Many foreign people and Japanese people confuse original Shinto and State Shinto. The origin of State Shinto dates back to 1853, during the late Edo period, when four modern steam ships of the U.S. Navy came to Uraga port and demanded that the Japanese feudal government open ports for logistics and start trade. The Tokugawa Shogunate had information through a letter from the King of the Netherlands that some Asian countries and South and Central American countries had been colonized by Western powers. The Shogunate, taking into account the world situation from a broad perspective, signed the Amity and Commerce treaties on its own authority, and thus effectively opened the country to the outside world.
Some warriors who opposed this decision carried out terrorist attacks and assassinations, which led to turbulence between those who agreed with the opening of the country and those who opposed the opening and the accepting of foreigners in Japan. This anti-opening movement was partly caused by the ideology of "Revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians." It was based on the Mito school that flourished in the Mito domain, whose family lords were distantly related to the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Moreover, Emperor Komei and court nobles in Kyoto objected to the opening of the country, which was another major factor. Opposition to the opening of the country became a catalyst combining strong lords and court nobles, both of whom were dissatisfied with the regime itself, and finally the Tokugawa Shogun retuned political power to the emperor.
Britain colonized Asian countries along maritime coastlines one after another, as if replacing the U.S. which temporally had to halt its advance into Asia due to its Civil War. Britain was ceded Hong Kong by the Qing dynasty of China after victory in the Opium War, then headed to Japan and joined the struggle for supremacy to colonize Japan under the pretext of trade. However, the British judged that ruling Japan by force was a challenging task, because there was a bushi warrior class in Japan and providing war logistics to the island country would be difficult. Accordingly, Britain changed its strategy to "divide and rule."
The Satsuma clan, one of the clans that had a longstanding grudge against the Tokugawa Shogunate, opposed the establishment of diplomatic relations with foreign countries and acceptance of foreigners at first when the U.S. ships came, and created an incident by slaying British nationals at Namamugi in Yokohama, Kanagawa Pref., because the British had obstructed a daimyo procession. In retaliation, Britain dispatched a fleet and attacked the Satsuma clan in southern Kyushu. Defeated thoroughly and recognizing the overwhelming nature of Britain's naval power, the Satsuma clan completely reversed their opposition to opening of the country, and secretly started trading with Britain, while paying compensation to it. Eventually, the clan began to scheme to overthrow the regime, collaborating with other pro-country-opening clans and also involving court nobles who were dissatisfied with the regime.
There is a flip side to everything; anything can be considered to be good or also bad, depending on which side is focused on and which perspective it is seen from. At the end of the 19th century, Western countries thought they could make enormous profit in South America and Asian countries, which they regarded as lagging in modernization, by producing in them various products for export, including spices and silk and also by introducing their own country's civilization and financial system. To the extent that the advanced countries placed great weight on national profit, colonizing the undeveloped countries by force and financial domination was natural from the perspective of international society of that time.
The colonization in that era was usually carried out according to the following process. First, the Western countries started by establishing a relationship with the royal family or government as they called at port for water and food for ships, started trade, and stationed of consuls and missionaries.
Then, they took the talented local youth to their own country for study and other purposes, financially supported. They show these youth the modern civilization of their country and talk about the importance of modernization, and teach legal, political, monetary, and financial systems. Such youth who had witnessed first-hand the modernized countries would then work hard for their own country's modernization even at the risk of their life after they returned to the home country. And, the Western countries would back them up with the intention of installing a puppet regime. This is a national strategy to collapse a country from within when it is difficult to overwhelm it by force, and it is, in some ways, a common foreign policy practice even today.
Japan was considered to be an undeveloped country from the perspective of the Western countries, so they naturally employed this diplomatic strategy. Lower-class worriers of Satsuma clan went to the Britain without the Shogunate's permission when ordinary people were banned from going overseas. The young warriors felt overwhelmed by the modernized Western countries and started working hard for Japan's modernization later when they returned to the country. Certainly, aspirations of these people, who went abroad at much risk, studied hard, and made every effort for modernization, are worthy of admiration, and Japan's modernization was achieved much earlier than other Asian countries thanks to them.
As a merchant, however, I try to understand history with shrewd eyes that notice who makes bundles behind the scenes, based on historical facts that are undeniable, not the history written by "winners." In that sense, we should know there were some powers that clandestinely provided weapons and funds, and in the process obtained rights and concessions, when Japan went through a bitter civil war in the 19th century, established the Meiji Government and modernized the country.
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