|History of Japan|
|Dates||1868 - 1912|
The Meiji period or Meiji era (明治時代 Meiji-jidai) lasted from September 1868 through July 1912. This period represents the first period of Japanese modernity and the beginning of the Empire of Japan, a time of rapid change, modernization and Westernization. It was ruled by the Meiji Emperor (Mutsuhito), the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, who reigned from 3 February 1867 until his death.
On February 3, 1867, the 265th year of the Edo period, or the 3rd year of the Keiō Era, the fifteen-year-old prince Mutsuhito succeeded his father, Emperor Kōmei, to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
The Meiji Restoration (meiji isshin) occurred the following year, on January 3, 1868, with the formation of the new Meiji government. The Tokugawa Shogunate was overthrown with the fall of Edo in the summer of 1868, and a new era called Meiji, meaning "enlightened rule", was proclaimed.
The new government established deliberative assemblies; stated its commitment to allowing all classes to be involved in state affairs; revoked sumptuary laws and class restrictions on employment; and committed itself to an international search for knowledge to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule. These goals were announced in a Charter Oath, which was implicitly the final blow to exclusive political rule by the shōguns and a move towards a democratic form of government. An eleven-article constitution was drawn up which provided for a Council of State, legislative bodies, and systems of ranks for nobles and officials, limited suffrage, a new taxation system, and new local administrative rules. The Meiji government also announced that it would act in accordance with international law.
The capital was relocated from Kyoto, where it had been situated since 794, to Edo, which was renamed Tōkyō ("Eastern Capital"). The han system was abolished in 1871, replacing the traditional feudal system with a centralized government authority. All daimyo (feudal lords) were required to return their authority to the Emperor, and became governors. The han (feudal domains) were replaced with 305 prefectures. The number was then reduced tthe following year to 75 prefectures, and to 50 in 1888. Officials from favoured former han staffed the new ministries.
A new State Shinto was devised, and the Office of Shinto Worship was established, ranking even above the Council of State in importance. The divine ancestry of the Imperial Household was emphasized. Although Buddhism suffered from state sponsorship of Shinto, it had its own resurgence. Christianity was also legalized, and Confucianism remained an important ethical doctrine. Increasingly, however, Japanese thinkers identified with Western ideology and methods.
From 1886, Empress Shōken and her entourage wore only Western style clothes in public, and in 1887 she issued a memorandum contending that traditional Japanese dress was not only unsuited to modern life, but that Western-style (Victorian) dress was actually closer than kimono to clothes worn by Japanese women in ancient times 
Developments in the Floating World
- At present Japan is organized into one metropolis (to; Tokyo); one circuit (dō; Hokkaido); two urban prefectures (fu) and 47 other prefectures (ken).
- Keene, Donald. Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World (2005).
Authors & Contributors
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