This project showcases student project work from Japan and the World, a modern Japanese history course offered at Kanda University of International Studies. It focuses on important themes and individuals from the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-26) periods, when Japan was beginning to open to the world after centuries of government-enforced isolation.

All submissions are researched, whether in English or Japanese, and references provided. Comments responding to and exploring ideas, suggesting connections or further reading, are most welcome. As entries are written by non-native English speakers, please refrain from non-constructive comments about language use.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Meiji Emperor

The Meiji Emperor

(Mutsuhito 睦仁)

(November 3rd 1852- July 30th 1912)

By Konatsu Yasui

The Meiji Emperor
The Meiji Emperor
Do you know the person who changed Japan a lot in the Meiji period? He was the 122nd emperor of Japan, The Meiji Emperor. According to the traditional order of session, he reigned from February 3rd 1867 until his death in July 30th 1912. He succeeded to the throne at the young age of 16 years old. He was the father of modern Japan. He was educated as a normal court noble, however, he had a new point of view and a thought for Japan. Therefore, it is said that he affected to the Meiji period itself. I am going to talk about “The Charter Oath” and his effect on Japan.

In 1868, March 22nd, The Charter Oath, a five important point statement of the new government, was issued. He issued this oath which represented the new country and declared to be a “constitutional country” and did not want Japan to be an autocratic country. He made a solemn promise through the oath with god. Therefore, the oath power was made stronger.

Here is The Charter Oath;

1) Deliberate assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by public discussion.

2) All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.

3) The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall each be allowed to pursue his own calling so that there may be no discontent.

4) Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based on the just laws of nature.

5) Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule. (Emperor of Japan, 2004)

In this oath, he was represented as a “leader” of Japan, not a dictator. Actually, before the oath was issued he said “If I am lazy emperor, Japan will decline and be reduced to starvation. All responsibility is mine. Therefore, I never forget the fact that all emperors did so far then I govern Japan.” He did not try to change Japan to everything new, but mixed up new and good old customs.

After WWII, the Showa Emperor spoke about the war to Japan then he quoted The Charter Oath. The Showa Emperor must have thought Japanese should remember the Meiji spirit from the oath and rebuild Japan together.

He contributed to develop Japan a lot. In particular, westernization and exchange between Japan and other countries evolved rapidly. At last, Japan was one of powers all around world at the end of Meiji period.

On the other hand, he loved to be western too much. He was often seen wearing Western clothes and riding a horse around Edo. It was one of the effects that led to Japan's modernisation. However, his mind changed after he met a person who is still famous in today’s Japan. The person is Saigo Takamori. He came up to Edo to carry out the abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures, then became an imperial guard. Saigo had a strong belief in “Revere heaven, love people”. This had a strong effect on the Emperor. After that, he reflected on his too strong westernization then he recommended learning “Japanese mind” for each Japanese people. To learn Japanese mind makes us people who can be active all over the world. The thinking is important for today’s Japan too.

The Meiji Emperor had big effect to develop modern Japan. In my opinion, he was the most active and unique emperor ever because his new statements were really different compared with other periods. It worked at this period, but now it does not work well. However, I like his opinion to learn other countries culture which makes our country develop and learn. I introduce his most famous quotation here:
よもの海 みなはらからと思ふ世に など波風のたちさわぐらむ
I wonder why there is trouble, even though all the countries overseas in all directions are considered to be brothers and sisters in this world (Meiji Shrine n.d.)

He really wanted Japan to be a peaceful country. That is why he tried to mix western and Japanese spirit together. He changed Japan a lot and made it one of the most powerful countries in the world. The quotation shows his real mind, “Let’s unite all countries like family” I guess.


Meiji Shrine. (n.d.). Retrieved July 15, 2013, from

蛭田 亨 [Ebita Toru]. (n.d.). 
Think about Meiji period. Retrieved July 15, 2013, from

The Meiji Emperor –Mutshuhito-. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2013 from

The things The Meiji emperor left. (2012). Retrieved July 23, 2013 from

西川 誠 [Nishikawa Makoto]. (2011). 天皇の歴史07巻 明治天皇の大日本帝国[The History of Emperor 07 The Meiji emperor and Japan]. Tokyo: 講談社 [Kodan Press]

Keene, D. (2004). Emperor of Japan. Tokyo: 雄松堂書店 [Osyoudo Press]