1868! Japan experienced a dramatic historical transformation in this year of opportunity. It was the so-called Meiji Restoration. The political system changed to a constitutional monarchy centered on the emperor. For more than 700 years before that, the country had a military government (i.e., an administration under the control of samurai).
In those days, in the West, the Industrial Revolution began in various countries—mainly, the UK—because of the remarkable developments in science and technology. As these countries sought wealth, they began to expand into Asia to ensure market and resource growth. Western powers have negotiated many trade deals for decades with Japan in accordance with the opening of the country.
However, the national seclusion—a matter that the Tokugawa shogunate inherited and passed down from generation to generation—was absolutely followed. It was the shogunate’s policy to refuse to open the country based on Japanese national law. Therefore, the Tokugawa shogunate refused.
The fact that the neighboring country, the great power Qing, was defeated in the Opium War and became a semicolonial British country, had an extremely large impact on Japan at that time. Consequently, the shogunate withdrew the order to dispose of foreign vessels and issued a decree granting permission to provide only foreign vessels in distress with fuel and water in order to avoid an unnecessary war.
The shogunate’s foreign softening amid the sense of crisis presented by Western Europe’s expansion into Asia eventually became a major factor in the opening of the country. Each clan also made preparations to counter the threat of foreign powers.
Under these circumstances, the East India Squadron Commander-in-Chief Matthew Calbraith Perry was responsible for the opening of Japan to President Millard Fillmore. The purposes of opening included (1) securing fuel and food for whaling, (2) ensuring the safety of seafarers, (3) establishing a relationship with Japan as a port of call for China and other trade routes through the Pacific Ocean, and (4) fulfilling the Democratic Party’s Christian mission.
Perry obtained information about Japan and the Japanese (through NIPPON, written by Dr. Siebold, a German doctor who worked at the Dutch trading house in Nagasaki) before embarking on an expedition in Japan. Thus, he elaborately prepared for the opening of Japan.
In this way, Perry, who was very familiar with Japan and the Japanese tendency, did not recognize the Japanese national law indicated by the shogunate. He conducted gunboat diplomacy with the application of military pressure from the Black Ships fleet.
Finally, the shogunate concluded the treaty of peace and amity, realizing that the opening of the country was unavoidable. Since then, unequal trade treaties have been signed in succession with the Netherlands, Russia, Great Britain, and France, in addition to the United States.
In Japan, it was not only the shogunate that had no choice but to open the country. The forces that revered the emperor and tried to prevent and eliminate the tyranny of the Western powers and expel them expanded remarkably. This so-called Sonno Joi Movement promoted reverence for the emperor and the expulsion of foreigners. The pressure from Western powers to open the country caused a major disruption.
Accordingly, many patriots of the Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen domains, among others, stood up to make Japan a country that could not be defeated by the Western powers. The Choshu domain (as shown in Fig. 1) was at the forefront of the process. The precious blood of many young feudal retainers was shed in its central role in promoting major historical reforms in Japan. The evidence is seen in the many outstanding achievements in each field.
In Japan, the “fathers” of the Cabinet, diplomacy, Japanese industry, railways, money, modern military science, justice, electricity, Japanese woolen fabrics, modern Japanese painting, and modern architecture were Choshu-men (with hometowns in the present Yamaguchi Prefecture). Likewise, the first director of the Supreme Court (currently, the Secretary of the Supreme Court), the entrepreneur who laid the foundation for modern Japanese industry, the entrepreneur who developed Osaka’s infrastructure, the parent of the Japanese veterinary world, the pioneer of Japanese library administration, the general respected by enemy nations, and the ardent Christian and educator representing the early Meiji era were also Choshu-men. Furthermore, the total tenure of the Prime Minister from Choshu is overwhelming at 42.6 years (eight years for Tokyo, which is second), exceeding the tenure of all prime ministers by 31% as of June, 2021.
Why did Choshu-men contribute so many human resources? Why on earth? Surely, the activities of the Choshu-men have given us, who live in modern times, a great and irreplaceable treasure. In particular, the activities of Choshu-men before and after the Meiji Restoration are astonishing. What is the modern-day significance of the activities of the Choshu-men before and after the Meiji Restoration? How is human history flowing? What is the driving force behind it? This knowledge is necessary to understand the current world’s course.
The main purpose of this book and its successor is to provide essential answers to these questions from the perspective that human history is God’s providence to save humanity.