The Reaction of the Samurai to the Meiji Restoration and the Disintegration of Their Way of Life



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Will Hechmer

1/28/09


The Reaction of the Samurai to the Meiji Restoration and the Disintegration of Their Way of Life


The topic that I am using for my research paper is the reaction that the warrior class in Japan, also known as the samurai, had to the Meiji restoration when their traditional way of life was cast aside during the 19th century. It is my hypothesis that many samurai were upset that they were being cast aside and attempted to rebel against the imperial government, especially those that still felt a sense of loyalty toward their daimyo (a provincial lord), in order to try and retain some of their previous privileges and roles. Their resistance brought about a stern crackdown against their movement which resulted in the total annihilation of their class. This is important to understand because it helps us to predict similar reactions that take place during a change in regime or policy. Studying events like this also lets us delve more deeply into facts about regime changes and the effect they have on members of classes who lose as a result, specifically the human need for a role in society, the desire for power, and for acceptance among others. Through my research I hope to find evidence of rebellion, revolt, and defiance to the new Meiji government in an attempt by the samurai to secure for them a familiar place in society.
Other researchers on this topic look at these events as taking a backseat to the foreign and domestic policies of the imperial government, based on the plentiful supply of information on the foreign policy changes and the meager portion devoted to the effect it had on the samurai. I am confident that the primary sources that I have and that I will find will help to prove my hypothesis. Sources of Japanese Tradition by De Bary, Gluck, and Tiedemann is an excellent source that contains many manuscripts and diary entries from officals and samurai during the Meiji era that are applicable to the subject of the new government and its stance on the samurai and the abolishment of their traditional ways. Remembering Aizu: The Testament of Shiba Goro by Shiba Goro, the son of a samurai from the Aizu province, is also a good first hand account of Aizu, a rebellious state that still held on to their loyalty of their daimyo, where a five month long siege by the imperial army takes place resulting in the massacre of thousands. Goro reveals life as the son of a samurai in post-Tokugawa Japan and how the changes in government effected him and his family. I have also found The Diary of Kido Takayoshi vol. 1 and vol. 2 by Kido Takayoshi which is a day by day account of the life and struggles of this samurai from 1868 through the 1870’s eventually ending in his death at the Satsuma revolt of 1877. There are several more primary sources that I am waiting on and I am continuously looking for more on the subject.
There was a handful of books were the author was focusing on the same subject as my research and these have been through secondary sources. Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan by Roger Bowen talks about many of the revolts and rebellions that went on after the start of the Meiji era. Japan in Transition From Tokugawa To Meiji by Marius B. Jansen and Gilbert Rozman outlines many of the government policies that stripped the samurai of their traditional privileges. The Cambridge History of Japan Volume 5: The Nineteenth Century by Marius B. Jansen also gives information about the revolts and changes that took place as a result of the Meiji Restoration. These sources and the plethora of other secondary sources at my disposal shall shed some light on some of the events that took place in 19th century Japan.
Thus far, with the combination of primary and secondary sources at my disposal, the task of putting together a case for my hypothesis is progressing smoothly. I will be able to prove that many of the former samurai that lived during the Meiji era from 1868 to 1880 fought the imperial government in an attempt to keep their old ways alive and to secure a place for themselves in Japanese society.

Bibliography


Primary Sources:
De Bary, William Theodore, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann. 1600 To 2000, vol. 2 of Sources of Japanese Tradition. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.
Kido, Takayoshi. Volume I: 1868 – 1871 vol.1 of The Diary of Kido Takayoshi, trans. Sidney Devere Brown and Akiko Hirota. Japan: University of Tokyo Press, 1985.
———. Volume II: 1871 – 1874 vol.2 of The Diary of Kido Takayoshi, trans. Sidney Devere Brown and Akiko Hirota. Japan: University of Tokyo Press, 1985.
Goro, Shiba. Remembering Aizu: The Testament of Shiba Goro. ed. Ishimitsu Mahito, trans. Teruko Craig. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1999.
Secondary Sources:
Beasley, W.G. The Meiji Restoration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1972.
———. The Modern History of Japan. New York, London: Frederick A. Praeger, 1963.
Benson, John, and Takao Matsumura. Japan, 1868-1945. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2001.
Bowen, Roger W. Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan: A Study of Commoners in the Popular Rights Movement. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 1980.
Chatterji, B.R. Modern Japan: A Short History. 3rd ed. Meerut: Meenakshi Prakashan, 1966.
Lu, David John. Sources of Japanese History, vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1974.
Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Hall, John Whitney, Marius B. Jansen, and Madoka Kanai, eds. Early Modern Japan, vol. 4 of The Cambridge History of Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Hane, Mikiso. Modern Japan: A Historical Survey. 3rd ed. Colorado: Westview Press, 2001.
Keene, Donald. Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
Jansen, Marius B. eds. The Nineteenth Century, vol. 5 of The Cambridge History of Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Jansen, Marius B. and Gilbert Rozman. eds. Japan In Transition: From Tokugawa To Meiji. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1986.
Najita, Tetsuo, and J. Victor Koschmann. Conflict in Modern Japanese History: The Neglected Tradition. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982.
Normain, Herbert E. Soldier and Peasant in Japan: The Origins of Conscription. Vancouver, Canada: University of British Columbia, 1965.
Omura, Bunji. The Last Genro. London: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1938.
Ravina, Mark. The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori. NetLibrary. http://www.netlibrary.com/Details.aspx?ProductId=111583&Terms=The+last+samurai+%3a+the+life+and+battles+of+Saig%C5%8D+Takamori&ReturnLabel=lnkSearchResults&ReturnPath=/Search/SearchResults.aspx. United States, Hoboken, N. J. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2004.



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