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Emperor Meiji

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Emperor Meiji
Portrait by Uchida Kuichi, 1873
Emperor of Japan
Reign30 January 1867 – 30 July 1912
Enthronement13 February 1867
ShōgunTokugawa Yoshinobu (1866–1868)
Daijō-daijinSanjō Sanetomi (1871–1885)
BornMutsuhito, Prince Sachi
(1852-11-03)3 November 1852
Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, Kyoto, Yamashiro Province, Tokugawa shogunate
Died30 July 1912(1912-07-30) (aged 59)
Meiji Palace, Tokyo City, Tokyo Prefecture, Empire of Japan
Burial13 September 1912
Fushimi Momoyama no Misasagi (伏見桃山陵), Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
(m. 1869)
among others...
Era dates
1 May 1865 – 23 October 1868[1]
23 October 1868 – 30 July 1912
Posthumous name
Emperor Meiji (明治天皇)
HouseImperial House of Japan
FatherEmperor Kōmei
MotherNakayama Yoshiko

Mutsuhito[a] (3 November 1852 – 30 July 1912), posthumously honored as Emperor Meiji,[b][c] was the 122nd emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession. Reigning from 1867 to his death, he was the first monarch of the Empire of Japan and presided over the Meiji era. His reign is associated with the Meiji Restoration, a series of rapid changes that witnessed Japan's transformation from an isolationist, feudal state to an industrialized world power.

At the time of Emperor Meiji's birth in 1852, Japan was a feudal pre-industrial country dominated by the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate and the daimyō subject to it, who ruled over the country's 270 decentralized domains.[4] By the time of his death, Japan had undergone an extensive political, economic, and social revolution and emerged as one of the great powers on the world stage. The New York Times summarized this transformation at the emperor's funeral in 1912: "the contrast between that which preceded the funeral car and that which followed it was striking indeed. Before it went old Japan; after it came new Japan."[5]


Emperor Kōmei (father of Emperor Meiji)
Nakayama Yoshiko (mother of Emperor Meiji)

The Tokugawa shogunate had established itself in the early 17th century.[6] Under its rule, the shōgun governed Japan. About 180 lords, known as daimyōs, ruled autonomous realms under the shōgun, and occasionally the shōgun called upon the daimyōs for gifts but did not tax them. The shōgun controlled the daimyōs in other ways too; only the shōgun could approve daimyōs marriages, and the shōgun could divest a daimyō of his lands.[7]

Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had officially retired from his position by 1605, was the first Tokugawa shōgun. Upon retirement, Tokugawa Ieyasu and his son Tokugawa Hidetada, the titular shōgun, issued a code of behavior for the nobility in 1605. Under the code, the emperor was required to devote his time to scholarship and the arts.[8] The emperors under the shogunate appear to have adhered closely to this code by studying Confucian classics and devoting time to poetry and calligraphy.[9] Emperors were taught only the rudiments of Japanese and Chinese history and geography.[9] The shōgun did not seek the consent or advice of the emperor for his actions.[10]

Emperors almost never left their palace compound, or Gosho in Kyoto, except after an emperor retired or to take shelter in a temple if the palace caught on fire.[11] Few emperors lived long enough to retire; of the Meiji emperor's five predecessors, only his grandfather and great-grandfather lived beyond the age of 40.[10] The Imperial Family suffered very high rates of infant mortality; all five of the emperor's brothers and sisters died as infants, and only five of his own 15 children reached adulthood.[10]

Soon after taking control in the early seventeenth century, shogunate officials (known generically as bakufu) ended almost all Western trade with Japan, and barred Christian missionaries from the islands under the Sakoku Edict of 1635. In addition to the substantial Chinese trade, only the Dutch continued trade with Japan, maintaining a post on the island of Dejima by Nagasaki.[12] However, by the early 19th century, European and American vessels appeared in the waters around Japan with increasing frequency.[13]

Early life[edit]

Prince Mutsuhito was born on 3 November 1852 in a small house on his maternal grandfather's property at the north end of the Gosho. At the time, birth was culturally believed to be a source of pollution, so the imperial prince was not born in the Palace. Instead, it was common for members of the Imperial Family to be born in a structure, often temporary, near the pregnant woman's father's house. The Prince Mutsuhito's mother, Nakayama Yoshiko, was a concubine (Japanese: 権の典侍, romanizedgon no tenji) to his father Emperor Kōmei, and she was the daughter of the acting major counselor, Nakayama Tadayasu.[14] The young prince was given the title Sachi-no-miya, or Prince Sachi.[15]

The young prince was born into an era of great change in Japan. This change was symbolised dramatically in July 1853 when Commodore Matthew Perry and his American Naval squadron (what the Japanese dubbed "the Black Ships"), sailed into the harbour at Edo (known since 1868 as Tokyo).[16] Perry sought to open Japan up to international trade and showcased the modern cannons that his naval fleet equipped.[17] For the first time in at least 250 years, the shogunate took the highly unusual step of consulting with the Imperial Court because of the crisis brought on by Perry's arrival.[18] Emperor Kōmei's officials advised that they felt they should agree to trade with the Americans and asked that they be informed in advance of any steps to be taken upon Perry's return.[19] The Japanese government decided that their military was no match for the American military and thus allowed trade and submitted to what it dubbed the "Unequal Treaties".[20] "Unequal Treaties" meant giving up tariff authority and the right to try foreigners in its own courts.[17] The shogunate's willingness to consult with the Court was short-lived: in 1858, word of a treaty arrived with a letter stating that due to shortness of time, it had not been possible to consult.[21] Emperor Kōmei was so incensed that he threatened to abdicate—though even this action would have required the consent of the shōgun.[22]

Much of the emperor's boyhood is known only through later accounts, which his biographer Donald Keene points out are often contradictory. One contemporary described Mutsuhito as healthy and strong, somewhat of a bully, and exceptionally talented at sumo. Another states that the prince was delicate and often ill. Some biographers state that he fainted when he first heard gunfire, while others deny this account.[23] On 16 August 1860, Sachinomiya was proclaimed prince of the blood and heir to the throne and was formally adopted by his father's consort. Later that year on 11 November, he was proclaimed as the crown prince and given an adult name, Mutsuhito.[24] The prince began his education at the age of seven.[25] He proved an indifferent student, and later in life wrote poems regretting that he had not applied himself more in writing practice.[26]


Unrest and accession[edit]

Emperor Meiji wearing the sokutai, 1872
Silver coin: 1 Japanese Trade Dollar, Meiji 9 – 1876

By the early 1860s, the shogunate was under several threats. Representatives of foreign powers sought to increase their influence in Japan. Many daimyōs were increasingly dissatisfied with bakufu handling foreign affairs. Large numbers of young samurai, known as shishi or "men of high purpose", began to meet and speak against the shogunate. The shishi revered Emperor Kōmei and favoured direct violent action to cure societal ills. While they initially desired the death or expulsion of all foreigners, the shishi would later begin to advocate the modernisation of the country.[27] The bakufu enacted several measures to appease the various groups in an effort to drive a wedge between the shishi and daimyōs.[28]

Kyoto was a major centre for the shishi and the shishi had influence over the Emperor Kōmei. In 1863, the shishi persuaded him to issue an "Order to expel barbarians". The Order placed the shogunate in a difficult position since they had no intention of enforcing the order because they did not have the power to carry it out. Several attacks were made on foreigners or their ships, and foreign forces retaliated. Bakufu forces were able to drive most of the shishi out of Kyoto, and an attempt by them to return in 1864 was driven back. Nevertheless, unrest continued throughout Japan.[28]

The prince's awareness of the political turmoil is uncertain.[29] During this time, he studied waka poetry, first with his father, then with the court poets.[30] In 1866, a new shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, took office as the prince continued his classical education. Tokugawa Yoshinobu was a reformer who desired to transform Japan into a Western-style state. Yoshinobu was the final shōgun and met with resistance from among the bakufu, even as unrest and military actions continued. In mid-1866, a bakufu army set forth to punish rebels in southern Japan. The army was defeated.[31]

Emperor Kōmei fell seriously ill at the age of 36 and died on 30 January 1867. British diplomat Sir Ernest Satow wrote, "it is impossible to deny that [Emperor Kōmei's] disappearance from the political scene, leaving as his successor a boy of fifteen or sixteen [actually fourteen], was most opportune".[32]

In a brief ceremony in Kyoto, the crown prince formally ascended to the throne on 13 February 1867.[33] The new emperor continued his classical education, which did not include matters of politics. In the meantime, the shōgun, Yoshinobu, struggled to maintain power. He repeatedly asked for the emperor's confirmation of his actions, which he eventually received, but there is no indication that the young emperor was himself involved in the decisions. The shishi and other rebels continued to shape their vision of the new Japan, and although they revered the emperor, they had no thought of having him play an active part in the political process.[34]

The political struggle reached its climax in late 1867. An agreement was reached by which Yoshinobu would maintain his title and some of his power, but the lawmaking power would be vested in a bicameral legislature based on the British model. The agreement fell apart and on 9 November 1867, Yoshinobu officially tendered his resignation to the emperor and formally stepped down ten days later.[35] The following month, the rebels marched on Kyoto, taking control of the Imperial Palace.[36] On 4 January 1868, the emperor ceremoniously read out a document before the court proclaiming the "restoration" of Imperial rule,[37] and the following month, documents were sent to foreign powers:[36]

The Emperor of Japan announces to the sovereigns of all foreign countries and to their subjects that permission has been granted to the shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu to return the governing power in accordance with his own request. We shall henceforward exercise supreme authority in all the internal and external affairs of the country. Consequently, the title of Emperor must be substituted for that of Tycoon, in which the treaties have been made. Officers are being appointed by us to the conduct of foreign affairs. It is desirable that the representatives of the treaty powers recognize this announcement.

— Mutsuhito[38]

On 23 October 1868 the era was changed from Keiō to Meiji ('enlightened rule'), which was later used for the emperor's posthumous name. This marked the beginning of the custom of posthumously naming the emperor after the era during which he ruled.

In a conflict known as the Boshin War, Yoshinobu's followers briefly resisted and bakufu holdouts were finally defeated in late 1869.[36]

Consolidation of power[edit]

Emperor Meiji receives Dutch Minister-Resident Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek in 1868.
The sixteen-year-old emperor, traveling from Kyoto to Tokyo at the end of 1868
First-ever photograph of Emperor Meiji at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal by Baron Raimund von Stillfried on 1 January 1872

Despite the ouster of the bakufu, no effective central government had been put in place by the rebels. On March 23 the Dutch Minister-Resident Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek and the French Minister-Resident Léon Roches were the first European envoys ever to receive a personal audience with the new Emperor Meiji in Edo (Tokyo).[39][40] This audience laid the foundation for (modern) Dutch diplomacy in Japan.[41] Subsequently, De Graeff van Polsbroek assisted the emperor and the government in their negotiations with representatives of the major European powers.[42][41] On 7 April 1868, the emperor was presented with the Charter Oath, a five-point statement of the nature of the new government. The statement was designed to win over those who had not yet committed themselves to the new regime. This document, which the emperor then formally promoted, abolished feudalism and proclaimed a modern democratic government for Japan. The Charter Oath would later be cited by Emperor Shōwa in the Humanity Declaration as support for the imposed changes in Japanese government following World War II.[43] For the first time since early childhood, he left the Imperial precincts in Kyoto in mid-May to take command of the forces pursuing the remnants of the bakufu armies. Traveling in slow stages due to through roads being lined with crowds, he took three days to travel from Kyoto to Osaka.[44] There was no conflict in Osaka; the new leaders wanted the emperor to be more visible to his people and to foreign envoys. At the end of May, after two weeks in Osaka (in a much less formal atmosphere than in Kyoto), the emperor returned to his home.[45] Shortly after his return, it was announced that the emperor would begin to preside over all state business, reserving further literary study for his leisure time.[46] Only from 1871 onward did the emperor's studies include materials on contemporary affairs.[47]

On 19 September 1868, the emperor announced the name of the city of Edo was to be changed to Tokyo, meaning "eastern capital". He was formally crowned in Kyoto on 15 October (a ceremony which had been postponed from the previous year due to the civil unrest). Shortly before the coronation, he announced that the new era, or nengō, would be called Meiji or "enlightened rule". Heretofore the nengō had often been changed multiple times in an emperor's reign; from now on, it was announced, there would only be one nengō per reign.[48]

Soon after his coronation, the emperor journeyed to Tokyo by road, visiting it for the first time. He arrived in late November and began an extended stay by distributing sake among the population. The population of Tokyo was eager for an Imperial visit. Tokyo had been the site of the shōgun's court and the city's population feared that with the abolition of the shogunate, the city might fall into decline.[49] It would not be until 1889 that a final decision was made to move the capital to Tokyo.[50] While in Tokyo, the emperor boarded a Japanese naval vessel for the first time, and the following day gave instructions for studies to see how Japan's navy could be strengthened.[51] Soon after his return to Kyoto, a rescript was issued in the emperor's name (but most likely written by court officials). It indicated his intent to be involved in government affairs. And indeed he attended cabinet meetings and innumerable other government functions, though rarely speaking, almost until the day of his death.[52]

Political reform[edit]

Emperor Meiji in later life. Emperor Meiji wore a large beard in his later years, which is his well-known image.

The successful revolutionaries organized themselves into a Council of State, and subsequently into a system where three main ministers led the government. This structure would last until the establishment of a prime minister, who would lead a cabinet in a western fashion, in 1885.[53] Initially, not even the retention of the emperor was certain; revolutionary leader Gotō Shōjirō later stated that some officials "were afraid the extremists might go further and abolish the Mikado".[54] Japan's new leaders sought to reform the patchwork system of domains governed by the daimyōs. In 1869, several of the daimyōs who had supported the revolution gave their land property to the emperor and were reappointed as governors, with considerable salaries. By the following year, all other daimyōs had followed suit.

In 1871, as Japan was organized into 72 prefectures the emperor announced that domains were entirely abolished. The daimyōs were compensated with annual salaries equal to ten percent of their former revenues (from which they now did not have to deduct the cost of governing), but were required to move to the new capital, Tokyo. Most daimyōs retired from politics.[55]

The new administration gradually abolished most privileges of the samurai, including their right to a stipend from the government. However, unlike the daimyōs, many samurai suffered financially from this change. Most other class-based distinctions were abolished. Legalized discrimination against the burakumin ended. However, these classes continue to suffer discrimination in Japan to the present time.[56]

Leaders of sixteen countries in a gathering envisage a desirable future world.

The 1889 constitution created a new parliament, although it had no real power.[citation needed] Power had passed from the Tokugawa into the hands of those daimyōs and other samurai who had led the Restoration.[citation needed] Japan was thus controlled by the Genrō, an oligarchy which comprised the most powerful men of the military, political and economic spheres. The emperor 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 Emperor Ōgimachi's abdication from the throne in 1586.[citation needed]

Illustration of Emperor Meiji by The Illustrated London News, published in the New-York Tribune (1905)

The Japanese take pride in the Meiji Restoration, 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, as well as the amount of personal authority and influence he wielded during his reign, remains debatable. He kept no diary, wrote almost no letters (unlike his father) and left "no more than three or four" photographs.[citation needed] The accounts of people who had met or were close to him usually contain little substantial information or are mutually contradictory.[57]

Due to the lack of reliable sources of the period, mysteries surrounding Emperor Meiji's personality and role in the Restoration remain a matter of historical dispute.[58] James C. Baxter argues that the emperor was a figurehead without real power who rarely interfered with what had been agreed upon in advance by the Meiji oligarchy.[59][60] Conversely, Herbert Bix describes Meiji as a powerful autocrat whom the Genrō struggled to restrain while accommodating his anti-democratic inclinations.[61] R.Starr characterizes Meiji as a highly individualistic and forthright person who was no puppet to any group in his government, and although progressive, not 'liberal' or 'democratic'.[62] Yet another group of historians contend he was never a full dictator, but remain divided on whether his personal power was "far closer to the absolutist end".[63] or he merely played a mediating role in the Genrō's decision making.[64]

A portrait of Emperor Meiji in his older years from The Spell of Japan (1914) by Isabel Weld Perkins

He composed the following poem in waka form:

Yomo no umi
mina harakara to
omofu yo ni
nado namikaze no
tachi sawaguramu[citation needed]
The seas of the four directions—
all are born of one womb:
why, then, do the wind and waves rise in discord?[citation needed]

This poem was later recited by his grandson, Emperor Shōwa in an Imperial Conference in September 1941 before the attack on Pearl Harbor to tell that he wanted to avoid the war.[citation needed]

The Illustrated London News published an article with a cover illustration of Emperor Meiji in the New-York Tribune on 19 March 1905. The description text said:

The victorious Emperor of Japan - beloved ruler of a new world power. The Emperor, who was born on 3 November 1852, succeeded to the throne on 3 February 1867, on the suppression of the Shogun dynasty, which had for generations wielded the power which the imperial family held only in name. Mutsuhito has proved the most practical of modern monarchs, for in less than forty years he has brought his country from semi-barbarism to the status of a first class power.[66]

Senior life and death[edit]

Emperor Meiji's last exercise supervision
Funeral of Emperor Meiji, 1912
French envoys received by Count Akiyama Yoshifuru (front left) at the funeral of Emperor Meiji

Near the end of his life several leftists, including Shūsui Kōtoku, were executed (1911) on charges of having conspired to murder the sovereign. This conspiracy was known as the High Treason Incident (1910).[citation needed]

Emperor Meiji, suffering from diabetes, nephritis, and gastroenteritis, died of uremia. Although the official announcement said he died at 00:42 on 30 July 1912, the actual death was at 22:40 on 29 July.[67][68] He was succeeded by his eldest son, Emperor Taishō.

By 1912, Japan had gone through a political, economic, and social revolution and emerged as one of the great powers in the world. The New York Times summed up this transformation at the emperor's funeral in 1912 as: "the contrast between that which preceded the funeral car and that which followed it was striking indeed. Before it went old Japan; after it came new Japan."[5]

After the emperor's death in 1912, the Japanese Diet passed a resolution to commemorate his role in the Meiji Restoration. An iris garden in an area of Tokyo where Emperor Meiji and the Empress had been known to visit was chosen as the building's location for the Shinto shrine Meiji Jingū. The shrine does not contain the emperor's grave, which is at Fushimi-momoyama south of Kyoto.[69]

Family and issue[edit]

Soon after Meiji's ascension, the emperor's officials presented Ichijō Haruko to him as a possible bride. The future Empress was the daughter of an Imperial official, and was three years older than the groom, who would have to wait to wed until after his genpuku (manhood ceremony). The two married on 11 January 1869.[70] Known posthumously as Empress Dowager 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, the Meiji Emperor 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. Although Meiji was the last emperor to have concubines, this function was not officially abolished until 1924.[citation needed]


Image Position Name Birth Death Father Issue
Empress Ichijō Masako (一条美子)
later Empress Dowager Shōken (昭憲皇太后)
9 May 1849 9 April 1914 Tadaka Ichijō None


Image Name Birth Death Father Issue
Hamuro Mitsuko (葉室光子) 3 February 1853 22 September 1873 Gon-Dainagon: Hamuro Nagamasa  • First Prince: Wakamitsuteru-hiko no Mikoto
Hashimoto Natsuko (橋本夏子) 19 March 1856 14 November 1873  • Shōnagon: Higashibojo Natsunaga
 • Dainagon: Hashimoto Saneakira
(maternal grandfather and foster father)
 • First Princess: Wakatakayori-hime no Mikoto
Yanagiwara Naruko (柳原愛子) 26 June 1859 16 October 1943 Gon-Chunagon: Yanagihara Mitsunaru  • Second Princess: Imperial Princess Ume-no-Miya Shigeko
 • Second Prince: Imperial Prince Take-no-Miya Yukihito
 • Third Prince: Imperial Prince Haru-no-Miya Yoshihito (later Emperor Taisho)
Chigusa Kotoko (千種任子) 1855 1944 Sakon'e gon no shōshō : Chigusa Aritō  • Third Princess: Imperial Princess Shige-no-Miya Akiko
 • Fourth Princess: Imperial Princess Masu-no-Miya Fumiko
Sono Sachiko (園祥子) 23 December 1867 7 July 1947 Ukon'e no gon no chūjō: Sono Motosachi  • Fifth Princess: Imperial Princess Hisa-no-Miya Shizuko
 • Fourth Prince: Imperial Prince Aki-no-Miya Michihito
 • Sixth Princess: Imperial Princess Tsune-no-miya Masako
 • Seventh Princess: Imperial Princess Kane-no-miya Fusako
 • Eighth Princess: Imperial Princess Fumi-no-miya Nobuko
 • Fifth Prince: Imperial Prince Mitsu-no-miya Teruhito
 • Ninth Princess: Imperial Princess Yasu-no-miya Toshiko
 • Tenth Princess: Imperial Princess Sada-no-miya Tokiko


Emperor Meiji had fifteen children (five sons and ten daughters), five of them (a son and four daughters) reached adulthood.

He had eighteen grandchildren (eleven grandsons and seven granddaughters).

Image Status Name Birth Death Mother Marriage Issue
01 First Prince Wakamitsuteru-hiko no Mikoto
18 September 1873 18 September 1873 Hamuro Mitsuko
01 First Princess Wakatakayori-hime no Mikoto
13 November 1873 13 November 1873 Hashimoto Natsuko
02 Second Princess Ume-no-Miya Shigeko
25 January 1875 8 June 1876 Yanagiwara Naruko
02 Second Prince Take-no-Miya Yukihito
23 September 1877 26 July 1878 Yanagiwara Naruko
03 Third Prince Haru-no-Miya Yoshihito
(later Emperor Taishō)
31 August 1879 25 December 1926 Yanagiwara Naruko 10 May 1900 Sadako Kujō  • Hirohito, Emperor Shōwa
 • Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu
 • Nobuhito, Prince Takamatsu
 • Takahito, Prince Mikasa
03 Third Princess Shige-no-Miya Akiko
3 August 1881 6 September 1883 Chigusa Kotoko
04 Fourth Princess Masu-no-Miya Fumiko
26 January 1883 8 September 1883 Chigusa Kotoko
05 Fifth Princess Hisa-no-Miya Shizuko
10 February 1886 4 April 1887 Sono Sachiko
04 Fourth Prince Aki-no-Miya Michihito
22 August 1887 12 November 1888 Sono Sachiko
06 Sixth Princess Tsune-no-miya Masako
30 September 1888 8 March 1940 Sono Sachiko 30 April 1908 Prince Tsunehisa Takeda  • Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda
 • Princess Ayako Takeda
07 Seventh Princess Kane-no-miya Fusako
28 January 1890 11 August 1974 Sono Sachiko 29 April 1909 Prince Naruhisa Kitashirakawa  • Prince Nagahisa Kitashirakawa
 • Princess Mineko Kitashirakawa
 • Princess Sawako Kitashirakawa
 • Princess Taeko Kitashirakawa
08 Eighth Princess Fumi-no-miya Nobuko
7 August 1891 3 November 1933 Sono Sachiko 6 May 1909 Prince Yasuhiko Asaka  • Princess Kikuko Asaka
 • Princess Takahiko Asaka
 • Prince Tadahito Asaka
 • Princess Kiyoko Asaka
05 Fifth Prince Mitsu-no-miya Teruhito
30 November 1893 17 August 1894 Sono Sachiko
09 Ninth Princess Yasu-no-miya Toshiko
11 May 1896 5 March 1978 Sono Sachiko 18 May 1915 Prince Naruhiko Higashikuni  • Prince Morihiro Higashikuni
 • Prince Moromasa Higashikuni
 • Prince Akitsune Higashikuni
 • Prince Toshihiko Higashikuni
10 Tenth Princess Sada-no-miya Tokiko
24 September 1897 11 January 1899 Sono Sachiko


A bronze statue of Meiji Emperor

National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

He received the following orders and decorations:[72]

Timeline and gallery[edit]

Emperor Meiji reviewing the military at the Russo-Japanese War Victory Parade held on April 30, 1906, in Tokyo

The Meiji era ushered in many far-reaching changes to the ancient feudal society of Japan. A timeline of major events might include:


Film depictions[edit]

Studio still snap from the 1957 Japanese film "Meiji Tenno to Nichiro Daisenso (Emperor Meiji and the Great Russo-Japanese War)"(Shintoho). Emperor Meiji of Kanjūrō Arashi.

Emperor Meiji is portrayed by Toshirō Mifune in the 1980 Japanese war drama film The Battle of Port Arthur (sometimes referred as 203 Kochi).[83] Directed by Toshio Masuda, the film depicted the Siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War, and also starred Tatsuya Nakadai (as General Nogi Maresuke), and Tetsurō Tamba (as General Kodama Gentarō).

Emperor Meiji also appears in the 2003 film The Last Samurai, played by Nakamura Shichinosuke II. In the film, the emperor is portrayed as a weak, inexperienced leader under the firm control of his councilors, who intend to have him sign a treaty that would give the United States special trading rights that would enrich them, but also cement foreign domination of Japan. The emperor's determination is only shown at the end of the movie, when he is inspired by a visit from Capt. Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise), who fought alongside the rebel samurai, to reject the treaty and dismiss his advisors, declaring that Japan will modernize, but not at the cost of its traditions and history.


  1. ^ 睦仁
  2. ^ 明治天皇 (Meiji-tennō)
  3. ^ English: /ˈmi/, Japanese: [meꜜːʑi] Since the modern era, when an emperor of Japan dies, he is given a posthumous name. Such a name is a combination of the era during which he reigned and coincides with the emperor's contribution to the throne while he was alive. Therefore, he was publicly known during his life merely as "The Emperor", but he has been historically known as "Emperor Meiji" after his death. The name was officially given to him on 27 August 1912.[2] He obtained the current title in reference to the Meiji era, which spanned almost the entirety of his reign. His personal name (which is not used in any formal or official context, except for his signature) was Mutsuhito. He was also the first emperor to reign under the "one emperor, one era name"-system (一世一元), under which an era ends only on emperor's death or abdication, whereas before, an era could change mid-reign after a significant event, such as a disaster.[3]


  1. ^ On 1 May 1865 (the seventh day of the fourth month in the second year of Genji), Emperor Kōmei changed the era name from Genji to Keiō. Although Emperor Kōmei died on 30 January 1867 (the 25th day of the 12th month in the second year of Keiō), and Emperor Meiji ascended to the throne on 13 February 1867 (the ninth day of the first month in the third year of Keiō), Keiō still continued until 23 October 1868 (the eighth day of the ninth month in the fourth year of Keiō), when Emperor Meiji changed the era name from Keiō to Meiji.
  2. ^ Keene 2002, p. 706.
  3. ^ Sieg, Linda (1 April 2019). "Explainer - Japan new imperial era name, Reiwa: Origins, Selection, Meaning". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2 February 2023. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  4. ^ Keene 2002, p. 200.
  5. ^ a b c "The Funeral Ceremonies of Meiji Tenno", reprinted from the Japan Advertiser Article 8—No Title], New York Times. 13 October 1912.
  6. ^ Jansen 1995, p. vii
  7. ^ Gordon 2009, pp. 14–15
  8. ^ Keene 2002, p. 3
  9. ^ a b Gordon 2009, pp. 3–4
  10. ^ a b c Gordon 2009, p. 2
  11. ^ Gordon 2009, pp. 4–5
  12. ^ Gordon 2009, p. 19
  13. ^ Gordon 2009, p. 47
  14. ^ Keene 2002, p. 10
  15. ^ Keene 2002, p. 14
  16. ^ Keene, Donald (2005). Emperor of Japan : Meiji and his world, 1852–1912. Columbia University Press. p. 18. ISBN 0231123418. OCLC 1059567148.
  17. ^ a b Gordon 2009, pp. 50–51
  18. ^ Keene, Donald (2005). Emperor of Japan : Meiji and his world, 1852–1912. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231123418. OCLC 1059567148.
  19. ^ Keene 2002, p. 18
  20. ^ Gordon, Andrew (2003). A modern history of Japan : from Tokugawa times to the present. Oxford University Press. pp. 51–52. ISBN 0195110609. OCLC 49704795.
  21. ^ Keene, Donald (2005). Emperor of Japan: Meiji and his world, 1852–1912. New York; Chichester: Columbia University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0231123419. OCLC 1059567148.
  22. ^ Keene 2002, pp. 39–41
  23. ^ Keene 2002, p. xii
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External links[edit]

Emperor Meiji
Born: 3 November 1852 Died: 30 July 1912
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of Japan
3 February 1867 – 30 July 1912
Succeeded by