Meiroku Zasshi (明六雑誌)

Meiroku Zasshi is a bulletin of the Meirokusha (a publishing company). It began to be published on April 2, 1874 and suspended issue on November 14, 1875. It was published until the 43rd issue. It was a pioneering bulletin to offer academic general information and academic journal in the recent period of Japan and a publication which gave a great impact on Japan in the period of civilization and enlightenment.


"Meiroku Zasshi"

Publication office

The Hochisha Company

The style of issue

It is published twice or three times in a month on an average, and sold by subscription or at book stores.


17cm long and 12cm wide (which corresponds to B-6 size) or 21cm long and 14.5 cm wide (which corresponds to A-5 size), 12-24 pages (20 pages on an average), a half of hanshi (a calligraphy paper) in folio


Washi (Japanese paper made from fibers taken from the bark of a clove-like bush)


No.5 type was used. It has 13 lines with 30 letters in each line.

The number of issues

It had a circulation of 3,205 copies and a little on an average (according to a speech of Arinori MORI published on the 30th issue) or a circulation of 2,840 copies and a little on an average (according to "the first annual report of the prewar Ministry of Home Affairs").

The list price

From 3 to 5 sen (hundredth of a yen) (depending on the number of page)


There are some alternative versions. The edit style of "Meiroku Zasshi" had been a model of academic bulletin until the 10s in the Meiji period.

The inauguration of Meirokusha

Meirokusha was an association which Arimori MORI, who returned from the United States of America, established in the early Meiji period, consulting with Shigeki NISHIMURA. The name of the association was connected with that it was established in the 6th year of Meiji period. The aim of establishment was as follows.

The aim of establishment of this association is to discuss about the means to promote education in our country with volunteers.'
In addition, it aims to publish different opinions of fellows in order to spread wisdom and clear up knowledge.'
(According to the first Article of 'Meirokusha rules and regulations' established on February, 1874)
The description in 〔〕 and changes from Hiragana to Katakana were later made by another author. The same hereinafter.

In other words, it was a group which aimed for intellectuals to deepen their friendship and scholarship and to enlighten the people like those in Western countries. It is needless to say that the biggest goal of Japan in the Meiji period was to realize fukoku kyohei (fortifying the country, strengthening the military) and compete with powerful countries in Western Europe. For this reason, the Meiji restoration was promoted by importing various techniques, human resources (foreign residents in Japan employed to teach new techniques) and systems, which were modeled from those in Western Europe. However, the enlightenment thought (Japan), which aimed not only to accept such schemes but also to reform people's mind (by the words in the bulletin, 'Refurbishing of people's mind'), soon appeared. Then, the people who worked with a sense of mission to change common people to 'the people' of 'civilized country' in order to catch up 'the standard of the world' as 'a civilized country' were called keimoka (illuminator). Meirokusha was established by these keimoka.

The major members of Meirokusha were such excellent intellectuals in those days as Mamichi TSUDA, Amane NISHI (keimoka), Masanao NAKAMURA, Hiroyuki KATO, Shuhei MITSUKURI, Yukichi FUKUZAWA, Koji SUGI and Rinsho MITSUKURI, who all were encouraged by Mori and Nishimura (only their surnames are written bellow). They had some common points. At first, they were from lower stratum such as lower-ranking samurai or common people except Nishimura. Second, they stood out as scholars of Western studies before the Meiji Restoration and worked for Kaiseijo (School for Western Studies) of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and so on. In this connection, many of them had an experience to go abroad at the end of Edo period or in the Meiji period, and were never influenced by the thought of Sonno Joi (reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners). In addition, except Fukuzawa, they were characterized by the fact that they worked for the government of restoration as government officials after the Meiji period.

Such intellectuals who knew well about Europe and America as above chose periodical speech meetings and a publication of a bulletin in order to enlighten people. These were deeply related.
It is because the discussions on specific themes at periodical speech meetings were published on "Meiroku Zasshi.'
Such a way of transmission of information on new knowledge greatly contributed to the success of "Meiroku Zasshi." In addition, this word 'Enzetsu' (演説) which means a speech in Japanese is said to be translated by Fukuzawa. Moreover, periodical speech meetings were held at Ueno Seiyoken Restaurant, partly because many of them favored western dishes.

Publishing of "Meiroku Zasshi"

In the following year after few months since Meirokusha was established, "Meiroku Zasshi" was finally published. The date of issue printed on the bulletin was often different from the date on newspaper when it was actually published. For example, it was printed to be published on March on the first issue, but actually it was published on April 2. It is thought that this was because the actual publishing date delayed from the date printed on the bulletin because of some problems such as printing and editing. In addition, according to the rules, it was due to be issued twice in a month, but this was not always true. Although four volumes were successively published at the time when the publication had just begun, there was a month in which the issue was made only once because of the concerns about the future of the bulletin. The number of articles on a bulletin also differed from 2 to 6. There are other ambiguous points. In fact, it is known that there are some alternative versions of "Meiroku Zasshi." Although the title was known as 'Meiroku Zasshi,' most of the volumes were put a different title of 'Meirokusha Zasshi' on the first page of the text. However, the other volumes had the same title of 'Meiroku Zasshi' as the cover page. It is confirmed that there are two kinds of sizes, B-6 size and A-5 size.

This bulletin had a big goal of enlightenment, but had neither a delicate and severe editing policy nor a consistent and concrete theme as a whole. In addition, the stance of each writer against a specific theme was different. Although it had following characters, it did not make a unified appeal representing Meirokusha or a bulletin (for example, for or against an introduction of democratic representatives). "Meiroku Zasshi" aimed to raise awareness of people by proposing various problems and introducing knowledge rather than sending specific opinions. In addition, the ways of transmission of information themselves such as speech meetings and bulletin fully gathered attention. "Meiroku Zasshi" had characteristics such as outward in the point of having the discussion open to public while diffusive in the point of their opinion not unified.

Just as expected of a general academic bulletin, it dealt with wide issues. It dealt with articles and translations in wide areas, ranging from the style of scholar, right and wrong of concubine (feminism etc.), Philosophy, religious arguments including freedom of faith, educational arguments such as an opinion to improve letters, social problems such as the abolition of death penalty, economic problems such as currency and trades, to specters. However, only few articles on literature were published. For example, Amane NISHI introduced terms of literature in 'Chisetsu' (知説) (No.25).

156 articles were published in total. Putting them in order from the biggest number, Mamichi TSUDA published 29, Amane NISHI 25, Shiroshi SAKATANI 20, Koji SUGI 13, Arinori MORI, Shigeki NISHIMURA and Masanao NAKAMURA 11, Hiroyuki KATO 10, Takahira KANDA 9, Rinsho MITSUKURI 5, Takaaki KASHIWABARA (柏原孝明) 4, Yukichi FUKUZAWA 3, Usaburo SHIMIZU 2, Shuhei MITSUKURI, Sen TSUDA and Shokichi SHIBATA 1. In addition, only the articles written by Dojin (literary group [coterie]) of Meirokusha were published. For detail, refer to 'a list of published articles' which is mentioned later.

A reform of system

It ranged over various areas, in which there were the same features. It was a stance to criticize the conventional way of thinking and system in Japan while it introduced the systems and thoughts of Europe and America and considered them as the standard of civilized country. For example, in 'An article about torture' Mamichi TSUDA described that although torture against a suspect was allowed even in the Meiji period, it was not usually allowed in civilized countries and that it was a bad custom which would cause false charges and distrusts in the administration of justice.

Refurbishing of people's mind: Kokumin Seishin Kaikaku

The above was an example which was discussed about reforms of system, on the other hand, it had a clear stance that they should change people's way of thinking and spirit. This character was apparently shown in 'An idea to change people's character' (No.30) written by Masanao NAKAMURA and 'A theory on people's sprit' (No.32) by Amane NISHI. For example, the latter is summarized as follows; Japanese has a character of 'slave sprit' by which they quietly accept autocracy, and 'Churyoekichoku' (忠諒易直) (simple mind) which had been regarded as the virtue until the end of the Edo period was merely another name of 'apathy and sense of powerlessness' in the Meiji period when national isolation was not a national policy. This was influenced by the words "individual" or "individuality" which they often saw in the books of Western Europe when they had a question what the people was. Although those words are usually translated into 'kojin' (個人) in Japanese today, there was no particular Japanese word corresponding to the meaning in those days. This was because there had not been an idea of being an subject holding a free and independent right in Japan until then. The translations such as '人々' and '個々人々' (by Amane NISHI) and '各個' and '人民各個' (by Shigeki NISHIMURA) in "Meiroku Zasshi" show that they had a trouble to translate them. In other words, Japanese 'slave sprit' which was pointed out by them was a problem which was recognized by confronting the term "individual" ("individuality"). On the background of such attitude to judge the gap between Western Europe and Japan from the standard of Western Europe, there was a single-track historical view of development which demands individual's acquisition of knowledge and improvement of culture standard, as the requirements for civilization and enhancement of national power.

A turnaround of viewpoint on human beings.

On the background that 'Churyoekichoku' was criticized as 'apathy and sense of powerlessness' in the Meiji period, there was a change of viewpoint on human beings. Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism), a system teaching and learning in the Edo period, required severe restraint against people's satisfaction of desires and interests. However, the philosophy of enlightenment in "Meiroku Zasshi" had an image of human who sought a free rational sprit independent from superstition and convention and stood on utilitarianism which was affirmative for desires and interests. For example, Mamichi TSUDA described sexual desire in the affirmative as 'a natural disposition' in 'A theory of sexual desire' (No.34) and Amane NISHI described that 'wealth' was a treasure as well as health and knowledge in 'The three treasures of human life (No.38 and so on).

An origin of the idea of enlightenment

The origin of above characteristics of "Meiroku Zasshi" can be seen in the translations published along with their articles. The 16 translations among 156 articles were published in the bulletin, among which 7 were translated by Masanao NAKAMURA. Especially in the first stage, translations were often published. For example, Francis BACON (a philosopher), Thomas HOBBES, Herbert SPENCER, Johann Kaspar BLUNTSCHLl, Henry BUCKLE and so on.

Major disputes

"Meiroku Zasshi" was a new media which tried to evoke public opinion by discussion between experts and publication of them. It is said that the disputes which were published on the bulletin evoke various responses as expected and many letters were posted on various newspapers. The famous disputes on the bulletin were as follows.

A dispute on the duty of scholar

This dispute was proposed by Fukuzawa outside of "Meiroku Zasshi."
In the chapter four in "Gakumon no susume" (recommendation of studying), Fukuzawa's representative work, he describes as follows; 'Scholar should not work for government but stay in private sector.'
One of the aims of enlightenment was to overcome people's spiritless and abjection to power, which were delivered by autocratic government.'
In other words, Fukuzawa insisted that 'true enlightenment could not be achieved in the position of government officials but should be achieved by the power of private sector.'
Then, he severely criticized scholars in governmental position 'as if a prostitute tried to gain a guest's favor.'

Against this, those who worked for the government such as Kato, Mori, Tsuda and Nishi opposed. However, Fukuzawa and other Dojin basically were agreed with the cooperation between government and private sector in common. This criticism was added only to the point that Fukuzawa put too much value on private sector. Nevertheless, Fukuzawa who had an active spirit of out of power was somewhat unique and had a critical view against other keimoka in governmental positions. Although he had been a member of Meirokusha until the end, he published only three articles in "Meiroku Zasshi." Some researches pointed out that this number of his articles were too small even though they were written in the same period when he was writing "Gakumon no susume" and "Bunmeiron no gairyaku" (An Outline of a Theory of Civilization). The opposed ideas over public sector or private sector among Dojin of Meirokusha later blew out when "Meiroku Zasshi" was suspended issue.

A dispute on democratic representatives

The period when "Meiroku Zasshi" was published overlapped the first stage of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement. In 1874 Taisuke ITAGAKI submitted the political statement for democratic representatives to the government, which was also discussed among the members of Meirokusha. The discussion focused on an opinion by Hiroyuki KATO that establishment of democratic representatives was too early ('A theory of impossibility of democratic representatives' No.4). Kato did not oppose to the establishment of parliament itself, but insisted that people did not reach the level which needed a parliament and that a system of parliament should be introduced after civilization through enlightenment was realized. In other words, it was a theory of gradual advance. Arinori MORI, Amane NISHI, Masanao NAKAMURA, Shiroshi SAKATANI and Kohei KANDA supported his idea. On the other hand, Shigeki NISHIMURA showed a strong approve of the establishment of democratic representatives, with insisting that the thought that it was too early because the people were in the stage of 'hankai' (middle of civilization and barbarity) was irrational and that they should be led to 'civilization' by the establishment of parliament. He stood in the viewpoint that the establishment of democratic representatives should be taken as a chance of enlightenment. The scholars who agreed with parliament were Mamichi TSUDA and Fukuzawa as well as Nishimura.

This dispute in "Meiroku Zasshi" evoked responses in other areas beyond the bulletin. Against Kato's opinion that it was too early, Daijiro MAKI (馬城臺二郎) (a pen name of Kenraro OI) published a counter argument on Tokyo Nichinichi Newspaper.
Maki described that the establishment of democratic representatives was necessary at first in order to defeat the politics of domain clique after arming himself with the knowledge of 'separation of the powers.'
Against this, Kato maintained a cautious stance until the end by insisting that the establishment of parliament in a 'hankai' nation would lead to 'Yushi Sensei' (autocratic government dominated by the bureaucracy of domain clique).

This dispute was limited to the period when democratic representatives were going to be established, and was not developed any more. However, it is appreciated as it sowed seeds of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement because democratic representatives gathered public attention.

A dispute on wives and concubines

This dispute was triggered by 'A theory of wives and concubines' written by Mori. Mori was seriously involved with the civilization of Western Europe and he had a Western standard of views on men and women and marriage. In other words, on the background of 'A theory of wives and concubines' he had an idea that the practice of monogamy was natural, and his marriage itself was a contract marriage. In such Mori's eyes, a concubinage system of Japan in which a wife and a mistress happened to live together in the same house was very strange. Therefore, in 'A theory of wives and concubines' he insisted that husband and wife should be always equal, patriarchal authority was against civilization and that women had a role as a wife, a key person in a family, and a mother who was in charge of education, which should be respected. In other words, it was an equal between husband and wife based on sharing roles. Mori's idea on the equal between husband and wife did not develop to an idea of the equal rights between husband and wife, but it became to be received as an opinion to expand women's rights, related with the Freedom and People's Rights Movement and so on later.

On the other hand, Hiroyuki KATO and Mamichi TSUDA showed a sharp conflict. In 'A bad custom of the equal rights between husband and wife' (No.31), Kato mentioned about the custom of lady first in Western Europe and criticized that introducing this custom by Asian people was a result of excessive equal between husband and wife. In this way, he was very cool against the expansion of women's rights. In this point, so was Tsuda. Kato and others were also critical against the expansion of women's rights and criticized women's right to vote. Kato considered it "logical" not to give a right to vote to women as well as boys, berserk, criminals and the poor.

As a result, it can be said that 'a dispute on wives and concubines' raised questions about the equal between men and women at a private space between husband and wife, but that it was passive against the equal of political and social rights between men and women. However, because it showed a critical stance against a family system of patriarchal authority in Japan, a view of marriage in Western style had been gradually spread. In 1882 concubines were forbidden at least legally.

A dispute on a nation's script

Except above disputes which gave various impacts, there were other significant disputes. For example, there was a dispute on a nation's script which was published on the first issue. How to write a nation's script, that is, the problems pertaining to a nation's script, was discussed as one of the ways to leave from the Eastern civilization, which was regarded undeveloped, and to enter into the Western civilization when civilization and enlightenment was promoted. The reasons for this were to escape from an influence of Chinese civilization and to achieve civilization by changing characters more simple for all people to be able to read. Before the establishment of Meirokusha, Hisoka MAEJIMA showed his opinion about this for the first time, and he proposed to abolish kanji (Chinese characters) and write hiragara (Japanese syllabary characters) with putting space between characters like English. However, 'An opinion to write Japanese in alphabet' by Amane NISHI which was published on the first issue of "Meiroku Zasshi" was more radical.
He insisted to abolish not only kanji but also kana characters and to express Japanese in Roman characters with using alphabet.'
This was because learning Western languages became easier and because it became possible to import academic terms of Western leaning directly and without any trouble to create suitable translations.

On the other hand, Shigeki NISHIMURA countered that how to express Japanese should be discussed after enlightenment would proceed and that education should be prior to it. In addition, Usaburo SHIMIZU announced an article which recommended to use hiragana as well as Hisoka MAEJIMA (No.7). This was because it was known by common people. However, this was not discussed any more in the bulletin, and there was no article of other Dojin. But both opinions were succeeded later. At first, as to the opinion to express Japanese in kana character, Shimizu established 'Kana no kai' (an association of kana) in 1883 with Fumihiko OTSUKI and actively campaigned. The number of its member was 200 when it was established, but it was over 2,000 in the following year. Secondly, as to the opinion to express Japanese in Roman characters, 'Roma-ji kai' (as association of Roman characters) was established in 1884.


About one year after Meirokusha was established, Arinori MORI who was the president told that the average sales of "Meiroku Zasshi" every month was 3,205 in a speech. Although it seems to be small from our sense today, it can be said that this was a tremendous large sales in the beginning of the Meiji period when a bulletin was published for the first time. This was enough to imagine wide readership. In addition, articles on "Meiroku Zasshi" were often reprinted on other newspapers in various places (which might be done without permission), so that it can be said that they had wider readership furthermore. An eager support for the bulletin can be seen in a letter to a newspaper as follows.

Meiroku Zasshi is a bulletin in which today's famous scholars discuss and write articles and it is very unique in the points of authenticity of topics, accurate texts, interests that notices bring and merits to encourage and teach juniors, so that people in both public sector and private sector have to read with holding it on the forearm.'
("Yokohama Mainichi Shinbun" [Yokohama Daily Newspaper] on May 2, 1874, the words in 〔〕 above were later added by another author.

Signatures on some letters show that it was read by intellectuals such as government official, students, shosei (a student who is given room and board in exchange for performing domestic duties), village officer, former warrior class, wealthy farmer and wealthy merchants. As to the point of location, the bulletin was read not only by the people around Tokyo but also by jinshi (a person of high social standing and cultured) in various places of Japan such as Osaka, Hiroshima and Aomori. Emori UEKI was one of them. He read "Meiroku Zasshi" when he was 16 years old and impressed so much as he frequently joined periodical speech meetings at Tokyo from Kochi Prefecture. Ueki was awakened to the Freedom and People's Rights through Meirokusha's speech meetings and "Meiroku Zasshi." This was an example that "Meiroku Zasshi" promoted local jinshi to join the Freedom and People's Rights Movement.

The appearance of "Meiroku Zasshi" and its wide readership, reprinting of those articles on local newspapers and readers' letters to them as responses led to create a space of speech which has a common interests against various problems. It can be said that it made intellectuals in various places tied through the issue of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement and conscious of the same problem in common. It meant the success of enlightenment which Meirokusha advocated. The trace of this space of speech can be seen in the words which we use today as follows.

Waseikango (Japan-made Chinese words)

Introducing a new idea is inevitably accompanied by new vocabulary. This is because it is necessary to name a new concept. And for its settlement, an opportunity in which that vocabulary is commonly used and its prevalence to some extent would be needed. "Meiroku Zasshi" played a role to provide them. The above various translations of "individual" were a part of examples, but those appeared in "Meiroku Zasshi" were not settled down. However, there are many new vocabulary and translations which were derived from this bulletin that had a great influence on civilization and enlightenment. Those are, as it were, waseikango (Japan-made Chinese words) originated from "Meiroku Zasshi." Or, although they were not invented, some vocabulary were generalized after they were used in the bulletin. The major vocabulary which appeared in "Meiroku Zasshi" and are still used today are as follows (Since it is difficult to divide them, they are not strictly classified).

Science, agriculture, Western studies, yofu (western style), silicone, arsenic, electromagnetic, false charge, prosecutor, parliament, consul, consulate, oppression Educational system, cost, capital, foreign loan, social intercourse, business, power of government, advertisement, discernment, dementia, ardor, health, securing, establishment, overeating, toy, phenomenon, factory, and declaration

In addition, meanings of some words were transferred from existing words and the words originated from China. For example, there are 'national bond,' 'Philosophy,' 'society' and so on.

Some of the new vocabulary settled down were also transmitted to neighboring countries, that is, China and Joseon Dynasty, through later Japanese boom in the East Asia. For example, the term 'shakai' (society, '社会' in kanji) was the one which had originally appeared in "Kinshiroku" (a book of Chinese thought) (edited by CHU Hsi and RYO Soken), a book of Southern Sung Dynasty, so that it may be said that it was reimported to the continent with a new meaning. In this aspect, it can be said that "Meiroku Zasshi" gave an influence not only on Japan but also on neighboring countries.

The suspension of issue of "Meiroku Zasshi"

Although "Meiroku Zasshi" began to be published smoothly, regulations which cast a shadow on it were promulgated in the following year of the first issue. They were Zamboritsu (the Defamation Law) and Shinbunshi Jorei (Press Regulations). In the stream of modernization in Western style, newspapers and bulletins such as "Meiroku Zasshi" appeared one after another. However, after the Freedom and People's Rights Movement became active, the government of Saccho (Satsuma Domain and Choshu Domain) which was feeling the bitterness tried to control media and promulgated the above two regulations. In particular, the issue of newspapers and bulletins were obligated to inevitably get a permission from the prewar Ministry of Home Affairs, to append a writer's signature on articles and editorial comments, and so on. In addition, Daijokan (Grand Council of State) issued a notice that government officials must not make a comment about government affairs to the media other than announcement on official gazette.

"Meiroku Zasshi" was not especially seen as an enemy by the government. However, it could not ignore the conflict between the government and media. Arinori MORI, the founder, envisaged Meirokusha as a pure academic enlightenment group and had a policy to be nonpolitical as he described that 'Discussing about politics is against the original aim when we established this association' in the 30th issue. However, as mentioned above, the articles on the Freedom and People's Rights Movement were often published on "Meiroku Zasshi," which evoked many responses on various newspapers and enthusiastic supporters such as Emori UEKI. Mori's comment in the 30th issue itself showed his concern about that Meirokusha and its bulletin had gradually become political.

However, it can be said that Mori's attitude to be nonpolitical in spite of being a bureaucracy embraced a contradiction. On the other hand, Yukichi FUKUZAWA continued to be conscious of such difference of the stances between public sector and private sector since his theory on the duty of scholar. The problem whether a bureaucracy who was an illuminator at the same time could continue to be an illuminator despite the governmental regulations against media showed clearly the difference among Dojin of Meirokusha and led to a conflict over the future of bulletin. In September 1875, a proposition of suspension of issue by Shuhei MITSUKURI and Fukuzawa finally triggered the suspension of issue after the 43rd issue. While Mori, Mamichi TSUDA and Amane NISHI insisted to continue publishing, many members supported the suspension of issue. Meirokusha itself changed the name to Meirokukai, which was an inner assembly as a get-together.

The ruins of "Meroku Zasshi"

Although "Meiroku Zasshi" suspended issue after almost two years, it achieved not-so-small performance. In fact, some articles were suspended to be published in the middle and others were ended without reaching any conclusion. It can be also said that it ended with asking future generation to solve problems. However, it is historically obvious that it planted some seeds which would sprout out in later years on the dispute of the establishment of democratic representatives, problems on feminism and the issue of a nation's script. Its style of enlightenment such as periodical speech meetings and an issue of an academic bulletin were also pioneering.

[Original Japanese]