The Meiji Restoration of 1868, unquestionably the most important event in modern Japanese history, brought in its wake social and economic changes of a revolutionary nature. With the overthrow of the Tokugawa bakufu, the subsequent abolition of the han system, the equalization of classes, and the establishment of a conscript army, the need for a hereditary military class ceased to exist. Certainly, the presence of a samurai class, numbering approximately 1,800,000, or 400,000 families, stranded in a society in process of divesting itself of all feudal fetters, constituted an acute problem. The continued existence of this vast army of unemployed retainers could have easily hamstrung all efforts to modernize. And it is hardly surprising that the new Meiji leaders realized at the inception of the new regime that if the work of the Restoration was to be completed successfully, it was necessary to work out a satisfactory settlement for the samurai class.

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