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Japanese Industrial Revolution

In contrast to European nations, Japan experienced the industrial revolution much later. Feudal system prevailed in Japan until Meiji was restored in 1868 whereas by this time, the industrial processes in Europe were maximized (Mokyr, 2002). For instance, Great Britain launched the first train in the late 18th century. The net of railroads was heavily developed during the first decades of the 1800s. In addition, while Japan was starting to consider possible industrial innovations, the socialism in Europe reached its peak. The workers who were displeased by social inequalities of various nature rebelled to their rights. Taking into consideration the aforementioned facts, Japan had numerous advantages as it introduced industry-oriented economy. In particular, it had an opportunity to consider the experience of other states and choose the technologies and systems that proved to be the most effective or the ones that suited its interests in the best way. Japan was provided with the opportunity to avoid some of the fundamental mistakes that were made by European nations as they entered the era of industrialization.

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As a matter of fact, Japanese Industrial Revolution was only a question of time. Actually, the fundamental changes were awaited by a great number of the industries and manufacturers. For example, the Japanese army was sorely in need of reorganization. Its old-fashioned uniform as well as weapon were replaced by modern patterns. The bows, swords and spears that were widely popular among Samurai clans were changed to the rifles and cannons. Japanese soldiers who used to wear heavy armor were attired to the new fashionable European-made uniforms. Those who once were fond of national and traditional war-like costumes, started to wear woolen suits. In fact, the European fashion affected even those who could not afford overseas dressing. Shortly after that, the lanterns were replaced by lamps and Japanese people were no longer willing to use mats.

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The idolization of everything that came from Europe was not sudden or senseless. There is no doubt that when people prefer another order of things even when it concerns the commodities, including the most essential necessaries of life, a clear demand for changes is obvious. It was industrial area that was first subject to the aforementioned changes.

One more thing should be stressed in regard with the Industrial Revolution in Japan. As it has already been mentioned, while Japan was only at the threshold of the changes to come, the European countries were already heavily industrialized (Christensen, n.d.). Two basic implications are to be drawn from that fact. On the one hand, all the innovation-oriented processes occurred gradually in Europe. One detail was replaced by another; the weaknesses were detected and removed while the benefits were stressed on. Thus, the transition from previous era to the industrial development was rather gradual, as well.  It was not the case in Japan, which adopted all the changes immediately. On the other hand, the introduction of steam power, for example, was considered as a mere improvement, which, however, had a huge impact on production in Europe. Whereas it enabled the minimization of labor costs, steam power has no effect on public demand (Sumikawa, 1999). In other words, Europeans were indifferent to the huge volumes of commodities that could have been produced with the help of newly-invented steam power. However, the situation in Japan was just the opposite. The demand for the things made in Europe had even increased. It could be compared to the Pandora's Box opening, which discovered thousands of consumers who were differed in their tastes and preferences. In order to secure the national finances, the government should have responded to for the pursuance of everything European. This was the second reason number that has led to the Industrial Revolution in Japan.

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In fact, the Japanese producers were powerless in comparison with the ones operating in Europe as they had nothing to offer. The government of Japan was also unable to recourse to any tariff speculations due to international treaties providing for the free trade. The population of Japan could not entirely understand the scope of the oncoming changes. The benefits of joint capital, machinery and steam power were still unknown to them. Additionally, the merchants who benefited largely from the profitable trade conditions that were granted to them by the government, had to stop to implement their ventures as soon as they were deprived of the benefits as it appeared to be profitless. The whole nation that used to rely solely on its own resources and supply suddenly started to import everything from stockings till cars. Naturally, the import rates had exceeded the export in many times (Rosenfeld, 2005).

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Taking into consideration the state of affairs, Japan had to choose either to adjust old political system to the Industrial Revolution outcomes, or to adjust Industrial Revolution to the new economic and political order. Thus, this became the point when the Revolution began.

It should be stressed that the Japanese government was a driving force in this case. At first, it realized the need for changes. Later on, it was strong enough to introduce various reforms-oriented activities, which were expected to alter all social structures. Japanese authorities promoted the educational reform. In accordance with the latter, a great number of common schools as well as high education institutions were established. Additionally, thousands of young men and women were sent abroad with various educational purposes (Furukawa, 1995). In addition, the government established the first prototypes of paper factories, chemical laboratories, mining corporations, etc. The infrastructure of the cities had been also improved.  The first railway station was also built by the government (Furukawa, 1995). Thus, it can be inferred that the Industrial Revolution in Japan was strongly promoted by the Japanese government. Its successful example was then followed by shrewd businessmen who, having estimated the potential profits, started to establish their own private corporations and companies.

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During the first ten years after Restoration of Meiji, the Japanese government worked restless to balance the import and export rates. The youth of Japan who had just returned from their abroad travelling were about to implement the knowledge they acquired. In its turn, by assessing the profitable initiatives of Japanese government, the citizens of Japan began to take advantage of the innovations offered by the Industrial Revolution. They started to exploit their own mind and abilities to introduce new fields of industrial activities. Numerous private ventures had been established during those days. Paper factories, machinery manufactures, chemical laboratories, mining corporations and many other enterprises were opened in the biggest cities of the Japanese Empire. All of them endeavored to meet the increasing demand of the Japanese citizens in commodities and services of various kinds.

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The most successful industry was matches production. The hugest profits were retrieved from the manufacturing of matches. At first, Japanese matches flooded the national market, and then reached the shores of European continent (Rosenfeld, 2005). In fact, they had much more competitive advantages, and soon, Japanese matches were highly appreciated. The future of this industry seems to be optimistic as its production rates increase from year to a year.   

The reorganization of Japan was beyond the scope of basic political reforms. Its government had abolished numerous trade restrictions, such as internal tariffs and guilds. Additionally, the land reform, which was implemented at that time, stimulated the production and private ownership (Grigg, 1987). The Ministry of Industry had also contributed to the development and spreading of the Revolution's innovations. As a result of it, by 1990, the Japanese Empire was heavily engaged in various industrialized processes. To some extent, its government had succeeded to manage enormous foreign influence though before the World War I, Japan was still behind the West. It heavily depended on European goods and services, and, therefore, it had to adjust to various economic conditions dictated by the Western countries. Any efforts of labor organizations were repressed. 

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The industrialization in Japan was accompanied by the rapid increase of population, which in its turn strained the stability and resources available (Shimposha, 2000). Considering the cultural field, despite the educational initiatives described above, the government had introduced a general system of education, which provided for the obligatory learning of sciences, technologies, among others. By all means, it tried to entail the feeling of loyalty to Japanese nation. In general, however, Japan being an island country enhanced its positions. It could be well proved by its quick victory in the fight over Korea's territories in 1894-1895 (Rosenfeld, 2005). It actually had clearly demonstrated that there was a new source of power within the Asian part of the world. The alliance with Great Britain established in 1902 had made Japan a powerful partner in the world's diplomatic system (Allen, 2006). The war with the Russian Empire and the consequent victory had also enhanced Japan's image as a powerful nation. Later on, due to the industrialization advantages, Japan managed to annex Korea.

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Considering the changes in social sphere, certain suggestions can be drawn. First of all, as Japan tried to adopt European values and fashion, child labor was less exploited. The birthrate decreased whereas the rate of divorces increased. However, the conventional inferiority role of women was still preserved.

Finally, it might be useful to observe the strains of modernization that occurred as a result of the Industrial Revolution. In the first instance, it should be admitted that the Japanese success had its own cost. It included low living standards, crowded cities and ever-lasting debate over the benefits and drawbacks of Westernization-Industrialization. The emergence of rights and freedoms of citizens, as well as political parties had ensued in political instability and frequent assassinations. In addition, a part of Japanese citizens are still disappointed due to the loss of identity. At the same time, it should be noted that no other country had experienced such achievements brought by the Revolution.

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