“The Awakening of Japan (1904)” is the historical masterpiece in which, Okakura
Tenshin, the author and one of the Japan’s greatest masters of English, successfully
conveyed true Japan to the world. He gives us commentaries on the success factors of
the Meiji Restoration――more to come both in English and in Japanese.
The idea of the reformation is clearly expressed in the imperial declaration of 1868 in
which his present Majesty, after ascending the throne, stated that national obligations
should be regarded from the broad standpoint of universal humanity.
As the word signifies, out restoration was essentially a return. The government once
again assumed the form of an imperial bureaucracy, such as had existed before the rise
of feudalism over seven hundred years ago. The first act of the new government was to
establish all the ancient offices, together with their former nomenclature, while many long
forgotten functions and ceremonies were revived and Shintoism was proclaimed as the
religion of the imperial household. Posthumous honors were conferred on loyalists like
Masashige, had served the cause of the court during the former shogunates, and the
descendants of many of them were ennobled.
Yet these revivals of past conditions were tempered with the new spirit of freedom and
equality. The Mikado, while pronouncing Shintoism to be the religion of the household,
granted liberty of conscience to the entire nation, and Christianity was freed from the
interdiction under which it had lain since the Jesuit insurrection of the seventeenth
The class distinction between nobles, samurai, and commoners was nominally retained,
and the daimios and kuges were given titular rank according to the five grades of the old
Chinese system. A new aristocracy even was created. All class privileges, however,
The object of those who conducted the reformation was to fuse together the hardened
strata of Tokugawa social life that entire nation might participate in the glory and
responsibilities of the Restoration. There were four main lines along which the work of
preparing the nation to meet the problem of modern life was carried. These were, first,
constitutional government; second, liberal education; third, universal military service; and
fourth, the elevation of womanhood.
準備工作を行った主要方針が四箇条あった。すなわち、1. 立憲政治、2. 高等普通教育、
3. 国民皆兵、4. 女性の向上がこれである。
Constitutional government has been deemed impracticable for Eastern nations, and in
Turkey it was a sad failure. With us, however, since the assembling of our first parliament
the principles and ordinances of the state have been so well carried out that we can
safely affirm the experimental age to have been passed and constitutional government to
have become an inherent part of our political consciousness.
We may have had occasional stormy debates and divisions, a phase of affairs not
unknown in the conduct of Western national assemblies; but whenever threatened with
foreign complications, all factions have invariably united in support of the cabinet.
The successful working of the new system is partly due, no doubt, to an inherent power
of the self-government exemplified in the administration of many of our previous
institutions, and partly to the fact that the nation had long been preparing for the
responsibility of self-government.