THE WESTERNIZATION OF JAPAN
The mention of Japan reminds most of us of Pearl Harbor, HIroshima, Mount of Fuji, judo, karate, and Tokyo. In fact, few of us probably know much than this about the Japanese people, and their country. We may know even less about the reasons that sent Japanese emigrant to America and the contributions thay have made to our country.
The United State has played a unique role in this history of Japan and its people. It was an American naval officer, Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who introduced the Japanese to the Westrn World just a little over a century ago. Until the time, Japan had been isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds of years. For a long period of time, visitor were not allowed in the country, nor were the Japanese people allowed to leave their homeland.
In 1869, shortly after Commodore Perry convinced the Japanese to open their ports to American traders, Emperor the Meiji became the absolute sovereign of Japan. Almost at once he began to modernize his nation by sending Japan’s most intelligent young men thorgh-out the world to learn the ways of the West. They went to nearly every modern nation on the globe, including the United Stated, Great Britain, Germany, France, and Rusia. From each of these nation the Japanese borrowed those thing which they thought would be most useful to them. The sewage an sanitation system of the city of Philadelphia was adopted for Japanese urban centers; the constitution of Japan was borrowed in general of Prussia. In a few years, the Japanese transformed their nation from a back ward medieval country into a thriving modern industrial state.
Although modernization brought many advances to Japan, it also brought problems. The country of Japan consists of four main island: Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The amount of land in Japan suitable for farming is only 14 percent of the total land area. This is because there are many mountain ranges and stretches along the coasts which are unfit for farming. Once Japan began to modernize, the population of the nation increased rapidly and the problem of finding enough food became more severe than ever before. Therefore, many Japanese began to look overseas for a place to live.
The modernization of Japan meant that many factories were built. These industrial plants needed large supplies of raw materials for manufacturing. They also required fuel to operate their mechinery. As a result, the natural resources of the homeland were severely taxed and it was found that japanese iron and oil reserves were very limited. It became necessary for Japanese Goverment to purchase or acquire land where these important materials were easily available. These effort led to a series of wars and skirmishes with China and Russia around the 1900’s. The victories won by Japan in these struggles served to strengthen the power and prestige of the militery leaders who were gaining more and more influence in making goverment policy.