In the transition of Japan into the modern world, the role of those who first introduced the techniques, institutions, and ideas of the West deserves special attention. Performing the service of what Toynbee has called “the human counterpart of the ‘transformer,’” these were the men who learned the secrets of a foreign civilization and adapted them to their own community to enable it to adjust its life to the intrusive Western society. To some degree the whole leadership of Meiji Japan carried out this function, for soon after the Restoration the pursuit and application of knowledge from the West was made official policy. For the most part the military and political leaders were concerned with the mastery of Western military techniques and administrative and economic forms. But among the intelligentsia there were those who performed the broader task of learning and teaching the manners and morals, customs, and beliefs of European society. As advocates of Westernization they were important agents of change before as well as after the Restoration.

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