July 30th 1912: Emperor Meiji dies

On this day in 1912 the Emperor of Japan, Emperor Meiji, died in Tokyo aged 59. He ascended to the throne on February 3rd 1867 upon the death of his father Emperor Kōmei. Meiji ruled for 45 years, and during this time Japan transformed dramatically. The year after he came to the throne the Tokugawa Shogunate, the samurai who had led Japan since around 1600, officially handed power back to the emperor, thus beginning the Meiji Restoration. The period that followed saw Japan undergo significant modernisation from a feudal, samurai system to a state that more mirrored its Western counterparts. This Westernisation was a popular movement that was personally championed by Meiji and included a new school system, dismantling of the feudal class system and adoption of the new Meiji Constitution. A growing impetus for change came as a result of the end of Japan’s sakoku policy of seclusion where the country was closed to foreigners. The policy ended in 1853 with the arrival of US Commodore Matthew Perry and the forcible opening of the country to trade with the West. The subsequent Westernisation policies of the Meiji Restoration were welcomed by many, but not by the former samurai; figures such as Saigō Takamori fought what they saw as the eradication of their way of life. As well as overseeing this Westernisation of Japan, Meiji was emperor during both the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95 and Russo-Japanese War in 1904-5. When Emperor Meiji died in 1912 and his son took over and became Emperor Taishō, he left Japan a very different country than it was when he first ascended to power.

07/30/14 at 4:06pm
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