In this investigation I will look at the major historical and military events of the transition of the Edo period to the Meiji Period and the Meiji Restoration and look at how they relate to the freedom of Japanese people.
Japan during the periods of 1600 – 1868 A.D. was a land of seclusion, military power and oppression. This was known as the Edo period. This however was one of the most peaceful times in Japan’s history. This peace was established through the military powers of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This peace brought with it no real individual freedoms. The supposed ruler of Japan the emperor was known as a du jure emperor, ruling by permission from the Tokugawa Shogunate. In 1868, the Tokugawa shogun lost its power and the emperor regained his power during what is known as the Meiji Restoration.
The Meiji Restoration (1868 – 1912 A.D.)
This period lasted through the reign of the Meiji Emperor (Pictured right). At the start of his reign, Japan had a weak military, the main industry being agriculture, and almost no technological advancement. By the time of the death of the emperor in 1912, Japan had a centralised, bureaucratic government, a constitution with an elected parliament, well-developed transport and communication systems, a highly educated population, a rapidly growing industrial sector based on the latest technology and a powerful army and navy. This rise in power scared several European powers and established the Japanese as an unwanted equal of the European powers. With this change in government and social thinking, the Japanese themselves gained personal public freedom from the feudal ways of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The first event that started the Meiji restoration was one that was oppressive but set forth the entire sequence of events that started a charge for the freedom of Japan from colonialists in what is known as the arrival of the Black Ships.
The Black Ships (1853-56 A.D.)
During the rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate, there was a policy in place that cut ties with any other countries. This policy was known as the Seclusion Policy. This policy limited the amount of trade with other countries. This policy was still in place during the arrival of the Black Ships. The Black Ships were a series of American gunships with the intent on establishing diplomatic and trade ties between Japan and the United States of America. This was an invitation delivered from the president of the United States, Millard Fillmore, through Commodore Matthew Perry. After Perry had delivered the message from the president, the ships left and promised to return in one year’s time. This ultimatum intimidated Japan. This started a negotiation that ended the Seclusion policy. The document known as the Harry Treaty, negotiated by the first U.S. consul, Townsend Harris, gave special provisions over the other nations and started to end the Seclusion Policy. This treaty leads to further oppression of the Japanese but not by their own government but...