Meiji Restoration

On the far left is Ito Hirobumi of Choshu Domain, and on the far right is Okubo Toshimichi of Satsuma Domain. The two young men in the middle are the sons of the Satsuma clan daimyo. These young samurai contributed to the resignation of the Tokugawa shogunate to restore imperial rule.

Throughout Japan at the time, the samurai numbered 1.9 million. For comparison, this was more than 10 times the size of the French privileged class before the 1789 French Revolution. Moreover, the samurai in Japan were not merely the lords, but also their higher retainers—people who actually worked. With each samurai being paid fixed stipends, their upkeep presented a tremendous financial burden, which may have prompted the oligarchs to action.

To reform the military, the government instituted nationwide conscription in 1873, mandating that every male would serve for four years in the armed forces upon turning 21 years old, followed by three more years in the reserves. One of the primary differences between the samurai and peasant classes was the right to bear arms; this ancient privilege was suddenly extended to every male in the nation. Furthermore, samurai were no longer allowed to walk about town bearing a sword or weapon to show their status.

However, it is equally true that the majority of samurai were content despite having their status abolished. Many found employment in the government bureaucracy, which resembled an elite class in its own right. The samurai, being better educated than most of the population, became teachers, gun makers, government officials, and/or military officers. While the formal title of samurai was abolished, the elitist spirit that characterized the samurai class lived on.

Allegory of the New fighting the Old, in early Japan Meiji, around 1870

With industrialization came the demand for coal. There was dramatic rise in production, as shown in the table below.

Coal was needed for steamships and railroads. The growth of these sectors is shown below.