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Recently in Japanese History Category

Taika Reform Edicts
[Taika no Kaishin]

I've recently written regarding the unique role of the Meiji Constitution in establishing the Emperor's governance over the national politics of that era. However, it would be innacurate (for me) to suggest that the Japanese did not already possess a long-standing notion of the Emperor's island-wide pre-eminence. The two primary instances of this are Prince Shotoku's "Constitution" of 604 AD and the Taika Reform Edicts of 645-650 AD.

We'll cover here the Taika Reform Edicts (and elsewhere Shotoku's Constitution) which, apparently for the first time, subordinated local governance to the national Emperor.

You'll notice that 645 AD is very early into the Japanese literary timeline. (For example, Japan's unique writing style of hiragana is the much later creation of Kobo Daishi (774 - 835 / aka Kukai).) Thus, in essence, everything written during this era is wholly in the (ancient) Chinese language, using Chinese terminology and vocabulary definitions. And as students of language fully realize, words require concepts. Perhaps primarily for this reason, the Taika Reform Edicts were written under the supervision of Confucian scholars. (During this era, up to the Maoist Revolution, China viewed the Confucian texts as the primary insight for proper (Moral) government).



Prince Shotoku's Seventeen-Article Constitution
[Jushichijo Kenpo]

Of all the names within early Japanese history, Prince Shotoku (574-622) shines far more brightly than any of the rest. He was the offspring of his father Emperor Yomei and his mother the Empress Anahobe no Hashihito no Himemiko. His parents were children of Emperor Kimmei by different mothers. Unlike any of his predecessors, Shotoku turned whole-heartedly toward Chinese culture for help with legal and commonplace notions.


Kamakura Dai Butsu
[Great Buddha of Kamakura]

This enormous bronze monument depicting Amida Buddha was originally cast in 1252. It weighs over 93 tons, stands nearly 44 feet (13.35 m) high and was originally housed within a much grander wooden temple. In 1498, a large tsumami swept the wooden temple away, leaving only the bronze Amida, which to this day remains an outdoor monument.

Believe me: If you are ever in that neighborhood, it will be well worth your time to check out the sheer scale of this contemplative behemoth.

Here are a couple pics I took:


Meiji Constitution
[Constitution of the Empire of Japan]

I feel as if I've been writing a lot lately (for various reasons) regarding the transition from the Tokugawa/Edo Era (1615-1867) to the Meiji Era/Restoration (1868-1912) and the rather dramatic political and societal changes caused by this shift. As you may recall, the primary nature of this transition consisted in the seat of power being irrevocably removed from the powerful daimyo/shogunate to the Emperor himself. One of the most important and fundamental elements in the stability of this shift of power involves Japan's desire to draft for itself its first constitution (kenpou).

I've here supplied the text of the Meiji Constitution outlining the new national power of the Emperor and the expected roles of both citizens and politicians. Look closely at the articles of chapter one in order to understand the sheer power and divine status granted the Emperor.

By the way, this Meiji Constitution remained the central pillar of Japanese social polity until the nation's defeat in WWII and the subsequent rewriting of the nation's constitution under direct (editorial) supervision of the West (particularly via General MacArthur) in 1945. Thus what you've heard about Japan's prior "Emperor Cult" derives directly from this Meiji Constitution. (See Article 3 below.)



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