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Meiji Restoration facts for kids

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The New fighting the Old in early Meiji Japan circa 1870
New fighting the old: graphic from ~1870

The Meiji Restoration was a time of great change in Japan. In the Japanese language, Meiji-ishin is the term for Meiji Restoration. The term describes a number of events that took place in the politics and society of Japan that changed the shape of Japan’s political and social systems. These changes took place mainly during three years - from 1866 to 1869.

At that time (1866), Tokugawa Shogunate was ruling Japan. In the year 1866, two leaders came together under an alliance. The name of this alliance was the Sat-cho Alliance. The name of the first leader was Saigo Takamori. He was the leader of the Satsuma Province. The second leader was Kido Takayoshi who was the leader of the Choshu and a person named Sakamoto Ryoma brought the two leaders together. These two leaders supported the Emperor of Japan who, at the time, did not have much power. With their support the emperor could regain much of his power. Tokugawa Shogunate’s rule ended on 9th November 1867, but they still retained some authority and power. In 1868, an army of forces from Satsuma Province and Choshu defeated the forces of Tokugawa Shogunate and with this the power of Tokugawa Shogunate ended completed.

The leaders of the Meiji Restoration acted in the name of Japan’s emperor, to restore (that is, to return) the emperor’s powers. But, the leaders also kept to themselves a number of powers. In fact, even after Meiji Restoration, an oligarchy had the real power who ruled in the name of the emperor. In plain words, an oligarchy means a group of people who have the real powers.

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan’s progress was fast. Its industry developed rapidly and within next three to four decades (by 1905) Japan had become a military power, comparable to any other of the time.


Teenager Meiji Emperor with foreign representatives 1868 1870
A teenage Emperor Meiji with foreign representatives at the end of the Boshin War, 1868-1870.

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