The Meiji period was a period of revolution on many social aspects including the removal of the caste system, however, fragments of the influences of the Meiji leaders’ past experience as lowered-status samurai bureaucrats can still be found within the policies enforced by the Meiji leaders in the new period.
For instance, there was the core idea of Fukoku Kyohei, meaning building a civilization centralizing the idea of “Rich country, strong army”. And as a result of this idea, the removal of the caste system and the conscription campaign was established by the Meiji leaders to build a strong army. Furthermore, they encourage common educations that focuses on educating children the patriotic spirit as known as the Gunjin Chokuyu. And aggressively promoting the notion of Ryosai Kenbo. All these policies showcase how the Meiji leaders’ ideology and value are greatly influenced by their previous experience as members of the former class system.It should be no surprise that a part of the ultimate goal of Fukoku Kyohei is to create a strong army and rich nation since most Meiji leaders were former samurai that was impoverished.
It is inevitable these former warriors would have the stereotypical thought of militarism and favors the removal of the class system. Recalls that part of the Meiji leaders’ goal was to create a “rich country”, and while the samurai class specifically consumes a huge chunk of the states’ revenues, they gave back relatively little value for their expensive costs. Additionally, now as leaders of Japan, these former lower-status samurai whom experiences poverty as members of this caste contributed to expropriate the samurai class as they receive nothing practical other than respect from other 3 class in the past. Moreover, the Meiji leaders’ past experience with “black ships of Perry” incidents, made the Meiji leadership came to believe that modern warfare depended more on large armies of disciplined recruits. They realized samurai are useless up against cannons and guns as a small group of an army. This not only strengthens the wills of removing the caste system but also led to the establishment of the conscription campaign in 1872. Following the removal of the class system and conscription campaign. One value the Meiji leaders tries to promote into the common people is the patriotic spirit, which is a sense of royalty and honor serving the state in the army.
As the former samurai, after the rebellion against the Tokugawa government, the Meiji leaders is further encouraged by the idea of shifting public focus from the individual to the state. As a result, the Meiji leaders came to the conclusion that the school curriculum should include lectures on the Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors to not only encourages youths to serve the emperor with loyalty and valor. But also inculcating the martial spirit among the children through establishing universal educations.
This enforcement of idea clearly showcases how the Meiji leaders’ decision is being affected by their past experience as warrior bureaucrats. Furthermore, another value the Meiji leader’s tries to promote among the common society specifically towards females is the idea of Ryosai Kenbo, meaning “good wife and wise mother”. The new expectation towards females is asking women to be educated in order to become a wise mother and raise children that well fitted for the new era and work at home as a good wife.
And through this promotion, it is clear to identify how this ideal is composed of the Meiji leaders’ past experience with samurai wives. When they expect females to remain at home and focus only on being a “good wife” and later a “wise mother” at an older age. In conclusion, most policies adopted by the Meiji leaders all reflect a certain degree of influences from their past experience as lower-status samurai. For instance, the idea of Fukoku meaning “rich country” demonstrates their revulsion towards poverty that originated from their experience as impoverished warrior bureaucrats. And it is what motivated them to remove the class system as the samurai class hinders enriching the country. Following that was the idea of Kyohei, meaning “strong army”. And as the result, both the conscription campaign along with the promotion of patriotic spirit reflects their samurai bureaucrats’ style of thinking.
Additionally, the traditional notion of Ryosai Kenbo is also carried over into the Meiji period and established by the Meiji leader. Hence, it is clear that the decisions, policies, and ideologies of the Meiji leader are greatly influenced by their past experience as lower-status samurai. ?