Emperor Meiji (明治天皇)

Emperor Meiji (November 3, 1852 - July 30, 1912) was the hundred and twenty second Emperor. (his reign was 1867 - 1912)
His posthumous name was Mutsuhito. His respected name from childhood was Sachinomiya.
His seal was Ei
He acted as a symbol of the force to overthrow the Shogunate and antiforeign sentiment, and was also a leader of modern Japan. Due to his successful achievements, he was also called Meiji Taitei (Meiji the Great), Holy Emperor Meiji, Mutsuhito the Great before the War.

Brief Personal History
He was Emperor Komei's second Prince. His mother was Gon Dainagon (Interim Chief Councilor of State), Tadayasu NAKAYAMA's daughter, Yoshiko. He was born on November 3, 1852 in the Tadayasu NAKAYAMA's residence in Kyoto, and was named Sachinomiya.

He became Crown Prince in June and July 1860. On November 10, he received the title Imperial Prince from his father, Emperor Komei, and became Imperial Prince Mutsuhito.

His father, Emperor Komei suddenly died on January 30, 1867. He ascended the throne on February 13, 1867, when he was fourteen years old.

The disturbance during last days of the Tokugawa government

During this time both the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and the opposition force that tried to overthrow the Shogunate strongly approached the Imperial Palace for political maneuvering. On November 10, 1867, Emperor Meiji accepted the Imperial sanction of Taisei Hokan (the return of political power to the Emperor by the Tokugawa Shogunate) from Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians), Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA, after this political power was returned to the Imperial Palace. Furthermore, on January 3, 1868, (it was supported by the opposition force who tried to overthrow the Shogunate) the Restoration of Imperial Rule was issued, and 'the establishment of the new government' was announced. He issued an order to conquer the eastern part of Japan and won the battle against the former bakufu forces which occurred between 1868 and 1869 (the Boshin War).

New era, Meiji

During this time the new policy of the new government was announced when the Imperial Covenant Consisting of Five Articles was issued on April 6, 1868, the new political system was introduced with the Constitution of 1868, on June 11. Also the era was changed to Meiji and the regulation of Issei Ichigen (practice of assigning one era name to the reign of each emperor - an Imperial rescript of a change in era name) on October 23, 1868. However the change in era name was decided to date back to January 25, 1868.

In 1869 the Imperial Palace was moved to Tokyo and it was renamed Tokyo-jo Castle (the former Edo-jo Castle), the Emperor permitted the Imperial sanction of the documents of the return of the han (domain) register to the Meiji Emperor on July 25. In the beginning the court nobles and the former feudal lords had the power in the new government, gradually a group of people such as Sanetomi SANJO, Tomomi IWAKURA, Takayoshi KIDO, Toshimichi OKUBO started having a voice in politics, and one of the reason for this was the moving of the Imperial Palace to Tokyo. On August 29, 1871, the government absolved the han system (feudal domains) and the establishment of prefectures to establish the system of one consolidated political power into the center of the government.

On the other hand, the Imperial Edict (of 1870) for Establishment of Shinto was issued on February 3, 1870 to make Shintoism the nation's religion and to set up the political system for the Emperor to have absolute power. Iwakura and Okubo put effort into abolishing the old system of the Imperial Palace and to establish a new system for the Emperor to rule the government directly, and to educate the Emperor to become the sovereign of the modern nation.

*In 1872 the solar calendar was introduced, and the day following December 31, 1872, (January 1, 1873) was decided as January 1, Meiji 6. (The No. 337 proclamation of the Grand Council of State in Meiji 5)

The drastic theory against Korea

In 1873 when politics became complicated with the issue of the drastic theory against Korea, and political change occurring in Meiji 6, the Emperor worked as a mediator to stop the conflict within the government, by stopping Takamori SAIGO's armed force from going to Korea by issuing the Emperor's official order, and he proceeded to issue an Imperial rescript to establish a gradual constitutional government while there was a Freedom and People's Rights Movement between 1874 and 1875. To keep up with the Freedom and People's Rights Movement, the Emperor issued an Imperial mandate in 1881 to establish the Diet and expressed the time of the establishment of the Diet to suppress the movement.

The Establishment of the modern nation

In 1882, the Emperor issued an the Imperial Rescript to Samurai and Sailors to declare the army as the 'Emperor's army,' he commanded the army as commander in chief to strengthen military power.

After 1884, the Emperor established various regulations for the constitution to prepare for the establishment of the Diet, which was drawing near. The Emperor also set up the huge Imperial property along with all sorts of maintenance of bureaucratic control systems such as establishing the Cabinet system, municipality system, Prefectural system, and the district system.

On February 11, the Japanese Constitution of 1889 was issued. This constitution clearly stated the Emperor's prerogative rights (Tenno Taiken) for the first time in history, this became the basis to establish the modern Emperor System of Japan. In the following year, 1890, the Imperial Rescript of Education was issued, the Emperor put his efforts into cultivating the morality of the nation who supported the modern Emperor System. In the beginning of the opening of the Imperial Diet, there was often conflict between the Han-dominated government who support the detached policy, and the government force who was based on the House of Representatives, the Emperor sometimes issued an order and worked as an arbitrator. The Emperor also worked to suppress political or emotional conflicts between the elder statesmen of the han-dominated government.

The history, on the way to become a Great Power

In the first War Japan was involved in, the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, the Emperor directly trained the soldiers at the Imperial headquarters. The Emperor concluded an Anglo-Japanese Alliance in diplomatic relations and tried to strengthen the military and the financial power as the member of the Great Powers. After the Russo-Japanese War, the Emperor proceeded with the policy of annexing of Korea and ruling Manchuria to expand Japan's Colonial empire.

In 1911 he completed the revision of a treaty which had been a big headache since Japan opened a country to foreign trade and diplomatic relations, as a result, Japan became a member of the Great Powers.

Emperor Meiji's death

On July 30, 1912, he became sick with a chronic illness, diabetes, which then led to uremia and he died.

The actual time and date of his death was said to be 'on July 29, around 10 o'clock forty three minutes in the afternoon,' however the officially announced date and time by the Department of the Imperial Household was 'on July 30, twelve o'clock forty three minutes in the morning.'
This was presumed to be because they had to consider they were supposed to hold a series of Imperial events (Crown Prince, Imperial Prince Yoshihito to succeed to the throne and become the new Emperor) on the day when the Emperor died.

On September 13 in the same year, the Rites of an Imperial Funeral were held at Rikugun (the Army) Enshu in Aoyama, Tokyo (current Jingu Gaien (the Outer Gardens of the Meiji Shrine)). After the Emperor's funeral, Emperor Meiji's coffin was put on a hearse and it was carried to the Fushimi Momoyama Mausoleum in the southern suburb of Kyoto via the Tokaido Main Line and buried on September 14. There was a "Seitoku Kinen Kaigakan" (Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery) built in the place that was prepared for Emperor Meiji's Imperial funeral.

Emperor's personality and his influence

Emperor Meiji was the Emperor during a time when the modern Emperor system was established. He succeeded to the throne when he was young, then he experienced Taiseihokan (the return of political power to the Emperor by the Tokugawa Shogunate), Oseifukko (the restoration of Imperial rule), the Boshin War, the Meiji Restoration, the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War, difficult times from the last days of the bakufu era through to the Meiji period, and he was respected by the nation as the leader of the modern Japanese nation and a symbol, as a sovereign. His policy of his everyday life was to live frugal and disciplined himself strictly, he tried to keep his authority as an emperor. He was fond of horseback riding and writing waka poems, he had talent in the arts. But he had another aspect of being playful, he called his Empress or court ladies by nicknames that he thought of.

During his younger days (especially between 1876 to 1885), he was greatly influenced by Nagazane MOTODA and Takayuki SASAKI, scholars of the Chinese classics who acted as his jiho (aides) and were supporters of direct imperial rule, and there was a period when he was skeptical about western literature and tried to actively gain control of the government.
According to Nagazane MOTODA's memorandum, ('Koki no ki'), the Emperor mentioned Hirobumi ITO's weak point as 'a man who affects a European manner.'
Especially when it came to education, he duly understood Motoda's philosophy based on Confucianism, he was frustrated when Fujimaro TANAKA and Arinori MORI who were both educational debaters preferred the western way of thinking, were appointed as educational administrators. Especially there was one occasion when the Emperor knew Mori was appointed as a general affairs official of the Imperial Household, an advisor to the Ministry of Education in the late April, 1884, he refused to see any high officials of the government such as Ito (he also worked as kunai Kyo (the director of the Imperial House hold)) using the excuse of being sick, he did not appear in public and cancelled his government affairs for more than two months until 25 June, since he did not wish to approve Ito's appointment. Concerned about this, Ito told the Cabinet (Japan) of the emperor's intention once he had been appointed to serve as the first Prime Minister while also serving as the Minister of the Imperial Household at the same time in order to quell the emperor's distrust of the Cabinet and gain his acceptance for the constitutional government Ito sought to implement. As a result, women in the Imperial Palace who ranked lower than the Empress were allowed to wear western clothes on June 23, 1886, and the Emperor agreed to the contract of 'Kimu Rokujo' on September 7, by promising not to attend the Cabinet meeting unless asked to join in by the Cabinet (Meiji Tenno ki), the Emperor had to give up the possibility to rule the government directly.

It was well known that Emperor Meiji did not like to have his photograph taken. The most famous Emperor's portrait at present by Edoardo Chiossone, was painted as the result of a lot of hard work with an Emperor who did not liked to pose for a painting or be photographed, even though the Emperor's portrait in his prime was badly needed. When it was his last year in 1911, the Emperor's photograph was secretly taken from a distance while he was reviewing troops on the military exercise, this was said to be the last photograph taken before he died.

It was recognized that 'Emperor Meiji represented the Meiji nation itself and the Emperor's death was the end of the Meiji nation.'
On the day of Emperor Meiji's Imperial funeral, many people followed their master (Emperor Meiji) to the grave, such as the Military Minister, Maresuke Nogi and his wife. The Meiji nation established having Emperor Meiji as the central figure, was going to change after this period.

Since Emperor Meiji was respected as a sovereign, as for non western countries, he was highly regarded overseas, more than he was in Japan, by the people such as Haile SelassieⅠin Ethiopia, Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay, Saddam Husain in Iraq.

Famous poems
Emperor Meiji was fond of waka poems and left many poems of his own (Emperor's own poems). It is said there were more than ninety three thousand poems.

When I think about leaving Japan for overseas just by taking the good things and leaving the bad things behind, I wish for Japan to become a good country like those overseas. 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.


His father was Emperor Komei, mother was Yoshiko NAKAYAMA.
His father, Emperor Komei's Empress, Asako KUJO (the Empress Dowager Eisho) was officially called the 'real mother.'

His wet nurse was initially 'Mino FUSEYA' but as she was not able to breast feed the Emperor with good quality milk, within one year the nurse was changed to 'Rai KIMURA' while the Emperor was a baby.

The Empress was Haruko ICHIJO (the Empress Dowager Shoken) but she did not have any Princes or Princesses with the Emperor. The Emperor had the following Princes and the Princesses with his mistresses.

The eras during his reign



Posthumous name, Tsuigo

He was given Tsuigo of Emperor Meiji, came from the name of a Japanese era while he was in power. Since the era of Emperor Meiji, the Issei Ichigen system was introduced, which the one era name remain the same for each emperor and the name of the era was given to the Emperor as Tsuigo, since then there were no emperors who had a posthumous name.
(sometimes Tsuigo is considered to be a type of posthumous name, however strictly speaking these are two different names)

The Imperial Mausoleum

The Emperor was entombed in Fushimi momoyamano misasagi in a tomb with a dome-shaped mound on a square base at Momoyama-cho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. He was the last Emperor who was entombed in Kyoto (near the Imperial Palace).

He was enshrined in Meiji-jingu Shrine in 1290. After that he was enshrined in Kanto-jingu Shrine (the currently Kwantung Leased Territory, abolished) and Chosen-jingu Shrine (currently Seoul, abolished) or other many shrines overseas. After the War, he was enshrined in Hokkaido-jingu Shrine (currently Sapporo). All the past Emperors are enshrined in Koreiden, one of the Three Palace Sanctuaries.

The theory of Emperor Meiji's substitute

There was a theory that Emperor Meiji (Imperial Prince Mutsuhito) was assassinated and Toranosuke OMURO of Choshu who had the blood line of the Southern Court played his substitute, but there is not much credibility about this when compared to the theory of Emperor Komei being assassinated.

[Original Japanese]