followed the decree of defeat and destroyed the Taira family in a series of battles. However, the Minamoto family did not return real power to the retired emperor, but established the Kamakura shogunate at the end of the 12th century in the Kanto region, which was its own stronghold. Some interpret this as the first military government. In any case, the first military or samurai government was established in the late 12th century.

Kamakura Period

 The period from the end of the 12th century to the first half of the 14th century is called the Kamakura period, during which the Kamakura Shogunate continued to hold real power. Minamoto no Yoritomo, who established the Kamakura shogunate and became shogun, that is, the head of this samurai government, soon died. His wife’s family, the Hojo family, took over the real power. At that time, the retired emperor was still ruling in Kyoto and was looking for an opportunity to overthrow the shogunate. In the first half of the 13th century, the shogunate and the retired emperor finally came to blows. The Shogunate was overwhelmingly victorious, gaining vast territories on the retired emperor’s side and weakening the power of the retired emperor and the nobles. The Shogunate developed a governmental system. For example, it established the first fundamental law of the samurai class. In the samurai government, the Shogun and the samurai had a relationship of gratitude and devotion. In other words, the Shogun granted the warriors a favor, such as the granting of a fiefdom, in exchange for the warriors’ devotion to fight for him in times of war.
 A fundamental blow to this samurai government was dealt by a foreign power. The Mongol Empire, which had expanded its power to Europe in the 13th century, attacked also Japan. The Kamakura shogunate won this defensive war thanks to the valiant efforts of its warriors and heavy storms on the Sea of Japan. However, the Shogunate could not gain any new territory from the Mongol Empire, nor did it receive any reparations. Thus, the Shogun was unable to grant gratitude for their devotion. As a result, the rule of the shogunate was shaken as the warriors were economically impoverished by the cost of war. The emperor saw this exhaustion of the shogunate as an opportunity and sought to overthrow the shogunate with a renewed vigor. In this vein, Ashikaga Takauji and other members of the warrior class sided with the emperor and destroyed the Kamakura shogunate in the first half of the 14th century. After the fall of the shogunate, the emperor began to conduct politics himself. However, the emperor favored court nobles and temples, and the samurai who had achieved the defeat of the shogunate became dissatisfied. Ashikaga Takauji, in order to establish a new samurai government, set up another person as emperor and occupied Kyoto. Thus, two emperors came to coexist.

Muromachi Period

 Under these circumstances, Takauji established the Muromachi Shogunate in Kyoto and the Muromachi Period began. The Muromachi period lasted from the first half of the 14th century to the late 16th century. The Muromachi Shogunate was a new warrior government, and the emperors could not oppose the Shogunate because they were divided as described above. The peak of the Muromachi Shogunate was during the period of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third shogun, in the late 14th century. Yoshimitsu brought together the two divided emperors into one. Moreover, he was not only at the head of the warrior class as Shogun, but also at the head of the court nobility when he became Grand Minister of State. Also, as king of Japan, he promoted trade with China. After his death, however, real power shifted from the Ashikaga shogun to his chief vassals. The shogunate lost its centripetal power. In such a situation, the struggle for succession of the shoguns and conflicts among chief vassals combined to produce the Onin War in Kyoto in the late 15th century, which devastated this capital. The shogunate no longer had power as the central government, and the emperor likewise had no real authority. The existing order, both central and local, was upset and overthrown. The period from the Onin War to the unification of Japan at the end of the 16th century is called the Sengoku period. This period overlaps with the Muromachi period in many respects.
 The culture of the Muromachi period was a fusion of samurai and aristocratic culture, and the influence of Zen Buddhism was evident. During the reign of Yoshimitsu, the peak of the Muromachi Shogunate, culture also developed and the Kinkakuji pavilion was built in Kyoto. The later Ashikaga shogun built the Ginkakuji pavilion in Kyoto. Much of what is known as traditional Japanese culture was born during this period.

Sengoku Period

 The Sengoku period or the Warring States period was a situation of rivalry between warring lords. Each region formed a separate country and was ruled by its own warlord. In some of these countries, vassals overthrew their own warlords and took over the country. In addition, warlords fought each other to expand their power. One turning point in this situation was the arrival of the Portuguese in Japan in the mid-16th century. Portugal had entered the Age of Discovery in the first half of the 15th century, reaching China in the early 16th century, and in the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese arrived in Japan, bringing with them the latest Western guns. This military revolution had a great impact on the Warring States Period in Japan. The person who made great strides in utilizing these guns was Oda Nobunaga, who ruled the area around present-day Nagoya. After conquering the surrounding areas, Nobunaga took advantage of the Ashikaga Shogun, who had lost his real power, to enter Kyoto. However, when the Shogun became hostile to Nobunaga, Nobunaga expelled him from Kyoto. Thus, the Muromachi shogunate collapsed. Nobunaga defeated the warlord, who was famous for their powerful cavalry, with the effective use of guns. Nobunaga thus proceeded with the project of unifying Japan, but was forced to commit suicide due to betrayal by his vassals.
 Among Nobunaga’s vassals, it was Toyotomi Hideyoshi who won the struggle for succession. Hideyoshi resumed the project of unification, conquering various regions and achieving unification in 1590. After unifying Japan, Hideyoshi further began to realize his ambition to become the monarch of East Asia. As a stepping stone to conquer China, he conducted a war of conquest in Korea. This war ended with the retreat of the Japanese forces due to Hideyoshi’s death from illness in 1598. However, the war left Korea with heavy losses. The Sengoku period is still very popular today because of the many fascinating military commanders who appeared during this period.
 As Hideyoshi proceeded to unify Japan, he issued various orders and established a governmental system. For example, Hideyoshi took away weapons from the peasants to prevent rebellion, and he attempted to clearly divide and fix the status of peasants and warriors. He also ensured his own financial base by conducting land survey to ensure the collection of annual tribute from the peasants, and by placing gold mines and silver mines under his direct control. These mechanisms were inherited by the next rulers.
 The latter half of the 16th century was the period of the first encounter between Europe and Japan. The Christian church arrived in Japan for the first time and developed greatly by the mid-17th century, so this period is sometimes referred to as the Christian Century. The exchange between Europe and Japan during this period has many interesting topics in politics, religion, culture, and many other aspects. For example, relatives of the warlords who converted to Christianity were sent as envoys to Spain and Rome in the 1580s, where they were welcomed in various parts of Europe, causing a kind of boom in Europe and returning to Japan with European artifacts.

The Beginning of Edo Period

Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified Japan and died at the end of the 16th century. A struggle for succession ensued, leading to the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. This battle is still famous today. Tokugawa Ieyasu, the victor, became shogun in 1603 and opened the shogunate in Edo. This was the beginning of the Edo period, which lasted for two and a half centuries. He laid the foundation of Tokyo, as Edo is now Tokyo. The Edo period is said to have been a time of peace. Indeed, no rebellion by the samurai occurred until 1837. In addition, the Tokugawa Shogunate did not wage war with foreign countries. In this sense, the Edo period was peaceful. However, famine caused by natural disasters and heavy taxes led to frequent uprisings by farmers and urban riots by townspeople, especially in the latter part of the Edo period. More than 3,000 peasant uprisings occurred during the Edo period. For this reason, it is diffucult to take the Edo period as a period of tranquility.
 In the early 17th century, Ieyasu destroyed the forces of Toyotomi Hidetugu, who claimed to be Hideyoshi’s successor. This ended the struggle for Hideyoshi’s succession. Ieyasu set about creating a new ruling system and established laws governing the samurai, emperor, nobles, and temples. In the 1630s, the Alternate Attendance was mandated for the feudal lords. In other words, they had to stay in Edo for one year out of every two, and thus had to move between their domains and Edo each year. In this way, the shogunate kept them under close surveillance.
 The governmental system during the Edo period consisted of two systems. That is, the system of the shogunate, the central government, and the system of the domains, the local governments in each region. The shogunate system was headed by the Shogun. However, the actual administration of affairs was left to the senior councilors, and various other positions were established. The emperor, court nobles, and temples were monitored and had no real power. Each feudal lord ruled his own domain under his own system, but was subject to the control and intervention of the shogunate.
 In terms of foreign relations, in the early 17th century, the Tokugawa shogunate restored relations with Korea, which had deteriorated after Hideyoshi’s wars of conquest. Furthermore, the Kagoshima domain, with the approval of the shogunate, conquered the Ryukyu Islands, now Okinawa Prefecture. In terms of relations with Europe, English and Dutch people arrived in Japan in 1600. Two persons of them were welcomed as Ieyasu’s diplomatic advisors, and Japan began trade with England and the Dutch republic. They were to compete with Portugal and Spain, which had already arrived in Japan to trade and propagate Catholicism. In the 1610s, the shogunate started to prohibit and suppress Christianity by issuing a nationwide ban. The reason for this was that during the Age of Exploration, when the missionary work of the Catholic Church was linked to the Spanish conquest of other countries like the Aztec empire, the Shogunate saw the danger of the Christian Church becoming a political threat in Japan. In the 1620s, the shogunate banned Spain from coming to Japan in that vein. Around the same time, England withdrew from Japan after losing out in trade competition, and in the 1630s the shogunate banned Japanese from leaving and returning to Japan. A short time later, a Christian-led rebellion broke out in Kyushu, where Christianity was spreading. This led the Shogunate to also ban the arrival of the Portuguese in Japan. The Shogunate moved the Dutch trading post, which had become the only European trading partner, to Dejima in Nagasaki. Thus, the so-called Sakoku or isolationist regime was completed. Christianity officially ceased to exist in Japan and shifted to underground activities.
 The word “Sakoku” means that Japan closed its doors to the rest of the world. However, since Japan maintained exchanges with the Dutch republic, China, Korea and so on until the end of the Edo period, it did not completely close its doors to the rest of the world, but continued to get new information from other countries.
 In the first half of the 17th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate was engaged in politics that suppressed various political actors with force and military might. In the latter half of the 17th century, as the warlike time of the Warring States period was passing away, the Shogunate changed its policy to one based on laws and Confucian ideology which emphasized the maintenance of a hierarchy. Around that time, the Great Meireki Fire, which destroyed most of Edo city, broke out. Its reconstruction cost an enormous amount of money. Other factors also contributed to the financial difficulties of the Shogunate. Therefore, from the 18th century, the shogunate entered a period of Three Major Reforms mainly aimed at restructuring its finances.
 Before entering this period, let us briefly mention social aspects of the Edo period. Japan during the Edo period was a class society, with four main classes of people: samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. Farmers were mainly self-farmers, and farmers made up the majority of the population during the Edo period. Most artisans and merchants lived in towns. Farmers and townspeople exercised a certain degree of autonomy in villages and towns.
 From the latter half of the 17th century, as the Tokugawa shogunate’s ruling system stabilized, agriculture. Agricultural output increased as fields were developed and farming tools were improved. Cash crops were produced for sale in the cities. The development of agriculture led to the development of commerce. Markets were actively opened and the monetary economy spread. In particular, Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka flourished as major cities.
 Furthermore, the Shogunate established transportation systems to facilitate the flow of people and goods, and managed them by establishing barrier posts. On the overland route, the Shogunate established the Five Routes to Edo. In addition, the Shogunate established several major sea routes. Among them, the sea route between Osaka and Edo was the key to logistics.
 During this period, culture also developed greatly. For example, it was during this period that Matsuo Basho, the famous haiku poet, was active.

Three Major Reforms: The Middle of Edo Period

 Let us now move on to the era of the Three Major Reforms. The first of the three major reforms were carried out by the 8th shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, in the first half of the 18th century. Yoshimune sought to restore the finances of the shogunate by developing new rice paddies and so on. He also encouraged practical learning among the people and promoted the development of industry. In addition, Yoshimune implemented new fire-fighting measures in Edo, which had been repeatedly ravaged by large fires. In addition, he solicited policy requests from the people and implemented those he deemed appropriate, such as the establishment of a hospital in Edo. Yoshimune was interested in foreign affairs, and from this period, research on Europe began to be conducted in earnest through the mirror of the Dutch republic. This is called Dutch studies.
 In the late 18th century, increasing harvests through agricultural development had reached a point where it was no longer feasible. Therefore, the shogunate implemented various measures to promote commerce in an attempt to increase its revenues. As a result, commerce flourished. However, as a result of the rural areas being caught up in the commodity economy, many farmers became impoverished, and many villages fell into ruin. In addition, more and more people used bribes to curry favor with those in power and line their pockets. In the 1780s, natural disasters such as famines and volcanic eruptions occurred, and many people died of starvation. Peasant uprisings and town strikes were frequent throughout the country. In Edo, the riots continued for more than a month, and the shogunate felt a sense of crisis. Therefore, the key senior governor of this Mercantilist policy was removed from his post.
 Toward the end of the 18th century, the shogunate implemented the second of three major reforms to improve the situation. The shogunate imposed strict thrift and tightened public morals. In addition, the Shogunate opened vocational training centers in towns, where vagrants were forcibly housed and trained. In addition, villages and towns were required to prepare rice and funds for future famines.
 During the period around this time, Kabuki was gaining popularity in earnest, and colorful ukiyo-e prints also became very popular as its promotional tools. You have probably seen Katsushika Hokusai’s Mount Fuji and Kitagawa Utamaro’s landscapes.

The End of Edo Period

 While such reforms were underway, Russia arrived in Japan seeking trade. From this time on, Japan’s system of seclusion gradually became unsettled. At the beginning of the 19th century, with the arrival of Russian, British, and American ships in Japan, the Shogunate, which did not yet opened its doors to the world, took two or three turns in its foreign policy. However, after the British empire won a crushing victory over China in the Opium War around 1840, the Shogunate decided that its hard-line attitude toward Western nations was inappropriate and decided to soften its foreign policy.
 Around the time of the Opium War, the domestic situation was once again marked by a great famine. A former official in Osaka demanded that the shogunate take appropriate measures, but when his request was not heeded, he revolted. This was the first rebellion of the samurai class in the Edo period. The last of the three major reforms were then attempted by the Edo shogunate. The shogunate attempted to lower prices and rebuild farms in villages in order to rebuild its finances. However, these reforms were quickly abandoned when opposition forces pushed it aside. Thus, the weakening of the power of the shogunate was exposed. On the other hand, some feudal lords succeeded in various reforms and innovations and gained strength.
 In the middle of the 19th century, Japan finally opened its doors to European powers. At this time, the U.S. wanted a port in the Pacific Ocean to supply for whalers and its trading ships to China. Therefore, Matthew Perry, a commander of the U.S. navy, with military power behind him, pressed the Shogunate to officially open the country. In 1854, the Treaty of Peace and Amity between the U.S. and Japan was signed, and Japan opened its borders. In addition, the U.S. also demanded trade with Japan and concluded the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the U.S. This was an unequal treaty that was unfavorable to Japan. Japan was forced to conclude similar treaties with Britain, France, Russia, and the Netherlands. From then on, the revision of these unequal treaties became one of the main goals of the Japanese government’s foreign policy. These trade treaties led to the opening of ports in Nagasaki and Hyogo to them, but the center of international trade was Yokohama, which was newly established at this time.
 The conclusion of the above-mentioned unequal treaties triggered the collapse of the Edo shogunate. The Shogunate concluded those unequal treaties without the emperor’s permission. Therefore, the movement to honor the emperor, which had been growing since the 18th century, and the movement to eliminate foreign enemies were combined to form a major trend. Under this circumstance, the chief councilor who decided to conclude the treaties was assassinated. In this chaotic situation, both the shogunate and anti-shogunate groups approached the authority of the emperor. The anti-Shogunate groups eventually succeeded in winning the emperor over to their side and finally obtained the imperial decree to defeat the Shogunate. The Shogun, however, tried to avoid war by returning the Shogun’s title to the emperor. The anti-shogunate groups issued a great decree of restoration of the imperial rule under the authority of the emperor. Thus, the Tokugawa shogunate was abolished and the Edo period came to an end in 1867. Furthermore, the anti-shogunate groups demanded that the shogunate return their territories to the emperor. The shogunate vassals vehemently opposed these demands, leading to war between the two sides from the beginning of 1868

Meiji Period

 The Meiji Era began in 1868. The anti-shogunate groups established a new government during the war, which the new government won the following year. The new government began to establish a new governmental system and started the modernization of Japan. For example, since the new government overthrew the shogunate, the central government of the Edo period, it also replaced the local government domains with the modern system of prefectures and developed a centralized system. Furthermore, the Meiji government abolished the traditional class system and introduced equality among the four classes. Other measures included the establishment of modern family registers, police, financial, and military systems. The government also abolished the traditional salary system for samurai and banned the wearing of the swords. Thus, the samurai class was dismantled and their discontent grew. In the 1870s, the samurai finally rebelled against the new government, leading to war. This was the last civil war in Japan to date. The Meiji government was victorious.
 In the 1870s, the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement emerged, calling for constitutional government under the Diet and the Constitution. However, the Meiji government suppressed this movement, believing that the Japanese nation was not mature enough for parliamentary government. However, around that time, a case of government corruption was uncovered. Therefore, the government was forced to make concessions and promised to establish a National Assembly. The government began preparations to establish a constitution and a Diet, and sent Hirofumi Ito, who was at the center of power, to Germany and other countries to study the Prussian Constitution. At the same time, the government invited scholars from Europe and prepared to introduce Western-style laws to Japan. While suppressing the Freedom and People’s Rights Movement, the government proceeded with the preparation of a constitution. It finally issued the Constitution of the Empire of Japan in 1889. In this constitution, the emperor was sovereign. A bicameral legislature was adopted. An election law was also enacted. General elections were held in 1890, and the Diet was established. At the same time, the Imperial Rescript on Education, based on the principle of loyalty and patriotism, was issued.
 During the same period, the Meiji government pursued a policy of ”Increase Production and Promote Industry”. In the 1870s, the government established ministries for industry and agriculture. It introduced the modern postal system. The first railroad in Japan was opened between Tokyo and Yokohama, and the transportation network was developed. Furthermore, the government established the Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunma Prefecture as a government-run model factory, and increased production of raw silk, which was the main export product. Inflation was worsening during this period, so the government raised taxes and implemented fiscal austerity measures in the 1880s as a countermeasure against inflation. As a result, the Japanese economy experienced deflation and prices fell. As the price of rice dropped, many peasants fell to tenant farmers, and wealthy landowners accumulated much capital by buying up their land. In the 1890s, landowners became capitalists and built factories one after another, and tenant peasant families provided cheap labor to the factories in large numbers. Thus, Japan experienced the Industrial Revolution.
 With the development of industry, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and other companies developed into conglomerates through group management. At the same time, labor and pollution problems arose, and labor and socialist movements emerged.
 In terms of foreign relations, soon after the Meiji government was established, it dispatched the Iwakura Mission to Europe and the U.S. to prepare for the revision of unequal treaties and to know the Western Civilization. The mission was followed by negotiations to revise unequal treaties with the countries. The government adopted a policy of Europeanization, adopting Western culture, and proposed a compromise plan to employ foreign nationals as Japanese judges. However, negotiations were not successful due to domestic and foreign oppositions. Nevertheless, by the end of the 19th century, Britain came to view Japan as a cooperative partner because Britain was wary of Russia’s expansion into China. As a result, amendments to unequal treaties were partially achieved. The government succeeded in completely revising the unequal treaties in the early 20th century.
 Regarding relations with neighboring countries, Japan forced the abolition of the Ryukyu Kingdom and the establishment of Okinawa Prefecture on the Ryukyu Kingdom, which had previously expressed its submission to Japan and China. As a result, relations between Japan and China deteriorated. The Meiji government pressured Korea to conclude a treaty favorable to Japan. Japan’s growing political and economic influence over Korea provoked a backlash in Korea, At the end of the 19th century, a peasant uprising broke out in Korea demanding the expulsion of Japan and tax reductions. Japan and China dispatched troops there to suppress it. Japan and China confronted each other over the internal affairs of Korea, and war broke out between them. Japan was victorious and a peace treaty was signed. The contents of the treaty included China’s recognition of Korea’s independence and the ceding of China’s Liaodong Peninsula and other areas to Japan. However, Russia, which had been planning to expand into China, colluded with Germany and France to pressure Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula to China. Japan yielded to the pressure and agreed to return the Liaodong Peninsula, but hostilities with Russia increased. Thereafter, Western powers entered China in rapid succession and established spheres of influence. Rebellions broke out in China against these powers. The Chinese government followed suit and declared war on the Western powers, but was defeated.

This led to Russia’s advance into northeastern China. Because the northeastern area was near Korea, Japan judged that Russia’s southward expansion into China would be dangerous to its interests in Korea. Therefore, Japan allied with Great Britain to expand its military. Negotiations between Japan and Russia broke down, and the Russo-Japanese War began in the early 20th century. The war developed in Japan’s favor. However, Japan did not have the strength to fight a prolonged war. A revolution broke out in Russia as well. Therefore, a peace treaty was concluded through the mediation of the United States. Under this treaty, Russia renounced its involvement in Korea and ceded to Japan the right to lease a portion of northeastern China. However, Japan did not receive any reparations despite the enormous war expenditures. Due to discontent at this, riots broke out in Japan.
 After that, Japan expanded its power in World War I. Democracy blossomed for a time, but was surpassed by fascism. Japan entered World War II, lost the war, and subsequently developed its economy as a democratic country.


Koko Nihonshi B (Tokyo: Jikkyo shuppan, 2017)

Nihonshi B (Tokyo: Shimizu shoin, 2017)

Saishin Nihonshi (Tokyo: Meiseisha, 2012

Shinsen Nihonshi B (Tokyo: Tokyo shoseki, 2017)

Shosestu Nihonshi B (Tokyo: Yamakawa shuppansha, 2016)