Europeanism is a policy (a policy of Europeanization) which the Meiji Government implemented to make an impression on Western countries by modernizing Japan, that is to say, by Europeanizing Japanese things, regulations, folkways, and customs in Japan in 1880s, and an active movement of thought and folkways of the times related to the policy.
A Policy of Europeanization
They, led by Kaoru INOUE, Gaimukyo (chief of Foreign Ministry, the later Minister of Foreign Affairs [in Japan]), attempted to get recognized as part of civilized nations, regarded as subject to international law by Europeanizing Japanese culture in tandem with work on the compilation of a legal code such as The Constitution of Japan to achieve the revision of a treaty.
The representative example was Rokumeikan (Pavilion of the Deer's Cry) completed in 1881. INOUE himself acted as host to Rokumeikan and held rites and festivals such as an evening party gathering the peerages, high officials of the government, and the diplomacy corps. It was also planned to build a large-scale authority's town like the Prussian Kingdom in Hibiya though it did not come off. Additionally, concerning a cultural aspect, activities of 'improvement' were actively addressed by the government and the people in harmony, and the 'Romaji Club' (supporting the use of Romaji [Roman alphabet]) by Ryokichi YATABE and Masakazu TOYAMA, and the 'Engeki Kairyo Kai' (Society for Theatre Reform) by Eichi SHIBUSAWA and Arinori MORI were set up in 1883, and another thing, a movement for creating academic societies became popular to imitate Europe and America. The Vernacular Movement headed by persons such as Bimyo YAMADA occurred around that time.
A Background of A Policy of Europeanization
In a very real sense, a background of a continuous policy of Europeanization was not merely 'the adoration of foreign countries' but also the measurable situation of the times, in which the Meiji Government felt a so srtong sense of danger for Japan's international status being extremely low at the time, that they could not take time to choose the means for improvement. Kaoru INOUE actually noticed the fact that Japanese were treated as 'exotic beasts' as half undeveloped species judged from the appearances in Europe as he visited there many times (in fact, the early study of Japan in Europe and America fell into the categories of cultural anthropology and ethnology, and they were considered as the research object as the different race). INOUE and Hirobumi ITO found the truth that Japanese could not be recognized as a respectable partner of diplomatic negotiations until they showed the people abroad that they kept the same level of culture as Europe and America to avoid such treatment. Erwin von Bälz wrote that he was refuted by ITO's opinion, "Japanese women may be 'treated like dolls' without being seen as human beings by Wetern people as they appears wearing wafuku (Japanese traditional clothes like kimono)" when he retorted about Europeanizing women's costume.
However, in practice, the public estimation of Japan in Western countries obviously changed after the policy of Europeanization. In 1882, Shuzo AOKI, who had accompanied Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito visiting Europe, sent a letter to ITO to tell him that he felt resentful about the cold shoulder the Imperial Prince received at the place where they stayed in, different from the treatment of a member of other European royal family, and on the other hand, in 1886, Yoshitane SANNOMIYA, who had traveled with Imperial Prince Komatsunomiya Akihito spending time in Europe, also sent a letter to ITO to let him know that he was moved by the kind treatment same as a member of the other European royal family where they stopped by.
Europeanism and Nationalism
At the same time, this movement of Europeanization later made a fat target for attacks by right and left wings of an antigovernment party as it was domestically considered as 'aristocratic-ism' or 'Europeanization from above,' under the oppression of Jiyu Minken Undo (Movement for Liberty and People's Right) and under the circumstance of the serious deflation caused by the Matsukata Finance. The party of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement accused of the government's claiming on the 'economic difficulties' though they spent taxes for Rokumeikan siphoned off from the people on unnecessary expenses. People of the Minyusha (Friends of the Nation) including Soho TOKUTOMI, who insisted on Heimin Shugi (commoner-ism), advocated the 'Europeanization from below' by criticizing 'Aristocratic Europeanism' for being nonproductive. Furthermore, nationalists such as the conservatives of the Imperial Court or Setsurei MIYAKE of Seikyo-sha also attacked the government by adding the criticism for treaty revision negotiation such as hiring foreign judges INOUE proceeded with, and people around Sanetomi SANJO known as the Minister of the Interior (including Michitomi HIGASHIKUZE, Hisamoto HIJIKATA, and Saburo OZAKI) or even Kowashi INOUE and Tateki TANI, who were the important persons of the government, joined them. In addition, even a rumor went around that government officials sexually assaulted women in the fancy ball (according to the record of Michitsune MISHIMA) because they were accused of holding a costume ball in the prime minister's official residence on April 20 despite the death of Imperial Princess Shizuko HISANOMIYA on April 4, 1887, (in fact, they merely let a venue for the dance at the request of the minister to Britain), and were also accused of taking place Tenran Kabuki (Kabuki the royal family attend to watch) in the house of Kaoru INOUE on April 26. Although it was a simply baseless political aspersion on ITO who conducted the compilation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan as a prime minister, the conservatives or Minkenha (a group for democratic movement) made active use of such rumor as materials for attacks on the First Ito Cabinet.
Consequently, the critical situation of ITO himself or his Cabinet then was called 'the crisis in Meiji 20' (in 1887)
ITO cleaned things up by replacing TANI and INOUE with Shigenobu OKUMA and Kiyotaka KURODA under unavoidable circumstances. Nevertheless, after OKUBO, who stayed on as foreign minister in the following KURODA Cabinet, had failures in the revision of a treaty as he encountered terrorist explosions, Europeanism declined in an instant and Nationalism gained power.
Having said that, however, the Constitution of the Empire of Japan had already been established then and Japan's international status was gradually getting high without depending on a shell of 'Europeanization.'