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Emperor Meiji

Updated on January 25, 2013

The one hundred and twenty-second emperor of Japan, Mutsuhito (1852-1919) ascended to the throne in 1867 and adopted the name Meiji ('Enlightened Rule') for the period of his reign, which saw major changes in internal and external policies, these forming the basis for those of modern day Japan. Mutsuhito was born the second son of Emperor Komei. When he succeeded his father, the position of emperor had merely been a part of ceremonial tradition for almost 1000 years. Japan had been ruled by a succession of military governors and widespread dissatisfaction with this system led to the restoration in 1868 of the emperor as ruler.

Mutsuhito was then only 16 and greatly influenced by political advisers. As he matured, he showed a considerable capacity to lead his people through this transition period.

During the first decade of his reign, the new form of government began to take shape and adapted many Western ideas to suit Japanese society. The seat of the imperial government was moved to Tokyo.

In 1868, the imperial oath was announced, generally outlining the basis for government and new domestic reforms. A centralized administration convened in 1871 and assumed the powers formerly held by the provincial lords. The feudal land system was changed and educational and military reforms, including the abolition of the professional military, were implemented.

The defeat of the samurai, who rose in revolt during the period 1874-77, guaranteed the stability of the new government. In 1889, Mutsuhito granted the Japanese people a constitution, which converted the nation into a constitutional monarchy.

With internal affairs in order, the Japanese then set out to improve their standing in the international community.

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance (1902) and military victories against China (1894-95) and Russia (1904-05) took place during Mutsuhito's reign.


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    • Flightkeeper profile image

      Flightkeeper 5 years ago from The East Coast

      Interesting article, I would have liked to find out how his decisions impacted Japan after his death and given rise to the Japanese army, the rape of Nanking, and the decision to go into World War 2.