When I think of Japan now, I think of a hyper-kinetic, consumer culture. I think of anime and cool gadgets. I think of techno music and intense, intricate RPGs. Is this even a shadow of Japans former self? Would Japanese people from 70 years ago recognize their country at all today?
Those more knowledgeable than I, and not as close to their bedtime will likely be along before long with better answers.
Japan had cut itself off from the rest of the world for a couple of centuries (I believe there was some limited trading allowed with, IIRC, Dutch traders at one posrt in the south) when Commodore Perry arrived in 1853. So, they’d kinda been frozen in time.
Things happened quickly after Perry’s visit. The Meiji Restoration set the stage for the political frameset of Japan’s entry into the 20th Century. Within a half century they had progressed from a near medieval feudal state relying on centuries old technology and the shugons’ local rule to the point of defeating a major European power (Russia) in modern naval warfare.
What was life like? Thinly veiled anarchy was the state of the government, as the Army and the Navy wrestled for control of Japan’s recently awakened desire to get it’s piece of the imperial pie, while still holding it all together with acknowledgement of the Emperor as the divine deity. Most of Japan was still an agrarian/fishing society at this point. While a class structure did exist, upward mobility was accessible through a military career.
The urban/industrial transformation did not really occur until after WWII. I lived there as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, and the change between the decades was notable, but when I see contemporary material from Japan on social life, I see that it has changed yet more. A book that is dated, but addresses the change is Country to City: the urbanization of a Japanese hamlet.
Older Japanese I’ve known, including some who lived through the war, are a bit aspin with modern Japanese culture.
To bed now.