chapter  3
22 Pages

The early Meiji revolution

The Meiji Restoration aroused immense controversy among both Japanese and Western historians during the twentieth century:  controversy over the objectives of the Meiji leaders, the degree of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ and the nature and degree of changes initiated by the Meiji government. No disagreement exists, however, about the Meiji Restoration being the key to our understanding of modern Japanese history. Conversely, historians’ personal views of contemporary Japanese society and politics shape their interpretations of the Restoration. Historians either blame or credit Meiji government policies and institutions depending on their evaluations of twentieth-and twenty-fi rst-century history. But the Meiji Restoration is not only signifi cant for historians; it is also part of Japan’s national history and public memory, and as such has been highly contested terrain. Among both conservatives and critics, there is a narrative of ‘the long modern’ that sees the work of modernization that Meiji began completed only in the post-1945 period and that, whether for good or bad, depends on their ideological or political leanings.