How Japanese people think thier own emperor in the history and at the present.
Uniqueness of Japanese Emperor, Meaning of Emperor in Japan, Necessity of Emperor in Japan
Table of contents
1 Analyzing the meaning of a quote (Meaning of period classification)
2 Change from Meiji to Taisho
Character of Meiji/ Character of Taisho/ Change of thoughts/ Change of Emperor
3 History of Japanese Emperor
Uniqueness of Japanese Emperor/ Japanese Emperor in ancient times / Samurai era/ Japanese Emperor in Meiji Restorartion / Showa and the present Emperor
4 Relation between time, history, people and the emperor in modern Japan
1 Analyzing the meaning of a quote
Harry Harootunian wrote that “the end of the Meiji period and the establishment of the Taishō era is a reminder that the problem of endings and beginnings still prevails and that the questions such problems raise are very much a part of contemporary historical consciousness.”
This quote expresses the usual mistake that historian tend to create clear boarder in order to describe the end and the beginning of an epoch. Classifying periods of history makes it easier to capture the characteristic of an epoch, however, such characteristic does not change suddenly but change gradually. Therefore, if you are conscious of the end and beginning of an era, you would miss reasons and contexts of change. Also, although we tend to identify the end and beginning of an era for convenience, people at the time did not have such conscious. One example is the classification between Meiji and Taisho era.
2 Change from Meiji to Taisho
2-1 Character of Meiji
In Meiji era, mind of samurai still prevails among Japanese people especially among establishments. Samurai’s mind, which cherished royalty for their monarchs, led to the mind in Meiji which are expressed some words such as “chukun aikoku”, “risshin shusse”, “fukoku kyohei”,” bussaan kogyo”, “gashin shotan”. These words represent totalitarian ethos in Meiji period in common. Society at the time has tendency to put more weight on the nation than individuals for the sake of development of Japan. Tokutomi Soho ,who were a japanese journalist,
“summoned the traditional ideal of “loyalty to the lord , love of the nation” (chukun aikoku) as the basic principle upon which to construct a new vision aimed at securing cooperation among high and low. In earlier times, he recalled, people had voluntarily shared in the implementation and realization of the great goals of fukoku kyohei (rich country, strong army) and bussan kogyo(commerce and industry), not for personal profit but for the advancement of the nation.”
These idea regarding their country highly were the characteristic of Meiji era. Haeootunian mentions that “These ideals had been imparted as a sacred trust to all Japanese, regardless of class and status and their acceptance had made possible the intellectual and spiritual unity of the Meiji period.” 
2-2 Character of Taisho
On the other hand, people at the Taisho era became thinking more about individuals than country. Harootunian said that in Taisho era, “the meaning of self-sacrifice and group effort was transmuted into the promise of the self seeking its own goals; public interest became private interest.” He also insisted that “an awareness of the state had given way to an awareness of the self.” People in new epoch sought for private impulse and selfish desire. Japanese historian Kamishima Jiro has equated “the end of Meiji with the formation of individualism and privatization .” In addition, people in taisho period required adjustment of politics which resulted in emergence of democracy. Taisho culture “evoked new associations related to the nuances of consumers’ life, to individualism, culturalism, and cosmopolitanism.” Although as a result of emergence of middle-class from peasants and merchants and emergence of women, variety of ideology had appeared, these ideologies are basically from the collapse of idea in Meiji era: “for the sake of the country”.
2-3 Change of thoughts
As this essay already analyzed with the quote, these change of thoughts from Meiji to Taisho has not clear end and beginning. Period classification is from the view point of contemporary historians. Changes of people and their ideas are gradual. For example, we can see individualist thinking in Meiji period already. “risshin shusse” is that. In Meiji period, “risshin shusse” is the word which represent how important it was to work hard “for the sake of country”, however, this word also conveys the sense of success “for the sake of self, one’s family or one’s native place. “ Harootunian points out that ideals in Meiji such as fukoku kyohei and bussan kyogo “had been initiated by the people” but by the government. In other words, people in Meiji period already thought about their own profit. Although in Meiji era such personal profit could closely related to public profit, in Taisho era people became think just their own self such as money. In the same way, the emergence of middle-class and variety of ideologies had not appeared suddenly, but gradually appeared from Meiji era. As young people ,who were born in Meiji and don’t know Edo period and real samurai, play active parts in the government and society, their ideologies had changed little by little. In this sense, clear border between Meiji and Taisho doesn’t exist.
2-4 Change of Emperor
However, death of Meiji emperor which is identified as the end of the epoch was not just the border between Meiji and Taisho, but certainly affected to the history. Especially in Meiji, the emperor played great part as a symbol of the epoch. Appearance of people when the emperor died shows that how greatly the emperor affected the spiritual life of Imperial Japan. The social critic Miyake Setsurei has described the mood of the evening in which the emperor died. “The moon was covered by clouds, and just as it began to rain heavily, we received news of emperor’s death. The crowd of people (outside the Imperial Palace), which numbered approximately 70,000, lamented in unison, The numbers who stayed through the night without sleep were considerable.” The Meiji emperor was so big existence for the people at the time that numerous people were stunned. Also, suicide of General Nogi Maretsuke which is called junshi—the warrior’s taking his own life after his master had fallen—clearly symbolized this sense of the ending of Meiji. His junshi was praised an an act of “samurai sincerity and pure loyalty”, but also recognized as the end of the epoch. Although it was exaggerated with the imperial office, the Emperor Meiji “symbolized the charisma of the revolutionary leadership which led Japan to its present position as a world power in the early twentieth country.” He was believed as a “living deity” who was able to talk with Amaterasu Omikami; Totami God in Japan. Harootunian states that “When he became ill, his doctors, it has been reported, were disinclined to touch his body. They were able to examine him only when he was asleep.” On the other hand, the Emperor Taisho was mentally incompetent. His performance as a student at the Peers School had been a failure. “His own style was matchless in its inconsistency and incompetence” , Harootunian mentions. The new emperor had not identified as a big existence like Meiji had. This change of emperor certainly impresses not only contemporary historians but also people at the time that the spirit of Meiji ended and the new epoch began.
3 History of Japanese Emperor
3-1 Uniqueness of Japanese Emperor
Japanese Emperor is identified as a symbol. In fact, death of Meiji Emperor give Japanese people at the time the impression that the age had finished clearly, although the change of the period was gradually appeared from before. There are a lot of examples around the world that death of an emperor affects mind of people, however, what the replace of Japanese emperor means is especially special as the death of Meiji was so. To come to the point, Japanese emperor has special meaning in that the line is formally continuing from the ancient times. This character support the authority and power of the emperor.
3-2 Japanese Emperor in ancient times
We can understand ancient emperor in Japan from “Kojiki” and “Nihon Shoki” published in 712 and 720. At least from late sixth century, the Emperor was utilized effectively in order to govern the country. Modern history researcher, Kasahara Hidehito states that in late sixth century, “Shotoku Taishi intended to actively learn theory of the kingship from the country Kokuri.” Japan in those days was threatened by Sui (Chaina). So as to resist against the power of Sui, Japan established emperor system which is different from Sui’s system. In contrast with the theory in china which distinguish the celestial Emperor from the terrestrial Emperor, the theory of Japan identifies the emperor as real deity god who is descendants of god. As a result, although the line of chinese emperor could often change under the idea of “Ekiseikakumei”—revolution decreed by Heaven when the incumbent emperor is found lacking in moral virtue, japanese emperor had always been inherited by their own descendants. Kasahara mentions that “Japan armed with theory by positively accepting the theory of kingship from Goguryeo (Korea) which is different from the theory in Sui (China).” In late sixth century, the government in japan had already utilized the integration power of the emperor and the emperor system was succeeded with legitimate genealogy consistently.
3-3 Japanese Emperor in Samurai Era
In Heian period, the era of the emperor and aristocracy, the emperor was certainly took seriously, but also after its period, the era of Samurai, the politician couldn’t disregard the Emperor. After Kamakura era, samurai opened the Shogunate and governed the country with their own big authority. In spite of top of the samurai had great authority which could rule everything in Japan, all the shogun or top of the samurai had not abolished the emperor. Minamoto no Yoritomo, Ashikaga Tkauji, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, all of them would rather have utilized the authority of the emperor than abolished it. This is the evidence that the emperor in Japan has huge authority and legitimate genealogy unlike in China.
3-4 Japanese Emperor in Meiji Restorartion
In the end of the Edo period, Tokugawa Bakufu was threatened by foreign powers as Commodore Perry requested Bakufu to open the ports. Against foreign powers, Bakufu couldn’t unite all japan by its own authority, therefore, samurai which was the ruling class in japan unified the country with the theory of “Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians”(尊王攘夷 sonnō jōi). Japanese historian Shiba Ryotaro states that “in those days, Japanese had not the sense of “we are one of the person in Japan”, but had “we are one of the person in a Han (feudal clan)””. In the end, so as to resist against strong wentern powers, people united centralized Emperor State Japan with integration power of the emperor. After Meiji Restoration, the government also ruined the country with the authority of the emperor and created strong loyalty. Uchida states that “the empire continued to depend on force in ruling Korea” in his essay (, although Korean nationalist leaders resisted against its rule as they rebelled on March 1th.) In addition, this essay had already stated that it was proved that how the effect of the emperor was big when the Meiji emperor died.
3-5 Showa and the present Emperor
After the World War Ⅱ, it was declared that the concept of his being a living god was denied. Under the ruining of Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, Japan established the new constitution which states that the Emperor is “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people”. Although it became obvious that the emperor is not real deity god, the death of Showa also greatly influenced Japanese people. Asahi Newspaper mentioned that “120,000 people visit the imperial palace to mourn”. A lot of events such as new year’s party was canceled under the mood of self-restraint. Also, when the present emperor declared the plan to abdicate the throne before he dies, it impressed a lot of modern people.
4 Relation between time, history, people and the emperor in modern Japan (Conclusion)
As Harootunian implies in his quote, although historian tend to create clear boarder in order to describe and capture the end and the beginning of an epoch easily, people at the time did not have such conscious and these changes between two eras are not sudden one but gradual one. The change from Meiji to Taisho is the one example. Certainly, great differences are being between the characteristics of Meiji and Taisho, however, the change was appeared from Meiji era little by little. On the other hand, especially in Japan, clear punctuations of death of the emperor greatly affected people. This influence of the emperor relates to its history in Japan. Japanese loyalist Sonobe Itsuo states that “the emperor, thorough the long history without just a little era, himself had not had political power and the emperor was on the social position that authorized each political power. Therefore, the emperor is appropriate for the status of the symbol of Japan.” Japan was unified under the integration power of the emperor as centralized emperor state against foreign powers which is represented by the ancient times against Sui or Bakumatsu against western power. Sonobe also states that this strong integration power stems from its character that the emperor is connected by one legitimate imperial linage. Therefore, the emperor is the symbol of continuous and integral state which continues from the past to the future with its big history. The emperor who has the history from ancient times (sixth century) is very rare. This fact leads to its great integration power of the emperor. As a result, although the change between two eras is unclear, modern Japanese emperor has certainly big influence to people at the time and the death of them was big factor of the change of history.
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page10
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page10
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page20
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page21
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page14
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page15
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page11
 Dojidaishi (Miyake Setsurei, Tokyo, 1953)
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page5
 As reported in Nezu Masashi, Nihon gendaishi (Tokyo, 1966) , A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page6
 A sense of an ending and the problem of taisho (H.D.Hatootinian) page7
 Shin Koshitu Ron (Kasahara Hidehiko, Tokyo, 2013)
 Tennno to Kanryo (Kasahara Hidehiko, Tokyo 1998)
 Shiba Ryotaro de manabu nihonshi (Isoda Mitifumi 2017)
 Building an Empire of Harmony (Uchida
 Asahi Newspaper January 8th 1989
 Koshitu Seido wo Kangaeru (Sonobe Itsuo 2007)