Industrial Revolution in Japan 1868-1898 - UPSC History Notes (2023)

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Japan experienced the industrial revolution after 1868. The Industrial Revolution in Japan brought about unprecedented changes in the country's economy, social structure and military situation.Japan's Industrial Revolutionfrom 1868-1898 is one of the most important issues for theUPSC IAS exam. In this article, we will discuss the Japanese Industrial Revolution, its causes, reforms of the Meiji government, its impact on industrialization in Japan, and the difference between the Industrial Revolution in the West and the Industrial Revolution in Japan.

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Table of Contents

  • Download the PDF on Japan's Industrial Revolution here!
  • Industrial Revolution in Japan
  • Historical background
  • Meiji restoration
  • Why did Japan enter the industrial revolution?
  • Important Facts of the Industrial Revolution in Japan
  • What was the shogunate era?
  • Industrialization in Japan in the years 1853-1894
  • Reforms of the Meiji government
  • Effects of industrialization in Japan
    • Social and cultural impact of industrialization
  • impact on foreign policy
    • impact of modernization
  • What was the difference between the industrial revolution in the west and the industrial revolution in Japan?
  • Conclusion
  • Frequently asked questions about the Industrial Revolution in Japan 1868-1898

Download the PDF on Japan's Industrial Revolution here!

Industrial Revolution in Japan

Japan accelerated its industrialization after theMeiji-Restauration in Japanin 1868, expanded its transportation and communications infrastructure, and revolutionized its light industry by the turn of the century. Manufacturing was the main strength of the Japanese economy, and the Industrial Revolution in Japan led to socio-cultural changes and the modernization of Japanese society.

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Historical background

  • In 1871, the newly formed Meiji government dissolved Japan's dominions and replaced them with prefectures under central government control to avoid the imminent collapse of its growing power.
  • Each of the roughly 270 empires had its own political and military will and operated under a decentralized power structure. It was a coup that the structure was abruptly demolished.
  • The Meiji authorities concluded that their government needed to be the sole political force in the nation to carry out the crucial mission of creating a modern state.
  • Their main concern was that one of the powerful nations might try to colonize Japan. Much of India and Southeast Asia learned of this, and in 1842 China was forced to cede Hong Kong to Britain as a result of losing the First Opium War.
  • Consequently, in order to maintain their military and ward off invasions, they believed that the nation must modernize as quickly as possible while allowing its economy to grow.
  • Just a few months after the revolutionary move to the prefectures, a number of Japan's top leaders and other significant government officials embarked on the Iwakura Mission, an observation and learning tour of the United States and Europe.
  • There were also a number of students on board, and when they returned to Japan, they had a major impact on the development of that nation.

Meiji restoration

  • The Tokugawa shogunate was overthrown by the Meiji Restoration, a political rebellion in 1868 that supposedly restored direct imperial rule under Mutsuhito (military regime). This ended the Edo (Tokugawa) period (1603-1867) in Japanese history (the Emperor Meiji).
  • However, the Meiji Restoration of 1868 was viewed as a broader continuation of the Meiji period that followed (1868–1922) and brought about significant political, economic, and social changes and contributed to the modernization and Westernization of the country.
  • The real event of the restoration was a coup that took place on January 3, 1868 in Kyto, the ancient imperial capital.
  • The perpetrators reported that the young Meiji Emperor was in command of Japan and that Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last shogun, had lost his official position by late 1867. A brief civil war in which Yoshinobu participated ended in June 1869 when he yielded to imperial forces.

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Why did Japan enter the industrial revolution?

In the early 18th century, Japan was largely agrarian and lacked a robust military or technological sector. Due to Europe's and the United States' assertion of the country's dominance, it has had little influence in international affairs. To change this situation, Japan made significant political, economic and social changes, dramatically triggered by the elimination of Japan's feudal system and privileged class. When the emperor regained power, he drafted a new constitution that resulted in a parliamentary system of government similar to that of western societies. Japan's modernization and westernization were brought about by these reforms. By the time the Meiji era ended in 1912, Japan had a strong military, an advanced industrial sector, a rapidly expanding labor force, and well-developed transportation and communications infrastructure.

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Important Facts of the Industrial Revolution in Japan

  • The Meiji era began in 1868, marking the beginning of Japanese industrialization and westernization.
  • It ended the shogunate and led to a centralized administration of power.
  • The feudal system ended.
  • People from all walks of life were enlisted in the newly formed national army.
  • Japan has introduced a new constitution.
  • New laws were introduced during the Industrial Revolution in Japan.
  • The spread of Japanese agricultural best practices led to an increase in agricultural productivity.
  • The quality of life fell in overcrowded cities.
  • Frequent elections caused by the political changes triggered additional dynamic changes such as disputes between emperors and ministers, political assassinations, etc.

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What was the shogunate era?

Japan was an isolated feudal state in which the emperor served only as a token leader and the shogun, originally the emperor's chief officer, held real power. Under the shogunate, the bureaucracy worked with regional daimyo alliances (powerful feudal lords) and samurai (warrior class) in a semi-feudal system. During this period, the Japanese economy continued to grow as domestic trade increased and manufacturing moved to the countryside. By the 1850s, economic growth had slowed as both population growth and agricultural growth were constrained by technological limitations. Rural uprisings reflected popular discontent and contributed to the decline of the shogunate. After the end of the shogunate era, the Meiji government came into effect, paving the way for the industrial revolution in Japan.

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Industrialization in Japan in the years 1853-1894

  • The restructuring of Japan went beyond its political system. They created a Western-style army and navy.
  • To finance trade and provide capital for investment, new banks were established.
  • National connections were improved by railroads and steamships.
  • Many outdated trade restrictions such as internal tariffs and guilds no longer exist.
  • Individual ownership was made possible by land reform, which also increased production.
  • Manufacturing was dominated by government initiatives due to a lack of funding and unproven technology.
  • A Ministry of Industry was established in 1870 to set general economic policy and to administer specific industries.
  • To provide industrial experience, model factories were built and a more comprehensive educational system provided technical training.
  • The expanding economy was influenced by private enterprise, particularly in the textile industry. Entrepreneurs could be found in all social classes.
  • In the 1890s, large industrial combines (zaibatsu) were established.
  • Japan was therefore fully embroiled in an industrial revolution around 1900.
  • Despite successfully coping with foreign influences, Japan lagged behind the West before World War I.
  • It depended on coal and equipment imports from the West. Successful exports required cheap labor and underpaid women.

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Reforms of the Meiji government

The Meiji government launched a series of reforms to promote capitalism in Japan. Some of the reforms were:

  • Elimination of the feudal system, merchant guild and control point system that served as an obstacle to industrial growth.
  • The first telegraph line connecting Tokyo and Yokohama was part of the new infrastructure in 1869.
  • The existing courier system was replaced by the modern postal service in 1871, and post offices were established across the country to sell stamps and postcards at set prices.
  • When Japan joined Universal Postal Services in 1877, its postal services were linked to those around the world. Japan imported its first telephones in the same year.
  • In 1872 the first railway connections between Tokyo and Yokohama begin. Major roads in the country have also been upgraded by the government to ensure efficient delivery of goods across Japan.
  • Through patronage, the Meiji government encouraged the establishment of private companies that would later compete with Western corporations. The government supported companies such as Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Ono.
  • These companies established and operate numerous factories that manufactured both industrial and agricultural products.
  • The Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunma Prefecture, the most famous of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in 1872 and was to contain 300 silk winding machines imported from France.
  • Japanese light industry and the country's economy as a whole changed as cotton and silk production increased. Japan's capitalist economy was well established in 1898.

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Effects of industrialization in Japan

Japanese industrialization led to unprecedented changes in the country's economic, military, and social structure. This had a greater impact on both the nation and the world at large. Japan's rapid industrialization helped modernize its military to the point where it could compete with major European powers.

Social and cultural impact of industrialization

  • Massive population growth ensued, providing cheap labor but straining resources and stability.
  • A universal education program emphasizing science, technology and national loyalty has been introduced by the government in the cultural field.
  • Japan's ancient indigenous religion known as Shintoism, characterized by the worship of nature spirits and ancestors, gained new adherents.
  • Along with the calendar and the metric system, western fashions were adopted in clothing and personal hygiene.
  • The birth rate fell as population growth drove people off the land and factory work made children less useful.
  • The traditional view that women were subordinate in the household persisted, and formal eating and behavior were maintained.

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impact on foreign policy

  • Foreign policy has been influenced by Japan's changing economic power. In the 1890s they joined the imperialist nations. This change gave nationalistic impetus to the populace and gave purpose to the exiled samurai.
  • Demand for raw materials in Japan contributed to print growth.
  • 1894–1895 Japan and China fought over Korea; Japan's quick victory revealed the existence of a new Asian power.
  • In 1902, thanks to an alliance with Great Britain, it became an equal partner in the diplomatic system of the great powers.
  • Rivalry with Russia led to war in 1904 when Japan won again and Korea was annexed in 1910.
  • By the early twentieth century, Japan's rise had changed the global diplomatic landscape. While Japan was still a relatively minor world power, Westerners worried about a "yellow peril" as they watched its rise to power.

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impact of modernization

  • The costs of Japanese success included low standards of living in crowded cities and intergenerational disputes over westernization.
  • Political assassinations and frequent elections were caused by conflicts between newly formed political parties and the emperor and his ministers.
  • Many intellectuals feared losing their identities in a changing world, while others were concerned about the lack of job opportunities for the growing educated class.

What was the difference between the industrial revolution in the west and the industrial revolution in Japan?

Japan's Industrial Revolution had many features that set it apart from the Western Industrial Revolution, including

  • Scientific inventions and discoveries served as the basis of Western industrialization. West had to make all technological discoveries himself. While Japan picked up where the West had left off. Most of the technology and equipment has been reverse engineered.
  • Japan industrialized much faster than the West. It took 30 years to industrialize it properly.
  • Normal industrialization in western countries has progressed from light industry such as textiles, through mining and metallurgy, to chemicals and mass-produced goods. While Japan's railways predate the iron and steel industry because the raw materials and components were imported, and the textile industry almost simultaneously with that of shipbuilding, iron, steel, etc.
  • Both iron and coal were plentiful in the industrial areas of the west. On the other hand, Japan was in short supply of these resources and was heavily dependent on imports. As a result, the heavy machinery industry in Japan expanded closer to the sea.
  • The capital for the industrial revolution in the West came from the colonies and was invested voluntarily by powerful landowners and businessmen. It was a government-enforced withdrawal from the agricultural sector in Japan.
  • The private sector was responsible for the industrial revolution in the West, particularly in Britain. In Japan, the state played an important role.
  • Early industrializers like Britain had much lower entry costs than later industrializers like Japan because they could use relatively affordable technology and had fewer competitors.
  • In Japan, the expansion of the modern economy was closely linked to the needs of the armed forces. The modern sector expanded as military spending increased, as was the case during the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars.

In this way, Japanese industrialization differed significantly from Western industrialization. However, Japan has copied the innovations, educational systems and other positive qualities of western nations.

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The Japanese Industrial Revolution made a significant contribution to capitalism, economic development and industrial growth in the country. In addition, it signaled the end of the Tokugawa shogunate policy of the Edo period (1603 to 1868) Japanese military system, which oversaw both the government and the daimyo. The Meiji era produced concepts and ideas that later sparked the Japanese Industrial Revolution.

We hope that all your doubts regarding the Industrial Revolution in Japan 1868-1898 are cleared after reading this article. You can download theTestbuch-AppNow you can look at various other topics relevant to the UPSC IAS exam.

Frequently asked questions about the Industrial Revolution in Japan 1868-1898

Q.1 How did the Industrial Revolution affect Japan?

answer 1The Industrial Revolution in Japan brought about unprecedented changes in the country's economy, social structure and military situation.

Q.2What caused the Industrial Revolution in Japan?

answer 2Originally, Japan was largely agrarian and lacked a robust military or technology sector. In order to make Japan a prosperous country with strong military and technological advances, the Industrial Revolution took place in Japan.

Q.3What steps has Japan taken toward industrialization?

Ant.3The Meiji government launched a series of reforms to promote industrialization, such as eliminating the feudal system, merchant guild and checkpoint system to establish telegraph lines, railway services, modernization of postal service, etc.

Q.4What social and cultural changes will industrialization bring to Japan?

Answer4Industrialization in Japan brought many social and cultural changes, such as massive population growth that provided cheap labor, the start of a universal education program, and the adoption of Western fashions in clothing and personal hygiene.

Q.5What was the result of the industrial revolution in Japan?

Answer5Japan began to export many industrial products, including textiles. The nation's military also grew into a sizable manufacturer of ammunition and weapons. Japan developed into a major military power in East Asia.

Q.6What was Meiji Restoration?

answer 6In Japanese history, the Meiji Restoration was the political uprising of 1868 that led to the final overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Q.7What drives Japan's economy?

Answer7Agriculture, fishing, industry and tourism are among the most important sectors of the Japanese economy.

Q.8Why did Japan stop growing?

Answer8The increase in the labor force has slowed due to ageing. Domestic saving, which supported economic expansion during the period of high economic growth, also declined as a result of aging and declining fertility. The end of the catching-up phase, globalization and the increasing aging of the population posed major challenges for the Japanese economy.


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