Meiji period

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The Meiji period, also known as the Meiji era (明治時代 (Meiji-jidai)), is a Japanese era which extended from 1868 until 1912. This period represents the first half of the Empire of Japan.


Meiji Restoration and the emperor

On 3 February 1867, 15-year-old prince Mutsuhito succeeded his father, Emperor Kōmei, to the Chrysanthemum Throne as the 122nd emperor.

Imperial restoration occurred the next year on 3 January 1868 with the formation of the new government. The Tokugawa Shogunate was overthrown with the fall of Edo in the summer of 1868, and a new era called Meiji, meaning "enlightened rule", proclaimed.

The first reform was the promulgation of the Five Charter Oath in 1868, a general statement of the aims of the Meiji leaders to boost morale and win financial support for the new government. Its five provisions consisted of

Implicit in the Charter Oath was an end to exclusive political rule by the bakufu and a move toward more democratic participation in government. To implement the Charter Oath, an eleven-article constitution was drawn up. Besides providing for a new Council of State, legislative bodies, and systems of ranks for nobles and officials, it limited office tenure to four years, allowed public balloting, provided for a new taxation system, and ordered new local administrative rules.

The Meiji government assured the foreign powers that it would follow the old treaties negotiated by the bakufu and announced that it would act in accordance with international law. Mutsuhito, who was to reign until 1912, selected a new reign title—Meiji, or Enlightened Rule—to mark the beginning of a new era in Japanese history. To further dramatize the new order, the capital was relocated from Kyoto, where it had been situated since 794, to Tokyo (Eastern Capital), the new name for Edo. In a move critical for the consolidation of the new regime, most daimyo voluntarily surrendered their land and census records to the emperor in the Abolition of the Han system, symbolizing that the land and people were under the emperor's jurisdiction.

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