Chapter 9: Great Imperial Japan in the history of civilization 

How did Japan succeed in its modernization? Italy and Germany are two federations that emerged at about the same time as the Great Imperial Japan. Lagging behind Britain and France, Japan, Germany, and Italy were all centralized federation of numerous states (clans) organized by one leading state (clan) in the region, and this type of federation was the modus operandi in the world at the time.  For these nations to emerge as the colonizing Western nations was a l9th Century phenomena.  These Western nations progressed through industrial revolution, democratic revolution, formation of national unity, and grew as a newly emerged empire and grew. Amongst the world historians a question remains; why was Japan the only nation to successfully go through this progression to modernization. (p. 265)

The theory that secularization of the society, as seen in the Warring States Period (1467-1600) in Japan, gave impetus to the modernization does exist, but not without some questions about its causality. In the ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese society such secularization did take place, but they did not necessary lead toward modernization of the society. (p.267)

But, what did have a causal impact to modernization is the development of science and technology.  It had direct impact to the development of materialistic society. Also, in Japan there was a development of secular merchant society during the Edo Period (1603-1868).  The ability of the Japanese society to quickly absorb and utilize new technology was another reason for Japan to be the first Asian nation to modernize.  (P. 267)

In 1543 Japan was introduced to a gun and within 50 years it became the largest producer of guns in the world.  According to  Portuguese merchant Medes Pinto’s “Travelogue of the East” when he visited Japan in 1551, he has heard that there were 300,000 guns in Japan,  and in l575 Oda Nobunaga, during the period of warring states used a gun battalion of 3,500 gunners .  It was not until 1616 that a large scale usage of guns appeared in military activities in Europe. (p.267)

During the industrial revolution is said to have begun in England in the textile industry, where it originally imported cotton goods from India, but because of its high cost of importation from India, started to import raw cotton directly from North America, then process it by importing it into Liverpool and transporting it on first steam train in world to Manchester where it was processed by a new machine called power looms (1785) and cotton gin (1794).   This greatly reduced the cost of production of cotton goods and greatly raised the productivity and income of the people who were involved.  Similar process took place in Japan where during the Warring States Period (1467-1600) when it was importing cotton from China and Korea.  Because this importation was causing a drain on the silver and gold reserves, during the Edo period (1603-1868) domestic production of cotton and processing of cotton began, reducing importation.   Same with the importation of raw silk.  Japan began its own silk production in late 17th century, replacing imports from China and Vietnam, which became Japan’s major export item by the Meiji Era.  Same process took place in sugar, which were originally imported from Philippines and Java.   What supported this industrial revolution in Japan was the high quality and productivity of its workforce. (P. 268)

The disciplined labor force, well developed sense of meritocracy, accumulation of knowhow, and well-educated labor force contributed to Japan’s modernization.  At the early stages Meiji Era 43% of male and 10% of male had received formal education, very high rate in the world at the time, which allowed the absorption of new technology from the West.  (p. 269)

Also, the formation of ‘national identity’ took place formally and in early stages of history. Already in the Edo Period a national census records were being maintained, which created a sense of national identity. The creation of federation nations in Europe, the birth of United States, the French Revolution, all created a sense of ‘national identity ‘in the West, but in case of Japan it could even go back as far as Heian Era (794-1185) when it already embraced a phrase “Yamato Damashii” (Yamato Spirit/Soul) to express the national spirit, which is still used today.  Japanese is a homogenous race with strong sense of ‘national identity’ and filial Emperor at the throne, which allowed the success of epic national revolution, re-unification, like Meiji Restoration to succeed. (p.270)

Theory by Arnold Toynbee that Japan, a satellite like nation of planet like China moves in unison with China is totally unfounded.   Looking at history Japan never moved in unison with China.  Japan pragmatically moved with China when it was useful, like sending envoys to China in between 608 to 907 to gather new knowledge, but after the usefulness of envoys and Chinese information was gone, then stopped. Japan aggressively absorbed from China, and from the West, knowledge about political science, economy, religion, ideology, but it never relinquished its own culture in the process. Japan accepted and digested foreign culture, and by doing so it enriched Japanese culture.   Thus, it was never overtaken by the Chinese or the Western culture.  (p. 271)

There are many difference between the construct of Japanese and Chinese society; Arnold Toynbee stated that Chinese society is a ultra-stable society, but stated accurately it is a dormant society in a standstill with continuation of social strife, famine, expansion.   Only the Tokugawa Bakufu Shogunate can be defined as ultra-stable society.

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