How the Emperor System Evolved
Evolution of the Emperor System
For many centuries, the science of humans history has been one of the most debated issues. Each nation has their own history and heritage, which influence modernity and form human values. While studying modern history, a researcher should take into consideration all historical events that have an important meaning. Japan is a country whose history incredibly affected its current state. Since the period of Tokugawa rule, Japanese society has experienced many social, economic, and geographical changes. Consequently, considering origins of Tokugawa system it is easier to understand modern transformations, which began after the fall of Tokugawa regime. Evolution of the Emperor system includes a huge number of historical events, which have entailed many changes and influenced the course of Japanese history.
Dating back to the period of Tokugawa rule, it has been associated with social order and peace. While considering the order of Tokugawa, it is essential to mention that the Emperor and his officials introduced many harsh laws and restrictions on social, economic, and geographic mobility. Moreover, this period of Japanese history appeared to be an era of developed rural production and commerce. As a result, despite the fact that Tokugawa implemented the strict order, changes provided by his rule were important toward modernity (Gordon 9). Furthermore, a thorough study of Tokugawa society can help in understanding unexpected transformation, which began since Tokugawa regime had eventually fallen. Additionally, many historical events changed the way people saw their Emperor role.
During the Tokugawa period, the Emperor played an extremely important role in the formation of Japanese identity. Emperor was a figurehead who had efficient power and a symbolic role as a hereditary leader. The Emperor system of that period seems to play a dominant role. It grounds on the fact that Tokugawa shogunate controlled all the countrys domains. Therefore, the Emperor and his officials had to be able to deal with the imperial court and mobility on their own. What is more, since the shogun office was an imperial appointment, the Emperor was the source of legitimacy (Gordon 32). In addition, official ideology of the Tokugawa period, Confucianism, also focused attention on the dominant role of the Emperor. Consequently, the Emperor and his house held all the power in their own hands. Moreover, such control helped to establish a central authority to enforce peace in Japan. All three emperors of the Tokugawa period succeeded to evolve a system that made their vassals stay loyal and obedient (Caroline). In other words, Tokugawa shogunate was able to consider their previous experience and honed it to perfection.
Considering Tokugawas role in Japanese history from the modern perspective, it is necessary to underline that this political regime brought many positive changes and unprecedented peace to the whole country. However, despite a great flexibility of Tokugawa order, it had some limits. Emperor officials were not able to mobilize the economy of the whole Japanese land (Gordon 34). Consequently, at the end of the eighteenth century, Tokugawa rulers began losing their political and social control. Furthermore, their successors had to implement changes in order to save the dominant status of the Emperor system (Szczepanski). Thus, the period of Meiji entailed such changes. Meiji era consolidated the status of the Emperor as a source of an ultimate power. The Constitution of Meiji house clearly describes the duties of the Emperor, presenting him as the head of the Empire who combines sovereignty rights. Moreover, he should exercise his rights according to the constitution. Meiji composed his own document about the operation of Japan and the role of the Japanese Emperor.
Iwakura Tomomki and Kido Takayoshi later changed a part of Emperors role. Those two men influenced the restoration process of Japan after the Tokugawa period and tried to hold the position of power in Imperial Japan (Caroline). Such position equaled Prime Ministers post. In addition, the political crisis during the rule of the Taisho Emperor demonstrated that not only the Emperor had political power. Thus, it is difficult to assess the role of the Emperor by the fact that all his ministers heavily supported him. Nevertheless, the system of the Imperial Japan featured some obligations of the Emperor. He should act in a moral capacity for Japanese society and be a source of moral authority (Caroline). For instance, the Emperor should control all actions of the government and follow them if they met the values of Confucianism.
The role of the Emperor and the Imperial system partially underwent certain changes during the Meiji period. The people started to treat the Emperor as a kind of a spiritual leader who helped Japanese society remain together and share their historical traditions with the help of Confucian conditions. As a result, the Emperor role lost its absolute political dominance and participation in governmental affairs and transformed into a sacred and exalted figure. Such change in the Imperial system directly influenced the role of the Emperor (Gordon 137). The emperor was no more responsible and blamed for different wrong actions operated by the government in the political sphere. He had moral responsibilities for the actions performed aside from the political sphere. Therefore, such process of political centralization appeared to be an act of new national consciousness creation. In the period of Meiji restoration, people especially needed the Emperor as a symbol of unity. During the Shogun era, the political elite prescribed an important role to the Emperor as a figure who Japanese society was able to turn to. Such emperors as Meiji and Showa visited all parts of Japan and, as a result, gained significant public support. Consequently, directly talking with the public, the figure of the Emperor appeared to be more accessible for ordinary people. After the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, people affected by such disaster especially felt an important role of the Emperor (Hays). Showa Emperor visited people and helped them to survive the grief.
Until the end of the Second World War, people perceived the Emperor as a God. They believed him not only represent Japan as a country, but also be a country. Such fact demonstrates their special attitude to the Imperial system of Japan. The manifestation of the Meiji period reforms and politics could explain a divine status of the Emperor of that period (Berlin 402). After those reforms, the role of the Emperor changed and developed (Hays). He became the commander of all Japanese military forces supporting Japans political structure. Therefore, all military leaders were responsible to the Emperor. Obviously, he was able to appoint and reject military officials including generals, admirals, and ministers. Consequently, until 1930s, the role of the Emperor and his system was indubitable. In Japanese schools, all students saw a photograph of the Emperor and teachers told them a history of the first Emperor and his connection to God. In addition, the Emperor and all his royals were prohibited to touch money. Moreover, ordinary humans should not photograph or even glare at them. Nobody could criticize the Emperor and his system, in particular. Furthermore, if somebody said something bad about the Emperor, he or she could be imprisoned for a long period of time (Hays). As a result, such facts demonstrate that the rule and importance of the Emperor were doubtless.
Despite the fact that people regarded the Emperor as a God for a long time, after the Second World War, his status changed significantly. The Constitution appointed him to become a symbol of the state and nations unifier. The governmental system deprived the Emperor of his potential political and diplomatic power. Additionally, the Emperor became a symbol of new democratic Japan. Hirohito, the Emperor of that historical period, did not even deny being descendent of the Sun Goddess. Such statement could deprive him of claim on the throne. In addition, he had no governmental powers. A king or a queen headed all political systems. Japanese constitution defined a legal status of the Emperor (Hays). As a result, it is necessary to stress that the Emperor has been losing his political significance with every passing decade.
One more historical event that influenced the status of the Emperor in Japan was the postwar period. After the Second World War, people from all over the world started asking the Emperor to apologize for the things Japan performed during the war. As a result, the Emperor apologized, thus nations from all over the world undermined his position and trust (Bix 3). Nevertheless, a large number of conservative Japanese has regarded their Emperor as a God till nowadays. The part of the Society of the Showa restoration believed that people should treat the Emperor as the God-like head of their government and country, in particular. In 2002, during the interview, one of the right-wing members told the reporter that their Emperor remains to be between heaven and earth (Sand 282). Obviously, ordinary people should not see in public or even discuss such sacred personalities. In addition, any press, organizations, and ordinary people cannot criticize the whole family of the Emperor. Such phenomenon grounds on the fact that they not only respect the Royal family, but also feel fear toward them. Otherwise, different nationalist groups of Japan can hound them (Lewis). Consequently, considering aforementioned facts, it becomes clear that Emperors system preserved their high status and holiness. Furthermore, despite the fact that the Emperor does not play an important governmental role, Japanese people treat him like a head of the country and the whole nation.
Considering the role of the Emperor in preserving Japanese identity, all Japanese people treat their Emperor as a kind of historical value and perceive him as the main symbol of their nation. What is more, when the royal marriage took place in 1993, the Royal family experienced the peak of their popularity (Hays). Despite the fact that most ordinary people of Japan do not pay much attention to the Emperor, he still remains one of the most important people in the country (McNeill 7). It is possible to explain such controversy by the fact that the Emperor means a lot for the Japanese identity. A huge number of people remember those times when the Emperor system provided their stability in an uncertain world. They believe that instability and balance cannot reach their country because the Emperor keeps everything in balance. He remains to be a part of each Japanese (Karp). They all regard the Emperor as a kind of cultural or artistic heritage. Such historical heritage helps Japanese people to preserve their identities, cultural background, and other traditions. Furthermore, preserving an essential role of the Emperor since ancient times makes them feel that Japan is a special country and can be associated with some kind of holiness.
In conclusion, considering the importance of history, it can play a role of nations identity and cultural heritage. The history of Japanese nation features a great rule of the Emperor system. Emperor played an important role unifying the nation. Furthermore, despite the fact that Imperial system changed overtimes, the Emperor has always been a source of Japanese national identity. Consequently, although due to historical changes concerning the political situation in Japan the Emperor has lost his political power, but preserved the idea of unity and holiness of the country.