Japanese Studies

Meiji Restoration

On 3 January 1868, dissident samurai and court nobles took control of Japan's imperial palace in Kyoto and announced that the shogun's government had been abolished and authority restored to the emperor. By the summer of 1869 a sporadic civil war against the shogunate and its supporters was over. The shogun's capital city, Edo, was renamed Tokyo, the emperor was moved there, and the new era was named Meiji (enlightened rule). The daimyo—semi-independent regional lords—were now subject to the emperor rather than to the shogun. The Meiji Restoration, in its narrowest sense, was therefore a coup d'état that transferred power within the ruling elite. In the broader context of Japan's rapid transformation in the second half of the nineteenth century, however, the restoration was the central event in a political, diplomatic, economic, military, cultural, and social revolution that within a single generation brought changes as dramatic as any revolution in world history.

Source: George, Timothy S. "Meiji Restoration." Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World. : Oxford University Press, 2008.

Chronological Chart

1868 A new government is established; Tokyo (formerly Edo) becomes the capital.

1869 Four major daimyō relinquish control over their han to the imperial government.

1871 The han are replaced by prefectures; the postal system is introduced; Tokugawaclass distinctions are eliminated; the Iwakura mission is dispatched to the West.

1872 The Tokyo-Yokohama Railroad is opened; the freedom to buy and sell land is granted; compulsory elementary education is instituted.

1873 The Gregorian calendar is adopted (December 3, 1872, of the old lunar calendar is converted to January 1, 1873); universal military conscription and anew land tax are instituted.

1874 A request for the establishment of a national assembly is submitted by Itagakiand others.

1876 The wearing of swords by former samurai is banned.1877 Saigō Takamori leads Satsuma Rebellion.

1877 Saigō Takamori leads Satsuma Rebellion.

1879 The Ryukyu Islands become Okinawa Prefecture.

1881 A national assembly is promised by the government.

1884 The peerage is created; the Chichibu Uprising occurs.

1885 The cabinet system is adopted; Itō Hirobumi becomes the first prime minister.

1887 Electric lighting is introduced.

1888 The Privy Council is established.

1889 The Meiji constitution is promulgated.

1890 The first Diet convenes; the Imperial Rescript on Education is issued; telephone service is introduced.

1894 A treaty revision is agreed upon between Japan and England.

1894 First Peace Preservation Law.

1894–1895 The Sino-Japanese War.

1895 Triple Intervention by Russia, Germany, and France.

1898 The Ōkuma-Itagaki cabinet is formed.

1900 Public Order and Police Law.

1902 The Anglo-Japanese Alliance is concluded.

1904–1905 The Russo-Japanese War is concluded by the Treaty of Portsmouth.

1910 Korea is annexed; Kōtoku Shūsui and others are executed.

1912 Emperor Meiji dies

(Source: Hane, Mikiso, and Louis G. Perez. Modern Japan : A Historical Survey. Vol. 5th ed, Routledge, 2013.)