It was in this period that capitalism arose in Europe and the policy of national seclusion was adopted in Japan.
Philip II and Toyotomi Hideyoshi
The societies of Japan and Europe moved in diametrically opposite directions in the early modern era. While Europe developed an outward-looking open economic system, Japan adopted an inward-looking closed economic system. This difference is closely connected to the intense relationships with the sea that both Western Europe and Japan experienced in the early modern period.
Philip II_s victory in the Battle of Lepan to strengthened Europe_s oceanic orientation. The Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1527_1598), who died in the same year as Philip II (1537?_1598), failed in his attempts to invade Korea in 1592 and 1597, reversing Japan_s oceanic orientation and turning it in upon itself. In their experiences with the sea, Europe was the victor and Japan the loser. However, in spite of this clear difference, the relationship with the sea gave birth to a phenomenon common to both regions: sharing the same time and space, they experienced similar economic crises to which they found similar solutions. The time was the sixteenth century, the space was maritime Asia. the crisis was the outflow of the materials used for minting currency, and the solution was the development of the first production-oriented economic societies in human history. Both Western Europe and Japan thus underwent production revolutions and succeeded in escaping from their dependence on Asia. This requires further explanation.
The Escape from Dependence on Asia
Following the resurgence of commerce in Europe and the appearance of Japanese pirates in the seas surrounding Japan, all manner of goods flowed into Europe and Japan from maritime Asia in increasing quantities. Europe paid for these goods with gold and silver from the New World, while Japan paid for them with gold, silver and copper. Since there was great demand in both Europe and Japan for goods from maritime Asia, these imports continued over a long period during which gold, silver and copper flowed out of these regions into Asia. This situation gave rise to economic crises in Europe and Japan. In the first half of the early modern period, mercantilist policies were adopted in Europe and measures were taken in Japan to restrict the reminting of coins and the outflow of gold, silver and copper. However, these were not radical countermeasures.
The final solution to this problem was to produce these imported goods domestically. As a result of production revolutions which took off around 1800, both Western Europe and Japan eliminated the need to import Asian products and achieved self-sufficiency. What was the historical significance of this? It gave them economic independence which enabled them to escape from dependence on Asia. Through these production revolutions at both ends of the Eurasian Continent, Europe achieved independence from maritime Islam (the Indian Ocean region dominated by the Arabs in their dhows) and Japan achieved independence from maritime China (the China Sea region dominated by the Chinese in their junks).
The Emergence of Production-Based Society
Finally, I would like to briefly consider the transformation of society from a theoretical viewpoint. The aggregate of the materials utilized by human beings in order to live in society may be termed the _product complex._ This product complex is the basis upon which human beings organize their lives, i.e. their culture. In other words, culture is the superstructure and the product complex the substructure of society. The product complex imposes limitations on both material and spiritual life. When an unknown cultural element is continuously brought into an existing culture/product complex, a conflict occurs between the uses of imported and indigenous goods, resulting in cultural friction. When the use of new imported goods expands continuously, the existing culture/product complex changes from a state conducive to life to a yoke that constricts it.