History Today subscription

The Making of Modern Japan

In the 1860s a group of the younger Samurai launched the Meiji revolution in the Emperor's name. This event, writes Henry McAleavy, helped convert Japan into a modern country, with Western fashions and techniques imposed upon the national habits of centuries.

A teenage Emperor Meiji with foreign representatives at the end of the Boshin War, 1868-1870.A little after ten o’clock on the evening of March 2nd, 1868, a party of Europeans approached the entrance to a Buddhist temple in the newly-opened port of Kobe on the Inland Sea of Japan. Despite the lateness of the hour, in order to gain admission they had to pass through a crowd that had gathered outside the building.

Once within the gate, they found themselves in what seemed a military encampment. The courtyard was ablaze with fires, round which groups of Japanese soldiers stood warming themselves against the night air. The newcomers had little time to observe this scene before they were ushered into one of the inner rooms, where they were left to themselves.

The sinister purpose of their errand, emphasized by the unnatural quietness that reigned throughout the enclosure, was by now weighing too heavily upon their minds to permit them to indulge in much conversation, and they settled down to wait in silence until they should be summoned to perform their duty.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email digital@historytoday.com if you have any problems.



Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week