How Did the Meiji Government Modernize Japan?

The Meiji government of Japan created a highly centralized, bureaucratic government. It instituted: a Constitution with an elected Parliament; well developed transportation and communication; a more educated populace; the destruction of the feudal system that had been in place for centuries; an established industrial sector based on the latest technology; and the creation of a powerful army and navy.

Japan's feudal era was brought to an abrupt halt in 1868 by Western powers like the United States, and also since Europe forced open Japanese borders. In Japanese history at this point in time, the highest ranking leader was called the shogun, or great general. The shogun had to relinquish his power and was replaced by the emperor. The emperor called himself Meiji. Meiji means "enlightened rule" in Japanese. With the reinstallation of the emperor as the highest authority in the land, he was supposed to both command and lead the Japanese people.

In reality, a group of imperial advisers made many decisions for the country. These advisers abolished the feudal system by doing the following: eliminating class privileges; instituting taxation in the form of currency instead of rice; building a number of factories and ports throughout the country; instituting mandatory education; and traveling abroad to study how Spain, Germany, France and the United States conducted their affairs.

The emperor's death in 1912 signified the end of the Meiji era in Japan. By this time, Japan's shadow leadership had made great strides towards becoming a major world power to reckon with, in spite of the fact that it did not receive the international respect it desired.