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Meiji

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 shogun fell, and the power that had been held by the Tokugawa military house was returned to the emperor. This was the Meiji restoration, 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 genro, or elder statesmen. Under the direction of these oligarchs (among them Hirobumi Ito, Aritomo Yamagata, and Kaoru Inouye), 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).

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Meiji

Meiji. Throne-name of the Japanese emperor under whom imperial rule was restored in 1868, after the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate; hence the name of the era, 1868–1912 (when Meiji died). The era is characterized by the slogan, ‘Enrich the nation and strengthen its arms’. The leaders pursued a policy of ambitious innovation combined with vigorous adherence to the traditions and values of the past. Among the military leaders of the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate was Saigō Takamori (1827–77), who advocated aggressive policies (especially against Korea), and who revived the samurai ideals—in ways that led eventually to the kamikaze (winds of the kami) pilots of the Second World War, who, like Saigō, were prepared to die without hesitation.

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Meiji

Meiji the period when Japan was ruled by the emperor Meiji Tenno (1868–1912), marked by the modernization and westernization of the country.

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