Modernizing Japan

In just 50 years Japan went from an isolated medieval society to a colonial power on the world stage with sizable military, universities, modern transportation and electric communication, and a highly literate population. Sending fact finders to industrial centers of Europe and USA, and college students over to campuses there helped to shape the plans for development. Importing hundreds of college professors and experts from Germany, France, England and USA speeded up the expansion of knowledge and construction of necessary facilities, too.

As government changed from the Shogun to the Meiji Emperor in 1867, such things as wearing swords was outlawed, samurai salaries were stopped, citizens were declared equal, and money replaced rice to count wealth. More and more people moved away from farming to the factory jobs in cities. Things like mass education, national news media, and mass consumption of clothing, movies and books created an expanding middle class. Business and government workers went to colonize Taiwan after 1895, to Korea after 1910, and to the Micronesian Islands controlled by Japan after WWI. Others emigrated to Hawai’i and the west coast of the USA until blocked by immigration laws in the 1920s.

Now more than 150 years later Japan’s economy is the world’ 3rd biggest after the USA and China, with many factories and citizens based outside of the main islands. As a result of these rapid changes, there are big differences between rural and urban life, between the grandparents and their grandchildren, as well as contrasts between each region north to south and between the rich and the poor. Even in a fully developed country like Japan’s the society is still changing rapidly.

Colonial Japan

Women in Japan