Japan's rapid rise as an economic power in the 20th century, was to a certain extent due to its ability to efficiently assimilate aspects of western society, while retaining its cultural identity and values. But Japan's economic miracle was predominately due to the industrial modernization that took place in the Meiji Restoration and the post war restrictions imposed by the American occupational forces after WW2 .
Although it was after WW2 that Japan was formerly recognized as a world power, the beginnings of Japan's reform and acceptance by the western nations came about through the Meiji restoration (1867-1912) a period of modernization that was believed by many of Japan's leaders as essential for the country's survival in the modern era.
The modernization and reform focused primarily in the areas of industry, government and education, and Japan was determined to catch up and eventually surpass the western nations.
"Indeed the first 2 decades of the Emperor Meiji's reign saw a Japan to all appearances intoxicated with the strong wine of Western thought, technique and custom" -Richard Storry 1969, A history of modern Japan, Penguin.
The astonishing speed in which the restoration came about can be attributed to the Japanese belief system of hard work and stressed importance on the group unit, which originated in the cultural teachings of Confucianism. Combined with this cultural attitude, Japan's modernisation took place in the span of a few years.
During the Meiji restoration Japan also underwent a period of rapid industrial expansion. The Government established major mines factories and transportation systems and sold them off to Japan's most powerful families, commonly known as the "Zaibatsu" (private companies) The Zaibatsu remained the main driving force for Japans economy and provided the ground work for the rebuilding of Japan after its defeat in WW2.
Major reforms also took place in Japan's government structure.