HomeLUMINAvol. 22 no. 1 (2011)

Fostering Innovations and Technological Development during the Meiji: Some Observations on the Adaptability of Japanese Culture

Josefino C. Sianghio

Discipline: Social Science, Cultural Studies, Anthropological Science



The article deals with how Japanese culture―language and education in particular―facilitated the diffusion of foreign technology during the Meiji, one of the most important periods in Japanese history. It gives examples of some aspects of Japanese culture that favored the entry of foreign technology during Japan’s Westernization and modernization periods. These two processes also shaped Japan’s educational system, and explain sociologically the nature of Japanese culture.

Focusing on language, the article gives some historical explanations of how the linguistic capability of the Japanese developed. It describes how such capability helped foster technological transfer and eventually brought about the economic and technological growth of Japan during the Meiji and beyond.

Using culture as an explanatory variable for technology transfer has limitations in accounting for the real factors behind the successful diffusion of technology from the West to Japan. Nevertheless, the article highlights many instances of cultural adaptability in the history of Japan’s technological development.

This article examines the adaptability of the Japanese to adapt to influences brought about by modern Western technology. It suggests the advantage of an ingenious or practical ability to adjust to change without losing one’s sense of identity or balance. It argues that the adaptability of Japanese culture shows in its ability to respond to changing conditions, make innovations, and, at the same time, maintain its Japaneseness.