Role Of The Emperor In Meiji Japan

.. land to the Emperor. At first the new Meiji Rulers allied themselves with the Daimyo clans in opposition to the Tokugawa Shogun. But once the Meiji leaders had gained a control they saw that they would need to abolish the fief system and concentrate power in the hands of a central government. The Meiji rulers achieved their goals by having the Choshu, Satsuma, Tosa, and Hizen clans give up their lands, granting the Daimyos large pensions if they gave up their clans, and by having the Emperor issue two decrees in July 1869, and August 1871.Footnote30 The role and symbolism of the Emperor although not the sole factor in influencing the Daimyo to give up their fiefs, was vital.

The Meiji Oligarchs said that not turning in the fiefs to the Emperor would be disloyal and pointed to the historical record which Meiji scholars claimed showed that historically all fiefs were the property of the Emperor.Footnote31 They showed this by claiming that the Shogun would switch the rulers of fiefs and this proved that the Daimyos did not control the title to their land but merely held it for the Emperor. Imperial decrees and slogans of loyalty to the Emperor also accompanied the abolishment of the Samurai system.Footnote32 In the abolishment of both these feudal systems the symbolism of the Emperor as both the director of the initiative and recipient of the authority afterwards played a vital role in ensuring there success.Footnote33 The abolishment of fiefs and the samurai class were essential for the stability and industrialization of Japan.Footnote34 Without the concentration of land and power in the hands of the Meiji oligarchs and the Emperor the Meiji oligarchs feared they would receive opposition from powerful Daimyos and never gain control and authority over all of Japan. Historical examples bear out the fears of the Meiji Oligarchy; in 1467 the Ashikaga Shogun failed to control many of the fiefs and because of this a civil war raged in Japan.Footnote35 The centralization of power allowed the Meiji government to have taxing authority over all of Japan and pursue national projects.Footnote36 The unity of Japan also allowed the Meiji Oligarchs to focus on national and not local issues. The use of Confucianism and the Emperor also brought a degree of stability to Japan during the tumultuous Meiji years. The Emperor’s mere presence on a train or in western clothes were enough to convince the public of the safety or goodness of the Meiji oligarchy’s industrial policy. In one famous inezce the Japanese Emperor appeared in a train car and after that riding trains became a common place activity in Japan.

The behavior of the Imperial family was also critical to adoption of western cultural practices. Before 1873 most Japanese women of a high social position would shave their eyebrows and blacken their teeth to appear beautiful. But on March 3rd 1873 the Empress appeared in public wearing her own eyebrows and with unblackened teeth. Following that day most women in Tokyo and around Japan stopped shaving their eyebrows and blackening their teeth.Footnote37 The Imperial institution provided both a key tool to change Japanese culture and feelings about industrialization and it provided stability to Japan which was critical to allowing industrialists to invest in factories and increase exports and production.Footnote38 The symbols and the traditions the Meiji leaders inculcated Japanese society with helped the Meiji government maintain stability and pursue its economic policies but it also had severe limitations that limited the revolutionary scope of the Japanese government and helped bring about the downfall of the Meiji era. The use of Confucianism and the Emperor to bolster the Imperial restoration laid the foundation for a paradox of state affairs.

The system that sought to strengthen Japan through the use of modern technology and modern organization methods was using traditional values to further its goals.Footnote39 This caused some to turn toward the west for the “enlightenment” the Meiji era promised this was the case with Okuma who was eventually forced out of the increasing nationalist Genro.Footnote40 For others it lead them to severe nationalism rejecting all that was western. This was such the case of Saigo who believed till his death on his own sword that the Meiji leaders were hypocritical and were violating the Imperial Will by negotiating and trading with the west.Footnote41 The Meiji government used the same symbols and traditions that the Tokugawa used and like the Tokugawa gave the Emperor no decision making power. The Meiji Emperor although he had supreme power as accorded in the constitution never actually made decisions but was instead a pawn of the Meiji Genro who claimed to carry out his Imperial Will. This Imperial Will they decided for themselves. Like the Shogunate the Meiji governments claim to rule for the Emperor was fraught with problems.

The Imperial Will was a fluid idea that could be adopted by different parties under changing circumezces. And just like the Meiji rulers were able to topple the Shogun by claiming successfully that they were the true administrators of the Imperial Will; the militarist elements in the 1930’s were able to topple the democratic elements of Japan partially by claiming the mantle of ruling for the Emperor.Footnote42 From this perspective the Meiji Oligarchs building up of the Imperial Myth was a fatal flaw in the government. The constitution which says in article I, “The empire of Japan shall be governed over by a line of Emperors unbroken for ages eternal” gave to whoever was acting on the Imperial Will absolute right to govern.Footnote43 The symbols of the Emperor and the tradition of Confucianism did not end with the end of the Meiji era or world war two. Today the idea of filial piety is still strong, multiple generations of a family still usually live together even in cramped Japanese housing. The religion of Shinto that the Meiji leaders rejuvenated during their rule in order to help foster the imperial cult is still thriving as the thousands of Tori gates and Shrines around Japan attest.Footnote44 But the most striking symbol to survive is that of the Emperor stripped after world war two of all power the Emperor of Japan is still revered.

During the illness of Emperor Showa in 1989 every national newspaper and television show was full of reports related to the Emperor’s health. During the six months the Showa Emperor was sick before he died all parades and public events were canceled in respect for the Emperor. Outside the gates of the Imperial palace in Tokyo long tables were set up where people lined up to sign cards to wish the Emperor a speedy recovery. The news media even kept the type of illness the emperor had a secret in deference to the Emperor. At his death after months of illness it was as if the Imperial Cult of the Meiji era had returned. Everything in Japan closed down , private television stations went as far as to not air any commercials on the day of his death. And now almost six years after his death more then four hundred and fifty thousand people trek annually to the isolated grave site of Emperor Showa.Footnote45 The traditions and symbolism of Confucianism and the Emperor were critical to the Meiji oligarchs gaining control of power and goals of industrialization. The oligarchy inculcated the Japanese public with these traditional values through an education system that stressed moral learning, and through a constitution that established the law of Japan to be that of the Imperial Will. The values of Confucianism and symbol of the Emperor allowed the Meiji government to peaceful gain control of Japan by appealing to history and the restoration of the Emperor.

But the Meiji oligarchs never restored the Emperor to a position of real political power. Instead he was used as a tool by the oligarchs to achieve their modernization plans in Japan such as the abolishment of fiefs, the end of the samurai, the propagation of new cultural practices, and pubic acceptance of the Meiji oligarchs industrialization policies. The symbols and traditions of Japan’s past are an enduring legacy that have manifested themselves in the Meiji Restoration and today in Japans continued reverence for the Emperor. — Footnote1 Hidejiro Nagata, A Simplified Treatise on The Imperial House of Japan (Tokyo: Hakubunkwan, 1921) 47. Footnote2 Takatsu Kuwasaburo, The History of The Empire of Japan (Tokyo: Dai Nippon Tosho Kabushiki Kwaisha, 1893) 206. Footnote3 Ibid., 17.

Footnote4 Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 1987) 112. Footnote5 Walter McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era 1867-1912 (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1916) 32. Footnote6 Shusuke Sato, Some Historical Phases of Modern Japan (New York: Japan Society, 1916) 4. Footnote7 Walter McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era 1867-1912 (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1916) 44. Footnote8 Louis Allen, Japan the Years of Triumph (London: Purnell and Sons, 1971) 8.

Footnote9 David Titus, Palace and Politics in Prewar Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1974) 55 Footnote10 Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) 73. Footnote11 Hidejiro Nagata, A Simplified Treatise on The Imperial House of Japan (Tokyo: Hakubunkwan, 1921) 142. Footnote12 Ibid., 35. Footnote13 Stephen Large, The Japanese Constitutional of 1889 (London: Suntory-Toyota International Centre, 1989) 27. Footnote14 Walter McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era 1867-1912 (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1916) 70. Footnote15 Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) 116. Footnote16 Ernest Best, Christian Faith and Cultural Crisis the Japanese Case (Leiden: E.J.

Brill, 1966) 108. Footnote17 Ibid., 105. Footnote18 Ibid., 106. Footnote19 Ibid., 106. Footnote20 Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) 117. Footnote21 Hugh Borton, Japan’s Modern Century (New York: Ronald Press, 1955) 524. Footnote22 Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) 118. Footnote23 Walter McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era 1867-1912 (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1916) 69.

Footnote24 Hidejiro Nagata, A Simplified Treatise on The Imperial House of Japan (Tokyo: Hakubunkwan, 1921) 60. Footnote25 Ian Nish, The Japanese Constitutional of 1889 (London: Suntory-Toyota International Centre, 1989) 9. Footnote26 Walter McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era 1867-1912 (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1916) 193. Footnote27 Ibid., 192. Footnote28 Stephen Large, The Japanese Constitutional of 1889 (London: Suntory-Toyota International Centre, 1989) 27. Footnote29 Hidejiro Nagata, A Simplified Treatise on The Imperial House of Japan (Tokyo: Hakubunkwan, 1921) 89.

Footnote30 Walter McLaren, A Political History of Japan During the Meiji Era 1867-1912 (New York: Scribner and Sons, 1916) 77. Footnote31 Ibid., 78. Footnote32 Ibid., 77. Footnote33 Ibid., 83. Footnote34 Ibid., 82. Footnote35 Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 1987) 66. Footnote36 Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) 117.

Footnote37 Louis Allen, Japan the Years of Triumph (London: Purnell and Sons, 1971) 41. Footnote38 Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976) 84. Footnote39 Ibid., 119. Footnote40 Ibid., 88. Footnote41 Ibid., 94-95.

Footnote42 Edwin O. Reischauer, Japan Past and Present (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 1987) 166. Footnote43 Ibid., 167. Footnote44 Ibid., 13. Footnote45 Stephen Large, The Japanese Constitutional of 1889 (London: Suntory-Toyota International Centre, 1989) 20.