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Fukuzawa Yukichi, the leading advocate of reform in the early Meiji period, wrote in his widely read essay published in 1875, An Outline of Civilization, that the overriding concern with power was the defining characteristic of Japanese society: “Comparison of Japanese civilization with Western civilization reveals that the greatest difference between the two is this imbalance of power.” (Japan Rising 43) The new Meiji leaders responded to the challenge of the international system not with resistance, but with a marked realism, pragmatism, and opportunism. As a result, the Japanese alone among Asian peoples accommodated quickly to the norms, principles, and mores of the imperialist system. Recognizing and respecting the superior power of the Western nations, Japan’s new leaders were determined to play by the rules of the game, adapt them to their own purposes, and rise within the existing system (Japan Rising 75) Japan, in effect, apprenticed itself to the West—except that its citizens were motivated largely by an instrumental use of their borrowings. And, of course, the Meiji “Westenizers” were anti -Western in their purpose. For them, westernization was a means to an anti-Western end. By adopting the techniques and institutions of Western society they hope to eliminate all manifestations of Western power, especially the unequal treaties, from their country. (Japan Rising 102)
Japan followed a bifocal approach to borrowing foreign ideas and developing its higher education system, looking both to the foreign models and to its own earlier patterns of university development. This window-shopping approach with the West for ideas about academic development abled Japan to borrow a number of higher education ideas from other countries and adapt them to suit Japanese national needs (Foreign Influences on Japanese and Chinese higher education: A comparative analysis)
Education was primarily provided by the study of Chinese writings, especially the Confucian classics; its purpose was chiefly to develop moral character, both as an absolute human duty and also to better fulfill the samurai’s function in society; a secondary purpose was to gain from the classics that knowledge of men and affairs and of the principles of government which was also necessary for the proper performance of the samurai’s duties. The private school Keio Shijuku (later named Gijuku), founded by a pioneer of western culture, Fukuzawa Yukichi, was the preeminent private institution at the end of the Tokugawa period, and educated many of the future leaders from the samurai class recruited from throughout the country. As such it had the opportunity to greatly influence the initial standards of education for the leadership class in the Meiji period Fukuzawa made a critical decision from the outset. In the One Hundred Year History of the institution, the purpose of his school was simply described as the pursuit of western studies through texts from America and Britain This greatly influenced the education of the next generation of Meiji leaders The subject matter in his classroom had been drastically transformed from Confucian studies to modern western studies Keio students, however, stood out from other private and public school students through the particular influence of Fukuzawa. They were taught, either through western books chosen by Fukuzawa or through his lectures, the concepts of equality, freedom, and independence that he championed through his bestselling books familiar to all his students. They were encouraged to apply these unfamiliar concepts in their daily lives. Key leaders realized early on that the nation could not advance without achieving a scientific level comparable to that in the West. In particular the need for advanced military technology to protect the country from potential foreign invaders during the period of colonialism haunted policy makers. The realization that the military power of the West developed from and depended upon modern social and political institutions stimulated a more comprehensive approach. The school inexorably became deeply involved in broader investigations of the
and Fukuzawa was sent to Nagasaki and then to Ogata’s school in Osaka for the so -called Dutch studies. It was the year after Perry’s arrival. the Japanese grew increasingly aware of their lagging position in the changing world The appearance of superior Western technology—in the form of steam-powered naval vessels—forced the leaders of imperial Japan to abandon their policies of isolation Leaders were quick to realize that to avoid succumbing to a Western power. The term Meiji Restoration is applied not only to the events leading up to the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate. economics. a decade after the fall of the feudal government.West that attracted students and faculty who had a wider perspective beyond military affairs. But when he realized that the new Meiji government was receptive to reform proposals. a series of reforms was promulgated that established constitutional government and put Japan on the road to industrialization. Japan’s new leaders drew heavily for inspiration on the ideas and instituti ons of Western societies With foreign nations approaching Eastern shores more frequently during this time. economics. education. has been regarded as a great contributor to the introduction of Western organizations. and philosophy Born into a family of lower samurai form the province of Buzen in northern Kyushu. requiring sweeping. Being that up to that time only limited contact with the western world through the Dutch was permitted by Japan. the failure was more often seen as a cultural one. government. military science. Fukuzawa and other Japanese specialists in the Dutch language were employed to carry out the investigation of ‘Dutch studies” (rangaku). education. medicine. . Fukuzawa as a young man evidently chafed under the restrictions of the feudal hierarchy His chance to leave Nakatsu came in 1854 when he was nineteen years old. For more than two decades. the whole tenor of his writings changed. which eventually facilitated the transition of Japan to a modern country in the Meiji period He had assessed that these activities represented an attempt to transfer ideas from the enlightenment movement being experienced in the West to Japan Fukuzawa took no active part in the Restoration. and so on. they would have to become both militarily and economically powerful and that developing such power would require technological sophistication As the magnitude of Western military superiority came to be understood. geography. with the founding of Tokyo University.22 The training of modern scientists became a prime objective of the Meiji government from 1877. which included the translation and study of Western works on science. but also the whole cluster of reforms that followed. politics. As they groped for alternatives to the old order. The emphasis on western military technology was expanded to include politics. fundamental reforms Fukuzawa Yukichi was the leading proponent of this line of thought The activities of Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835-1901) who was founder of Keio University. from 1868 down to 1890.” These studies allowed Japanese to be exposed to Western technology and ideas. which thereby opened a new “window to the West. law. and other subjects.
and authoritarian government As an educator. or in industry. Fukuzawa held almost limitless hope for the future Japanese enlightenment and stressed the cultural example of the West Because universal laws of nature governed human behavior. attacked Confucianism. he began vigorously urging the adoption of Western values and institutions and the fundamental transformation of Japanese culture Fukuzawa argued that one could not cling to Confucian ethics and acquire an understanding of Western science. He therefore. because the former carried with it an attitude toward nature and society that was irreconcilable with scientific habits of thought The essence of modern civilization. and advisor to politicians. newspaper editor. in other words. in commerce. progress in the same way that Western nations had Progress. he contended. it was determined by universal forces of historic development rather than by the particular trends of national history Civilization in the West had progressed further along this universal path of development and therefore it could be looked to as an example . if it developed in accord with these laws. Japan could. in techniques. Instead of merely recording information about Western society. All that Japan as to be proud of…is its scenery. was found in the cultivation of individual qualities of independence. form the smallest to the largest matter…there is not one thing which we excel…. he exercised immense influence over the generation of Japanese that opened the country and rebuilt its institutions Fukuzawa wrote of this sweeping rejection of his heritage: “If we compared the knowledge of the Japanese and Westerners in letters. was unilinear.In Japan’s present condition there is nothing in which we may take pride vis -à-vis the West. throughout his writings. and self-reliance He went on to explain that a young man’s position in society should be determined by his grasp of utilitarian knowledge.” Despite this thorough rejection of Japanese civilization. initiative. traditional education.