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What effect did Western Imperialism have on Japan?

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Michael Koren eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Westward imperialism impacted Japan. The Japanese had been closed to world trade until the 1850s. The United States, under the command of Commodore Matthew Perry, helped to open Japan to world trade. While Japan was never colonized by the western imperial powers, they realized that they would be foolish to resist the western desire to open their country to world trade.

Japan was really helped by opening their country to world trade. Japan realized it needed to become more modern if it wanted to be a world power. Japan did become an industrialized nation, and it eventually became a world power. Japan was able to learn from the western imperial powers. This impacted their development in positive ways.

Japan was unhappy with the some of the results of the Washington Naval Conference. Japan didn’t like the Five-Power Naval Limitation Treaty because Japan was allowed to have only three warships for every five that Great Britain and the United States were allowed to have. Japan felt it was being treated as an unequal second-class citizen by the western imperial powers with the provisions of this agreement. This helped to motivate Japanese aggression in the 1930s.

Japan benefited significantly from western imperialism.

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Kelli Beard, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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When Europeans were expanding their colonies around the world, Japan made the decision to isolate itself and limit exports as a way of protecting Japanese culture from dilution or western takeover.  Ultimately, Japan opened its borders when American Admiral Perry sailed into Edo Bay (modern-day Tokyo) and shocked Japan with America's superior naval technology and weapons.  Perry demanded that Japan open its ports to American trade; other countries were not as lucky, and were colonized by European powers.  Japan however was not colonized, but saw no choice but to open its borders to trade with other nations.

Westernization ended up benefitting Japan.  While some cultural elements were made unnecessary, like the samurai warriors, other aspects of Japanese culture thrived with goods and ideas from the West.  

The Meiji Restoration followed Japan's ended isolation.  Under the Meiji government, the government was recentralized and the feudal period ended.  Samurais became bureaucrats who studied under Western economic and political schools of thought.  The Japanese military, which was no match for Admiral Perry's fleet, enforced conscription, where every male had to serve in the military for at least 5 years.  This effectively abolished the samurai class, as specialized warriors were no longer necessary.  Rapid industrialization was funded; Japan wanted to catch up to the West in terms of technology and industry.  Also like Western Europeans, Japan engaged in imperialism, taking over Korea and later the Manchuria region of China.  With better technology and nutrition from expansion, colonization, and industrialization, the Japanese population boomed.  Unlike other nations, Japan managed to industrialize without a major social revolution, making westernization in Japan unique.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In many ways, Western imperialism actually helped Japan.  Since Japan was pushed by the West but was never actually conquered, Western imperialism served to force Japan to modernize.  Because Japan was pushed and threatened by the West, it became the first non-European country to industrialize.

The major impact of Western imperialism on Japan came when Admiral Perry "opened" Japan to trade in 1854.  This action on Perry's part shocked Japan.  Japan's leaders had believed that their country was superior to all others until they were shown otherwise by the technology that Perry brought to bear on them.

Japan was not, however, actually colonized.  Instead, Japan simply opened up to Western contact.  When it did, it promptly started to borrow from the West.  It quickly adopted Western ways of production and of military and political organization.  This modernization, which was forced by Western imperialism, allowed Japan to become an international power.

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