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Modernization in Japan

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Japan Ends Its Isolation

From the early 1600s to the mid-1800s, Japan traded with China and the Dutch and had diplomatic contact with Korea. But beyond that, Japan was largely isolated. British, French, Russian, and American officials tried to convince the Japanese to open up. But the Japanese repeatedly refused.

That situation changed in 1853 when American steamships with cannons entered Japanese waters. The next year, Japan and the United States signed the Treaty of Kanagawa. It agreed to open Japan to trade with America. Soon afterwards, Japan made similar deals with European nations.

Many Japanese were upset with the shogun, the military dictator, who had agreed to these new treaties. The Emperor Mutsuhito got their support and managed to overthrow the shogun. For the first time in centuries, the emperor ruled Japan directly. He reigned for 45 years, from 1867 to 1912. This period is called the Meiji era. The name Meiji means enlightened rule.

The emperor wanted to modernize Japan. He sent government officials to Europe and the United States. From what they saw, they shaped a new Japan. They modeled the government after the strong central government of Germany. They patterned the army after Germany's and the navy after Britain's. They adapted the American system of schooling for all children.

The emperor also supported changes to Japan's economy. The country mined coal and built railroads and factories. In just a few years, Japan's economy was as modern as any in the world.

How did isolation end in Japan?
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Imperial Japan

By 1890, Japan had the strongest military in Asia. It asked foreigners to give up their special rights in Japan. The European nations agreed. Japan felt equal to the Western nations.

Japan became more imperialistic as its power grew. When China broke an agreement not to send armies into Korea, Japan went to war. It drove China out of Korea and gained Taiwan and some other islands as new colonies. In 1904, Japan and Russia fought the Russo–Japanese War over China's Manchurian territory. Japan surprised the world by defeating a larger power that was supposed to be stronger.

By 1890, Japan had the strongest military in Asia. It asked foreigners to give up their special rights in Japan. The European nations agreed. Japan felt equal to the Western nations.

The Japanese were harsh rulers. They shut down Korean newspapers. They allowed only Japanese history and language to be taught. They took land from Korean farmers and gave it to Japanese settlers. They built factories run by Japanese only. Koreans were not allowed to start new businesses. Koreans resented these actions. They began a nationalist movement and protested against Japanese rule.

How did Japan increase its influence in Asia?
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