1852 – 1912
The Meiji Revolutionby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
In the year 1868 the Tokugawa era was ended by the hands of the Meiji revolutionaries
under the newly ascended rule of Emperor Meiji. Tokugawa
Leyasu had ruled Japan with a firm hand and a desire for absolute power,
eventually resulting in financial problems, higher taxes, famine, and riots
that threatened the safety of the people. It was not a peaceful time in Japan,
and with the lacking contentment of the people a revolution was sure to occur
in the near future. In an attempt to improve their current way of life the Imperialists
rose against the Tokugawa shogunate for the safety of their homes and families,
hoping to finally bring peace to the land. It was the rising of Emperor Meiji
to power that brought these people to stand and fight for a better life, thus
the name ‘Meiji’ revolution.
Emperor Meiji, formerly known as Prince Mutsuhito, was born on November 3rd, 1852 to Emperor Komei and Nakayama Yoshiko, a lady-in-waiting, as the 122nd emperor of Japan. Once he had taken on the title of Emperor, Mutsuhito took the name Meiji (meaning enlightened government), and a group of radical nationalists united under his power to take on the Tokugawa shogunate and bring rise to a new era. Only shortly after his ascent to the throne Meiji married Lady Haruko who then became known as Empress Shoken, she was the first woman from the Imperial consort to be given the title kogo or emperor’s wife. Shoken, however, bore him no children. Meiji did have children though, fifteen to be exact and to five different ladies in waiting.
It was at this time that Meiji moved the capital to Tokyo from Kyoto, which had been the location of the Imperial capital for many years. Also during this time the Meiji revolution or restoration was still in progress. The imperial forces gathered under Meiji’s rule and defeated the Tokugawa, after which the power passed not to Meiji but to Daimyo, the leader of the revolution. Though Meiji remained known as Emperor, the government had now become an oligarchy composed of the greatest military, political and economical men of Japan. Meiji himself was mainly a figure of leadership that helped the imperialist’s defeat the Tokugawa shogunate and restore peace to the people. His rule wasn’t long and his part was not great, but he played enough part to help establish the Meiji era. It was the restoration that established Japan as a top power in the Pacific and helped it to maintain an important international presence. However, the restoration was also the cause for Japan joining the Axis powers during the World War. Little is known about Meiji himself including whether or not he wanted war or peace, or how much power he actually had during the revolution. It is said that the Emperor was more a symbol of unity to the people while it was his ministers that did the actual ruling. Though he may not of done much physically or verbally his very presence did a lot. What is known is only assumed from his poetry, which portrays him to be passive man with no desire for war. Meiji studied under his father, and to some was known as the “Sage of Poetry.” He is thought to have written anywhere from 90,000 – 100,000 poems in his lifetime of which only five hundred were published. Here is an excerpts from Waka poetry…
For the times to come
And of meeting what must be met
All of our people
Must be taught to walk along
The path of sincerity
Emperor Meiji died in 1912 and was buried in the Graveyard (Fushimi Momoyama
Ryo) in Kyoto. After his death the Meiji era ending leaving the people of Japan
nervous and unsure of what the future might bring.
Though he did not play a big part politically, verbally, or physically his presence is still regarded as a very important and crucial part of the Meiji revolution. He symbolized the unity of the people under one government rising up to strike down the Tokugawa shogunate in order to establish a safer and more peaceful future. His era, though it shamefully resulted in Japan joining the Axis powers, is still regarded with pride, for it was this era that revealed Japan to be a great nation.
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Excerpts from Waka poetry of The Emperor Meiji. 2001. Meji Jingu Office. 1/5/04 <http://www.threshold.ca/reiki/japan/gyosei_waka_poetry.html>.
Meiji Period (1868 - 1912). 2002. Japanese-guide.com. 1/5/04
Meiji restoration . 2004. Columbia Encyclopedia: 6th Edition. 1/5/04