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Meiji(mā`jē), 1852–1912, reign name of the emperor of Japan from 1867 to 1912; his given name was Mutsuhito. He ascended the throne when he was 15. A year later the shogunshogun
, title of the feudal military administrator who from the 12th cent. to the 19th cent. was, as the emperor's military deputy, the actual ruler of Japan. The title itself, Sei-i-tai Shogun [barbarian-subduing generalissimo], dates back to 794 and originally meant commander
..... Click the link for more information. fell, and the power that had been held by the TokugawaTokugawa
, family that held the shogunate (see shogun) and controlled Japan from 1603 to 1867. Founded by Ieyasu, the Tokugawa regime was a centralized feudalism. The Tokugawa themselves held approximately one fourth of the country in strategically located parcels, which they
..... Click the link for more information. military house was returned to the emperor. This was the Meiji restorationMeiji restoration,
The term refers to both the events of 1868 that led to the "restoration" of power to the emperor and the entire period of revolutionary changes that coincided with the Meiji emperor's reign (1868–1912).
..... Click the link for more information. , a pivotal event in the modern history of Japan, for it meant the downfall of Japanese feudalism and the forging of a new and modern state. Emperor Meiji himself had little political power, but he was a paramount symbol of the unity of Japan. A constitution adopted in 1889 provided for a diet with an upper house selected mainly from the peerage, and an elected lower house to advise the government. The cabinet was not directly responsible to the diet but was regarded as above politics and responsible only to the emperor. In practice, the emperor delegated selection of premiers to a group of close advisers known as the genrogenro
[ Jap.,=elder statesmen], a group that exercised collective leadership in Japan from the end of the Meiji period until c.1932. After the Meiji restoration (1868), Westernizers from the former Choshu and Satsuma domains came to power, abolishing feudalism and modernizing
..... Click the link for more information. , or elder statesmen. Under the direction of these oligarchs (among them Hirobumi ItoIto, Hirobumi
, 1841–1909, Japanese statesman, the outstanding figure in the modernization of Japan. As a young Choshu samurai, he was a xenophobe. In 1863 he visited Europe, studied science in England, and became convinced of the necessity of adopting Western ways.
..... Click the link for more information. , Aritomo YamagataYamagata, Aritomo
, 1838–1922, Japanese soldier and statesman, chief founder of the modern Japanese army. A samurai of Choshu, he took part in the Meiji restoration. He studied military science in Europe and returned in 1870 to head the war ministry.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Kaoru InouyeInouye, Kaoru
, 1835–1915, Japanese statesman. He was a leader of the antiforeign movement in his native Choshu fief, and helped set fire to the British legation in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1862.
..... Click the link for more information. ), Japan was transformed into a modern industrial state, and its military power was demonstrated in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5). When the Meiji period ended in 1912, Japan was a world power.
See D. B. Sladen, Queer Things about Japan (4th ed. 1913, repr. 1968); W. G. Beasley, The Meiji Restoration (1972); P. Akamatsu, Meiji, 1868 (tr. 1972); D. Keene, Emperor of Japan (2002).