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Meiji Period

History of Japan
Emperor Meiji in Western-style military dress and Empress Shōken in Victorian women's dress on an outing.
Era name Meiji
Dates 1868 - 1912
Kanji 明治
See also: Era Name



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.

Politics

Meiji Restoration

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.[1] 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.

Fashion

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 [2]

Developments in the Floating World

References

  1. At present Japan is organized into one metropolis (to; Tokyo); one circuit (; Hokkaido); two urban prefectures (fu) and 47 other prefectures (ken).
  2. Keene, Donald. Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World (2005).

Article Notes

Authors & Contributors

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Meiji
明治
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
十一
12
十二
13
十三
14
十四
15
十五
16
十六
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十七
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十八
19
十九
20
二十
Gregorian 1868 1869 1870 1871 1872 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879 1880 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887
Meiji
明治
21
二十一
22
二十二
23
二十三
24
二十四
25
二十五
26
二十六
27
二十七
28
二十八
29
二十九
30
三十
31
三十一
32
三十二
33
三十三
Gregorian 1888 1889 1890 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900
Meiji
明治
34
三十四
35
三十五
36
三十六
37
三十七
38
三十八
39
三十九
40
四十
41
四十一
42
四十二
43
四十三
44
四十四
45
四十五
Gregorian 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 1912


Preceded by:
Edo
Era name (nengō):
Meiji
Succeeded by:
Taishō