100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Japan Emperor Dies After 44 Years On Throne

Japan had been ruled by leaders of the Tokugawa family since 1600. The Tokugawa shoguns instituted a ruled mark by distinct class restrictions with a samurai elite maintaining military power. The emperor was a titular title and a figurehead with very little power who never left the capitol Kyoto. From 1868 to 1869 a civil war raged in Japan between forces of the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate and those seeking to return political power to the imperial court. Tokugawa eventually gave up power to the emperor realizing the futility of his situation and hoping the Tokugawa house could be preserved and participate in the future government. This restoration of the Emperor is known as the Meiji Restoration, “Meiji” means “enlightened rule.” The goal was to combine western advances with the traditional eastern values.

Japan was seeking to keep pace with the rest of the world. Rapid industrialization took place as well as land reform that saw all feudal domains returned to the state and turned into prefectures. The strict class structure that had dominated Japanese society for over 200 years was abolished and to dissolve the samurai, conscription into the Army began in 1873. Suddenly the right to bear arms, reserved just for the samurai, was open to any class. While their was some resistance and open rebellion by the samurai, being better educated than most of the population they became teachers, gun makers, government officials, or military officers. Japanese artisans now no longer making weapons and armor for the samurai began creating masterful pieces of sculpture and art.

The Emperor Komei died in 1867 at 36 years old and his 16 year old son Mutsuhito became Emperor Meiji. With the guidance of reforming politicians, Emperor Meiji oversaw Japan becoming a modern power and overcame the warring lords who reluctantly acceded to his wishes.

On July 30, 1912 Emperor Meiji died after 44 years of rule that saw Japan go from an isolated feudal society to a modern industrialized nation. It is the end of the Meiji era. His heir Crown Prince Yoshihito will become Emepror Taisho. His reign will begin the Taisho era.

Crown Price Yoshihito, now Emperor Taisho
July 1912

Emperor Meiji


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