Japan’s Struggle with the Past for the Future

Rebecca Graf
6 min readAug 7, 2018

A New World

A nation rich in history, Japan has found itself in a new world with news rules. The world has grown significantly smaller economically, politically, and technologically.

Since the West made its presence known in the East rapid changes have come upon the ancient land. With it has come the need to re-identify itself. This has come to mean for Japan a struggle in balancing nationalist pride and facing the mistakes of the past.

Beginning of an Identity Crisis

Beginning in the Tokugawa period that stretched from the 1600s into the late 1800s, the struggles of modern Japan found itself. In the later years of the period, warriors who had found their entire sense of self-worth in what they did “suffered a troubling identity crisis.”

The need for established tradition was fading fast. With the West coming into the picture, Japan was finding itself “inadequate to deal with new pressures at home and from outside.” Unrest and confusion faced the Japanese. This added to the decline of the Tokugawa power.

Western Influence

As the increase presence of Western merchants and politicians became evident, so did the realization that Japan’s world was about to change. With each new ship that entered Japan’s harbors from the West, it became evident that they were “powerful symbols” of the “capitalist and nationalist revolutions” that were changing Europe and “reaching beyond to transform the world.” This added fuel to the unrest and confusion in Japan giving it a chance to overthrow the Tokugawa and reach out for something else.


With the whispers of overthrowing the Tokugawa came official diplomatic relations with the West that only added to the distress of Japan. Trying to pull away from the world encroaching on them, Japan tried an isolationist policy. This worked to some degree until the early 1800s when the Dutch sent word that Japan could not remain that way.

The world was changing whether Japan liked it or not. Japan could no longer remain outside world politics and economics as “the commercial networks and diplomatic order that the Western powers were spreading…



Rebecca Graf

Writer for ten years, lover of education, and degrees in business, history, and English. Striving to become a Renassiance woman. www.writerrebeccagraf.com