Emperor Meiji

From Kaiserreich

Template:Nihongo (November 3, 1852 — July 30, 1912) was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from February 3, 1867 until his death.

His personal name was nihongo Mutsuhito|睦仁}}. Like all his predecessors, he has been known by a posthumous name since his death. Upon his death a new tradition of giving the late emperor the name of the era coinciding with his reign was established. Having ruled during the Meiji era (Enlightened rule), he is now known as Emperor Meiji. Although he is sometimes referred to as Mutsuhito or Emperor Mutsuhito outside of Japan, Japanese emperors are only referred to by their posthumous names in Japan. Use of an emperor's personal name would be considered too familiar, or even derogatory.

At the time of his birth in 1852, Japan was an isolated, pre-industrial society|pre-industrial, feudalism|feudal country dominated by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the daimyo, who ruled over the country's more than 250 decentralized domains. By the time of his death in 1912, Japan had undergone a political, social, and industrial revolution at home (See Meiji Restoration) and emerged as one of the great powers on the world stage.

Events of Emperor Meiji's Life

Emperor Meiji was the surviving son of Emperor Kōmei by the lady-in-waiting Nakayama Yoshiko (1834]–1907), the daughter of Lord Nakayama Tadayasu, sometime minister of the left (sadaijin) and a scion of the Fujiwara. He was born eight months before the arrival of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry and the United States squadron of "Black Ships" in Edo Tokyo Bay|Bay and two years before the first of the unequal treaties which the Tokugawa shogunate signed with Perry. Originally titled Sachi no miya (Prince Sachi), the future emperor spent most of his childhood at the Nakayama household in Kyoto, as it was customary to entrust the upbringing of imperial children to prominent court members.

He was formally adopted by Asako Nyōgō (later Empress Dowager Eishō), the principal consort of Emperor Kōmei, on 11 July 1860. He also received the personal name Mutsuhito, the rank of shinnō (imperial prince, and thus a potential successor to the throne) and the title of Kōtaishi (Crown Prince) on the same day. Crown Prince Mutsuhito acceded to the throne on 3 February, 1867 at the age of fourteen. Later that year, the Japanese era name|era was changed to Meiji, or “enlightened rule”, which was later used for his posthumous name. This marked the beginning of the tradition of proclaiming one era for the entire reign of an emperor, and posthumously naming him after the era over which he ruled.

On 2 September 1867, Emperor Meiji married Masako (later renamed Haruko) (28 May 1849 & 19 ApriL 1914), the third daughter of Lord Ichijō Tadaka, sometime minister of the left (sadaijin). Known posthumously as Empress Shōken, she was the first imperial consort to receive the title of kōgō (literally, the emperor's wife, translated as empress consort), in several hundred years. Although she was the first Japanese empress consort to play a public role, she bore no children. However, Emperor Meiji had fifteen children by five official ladies-in-waiting. Only five of his children, a prince born to Lady Naruko (1855–1943), the daughter of Yanagiwara Mitsunaru, and four princesses born to Lady Sachiko (1867–1947), the eldest daughter of Count Sono Motosachi, lived to adulthood. They were:

  • Crown Prince Yoshihito (Haru no miya Yoshihito Shinnō), 3rd son, (31 August 1879–25 December 1926) (see Emperor Taishō).
  • Princess Masako (Tsune no miya Masako Naishinnō), 6th daughter, (30 September 1888–8 March 1940), titled Tsune no miya (Princess Tsune) until marriage; m. at Imperial Palace, Tokyo, 30 April 1908 [[Prince Takeda Tsunehisa (Takeda no miya Tsunehisa ō, 22 September 1882–23 Apri 1919), and had issue (offspring).
  • Princess Fusako (Kane no miya Fusako Naishinnō), 7th daughter, (28 January 1890–11 August 1974), titled Kane no miya (Princess Kane) until marriage; m. at Imperial Palace, Tokyo 29 April 1909 Prince Kitashirakawa Naruhisa (Kitashirakawa no miya Naruhisa ō, 1 April 1887–2 April 1923), and had issue.
  • Princess Nobuko (Fumi no miya Nobuko Naishinnō), 8th daughter, (7 August 1891–3 November 1933); titled Fumi no miya (Princess Fumi) until marriage; m. at Imperial Palace, Tokyo 6 May 1909 Prince Asaka Yasuhiko (Asaka no miya Yasuhiko ō, 2 October 1887–13 April 1981), and had issue.

Meiji Restoration

The 16-year old Meiji Emperor, moving from Kyoto to Tokyo, end of 1868. Emperor Meiji receiving the Order of the Garter from Prince Arthur of Connaught in 1906, as a consequence of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Template:Main Emperor Meiji was the symbolic leader of the Meiji Restoration, in which the Tokugawa shogunate was abolished by Imperial forces following the Boshin War. The Charter Oath, a five-point statement of the nature of the new government, abolished feudalism and proclaimed a modern democratic government for Japan. Although a Diet of Japan|parliament was formed, it had no real power, and neither did Emperor Meiji. Power had passed from the Tokugawa into the hands of those Daimyo and other samurai who had led the Restoration. Japan was thus controlled by the Genro, an oligarchy, which comprised the most powerful men of the military, political, and economic spheres. Emperor Meiji, if nothing else, showed greater political longevity than his recent predecessors, as he was the first Japanese monarch to remain on the throne past the age of 50 since the abdication of Emperor Ōgimachi in 1586.

The Meiji Restoration is a source of pride for the Japanese, as it and the accompanying industrialization allowed Japan to become the preeminent power in the Pacific and a major player in the world within a generation. Yet, Emperor Meiji's role in the Restoration is debatable. He certainly did not control Japan, but how much influence he wielded is unknown. It is unlikely it will ever be clear whether he supported the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) or the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). One of the few windows we have into the Emperor's own feelings is his poetry, which seems to indicate a pacifism|pacifist streak, or at least a man who wished war could be avoided.

Near the end of his life several anarchists, including Kotoku Shusui, were executed on charges of having conspired to murder the sovereign. This conspiracy was known as the High Treason Incident.

Timeline of Events during the Life and Reign of Emperor Meiji

The life and reign of Meiji ushered in many far-reaching changes to the ancient feudal society of Japan. Presented here is a timeline of those major events:

3 November 1852: Meiji (then known as Sachinomiya) is born to the imperial concubine Nakayama Yoshiko and Emperor Komei

1853: A fleet of ships headed by Commodore (rank)|Commodore Matthew Perry arrives in Japan on 8 July; considered the "Opening" of Japan. Death of the Shogun.

1854–55: Treaties are signed with United States|America by the Bakufu

late 1850s–1860s: The "sonno-joi" movement is in full force.

1858: Treaties are signed with Holland, Imperial Russia, and Great Britain by the Bakufu.

March 1860: The Tairo, Ii Naosuke, is assassinated.

11 November: Sachinomiya is formally proclaimed Crown Prince and given the personal name Mutsuhito.

1862: Namamugi Incident

1864–65: Bombardment of Shimonoseki by British, American, French, and Dutch ships; fighting ensues between the shogunate and Choshu.

1866: Death of the Shogun, Tokugawa Iemochi on 29 August; appointment of Tokugawa Yoshinobu as Shogun.

31 January 1867: Death of Emperor Komei from hemorrhagic smallpox, unofficial accession of Mutsuhito to the throne.

4 January 1868: Formal restoration of imperial rule; end of 265 years of rule by the Tokugawa Shogunate

12 September: Formal coronation of Emperor Meiji.

23 October: The nengo is changed to the first year of Meiji.

6 November: The capital is moved from Kyoto to Edo, renamed Tokyo.

late 1860s–1881: Period of rebellion and assassination in Japan.

11 January 1869: Marriage of Meiji to Ichijo Haruko, henceforth the Empress Shoken.

4 September: Meiji receives the Duke of Edinburgh.

1871: The abolition of the han domains is proclaimed.

1873: Edo castle is destroyed in a conflagration; the emperor moves to the Akasaka Palace. Meiji's first children, who die at birth, are born.

1877: The Satsuma Rebellion

1878: Assassination of Okubo Toshimichi.

31 August 1879: Prince Yoshihito, the future Taisho emperor and Meiji's only surviving son, is born.

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