Governmental Structures and Ideology between Nara and Meiji Period In the history of Japanese political system, governmental structures were changed and revised several times. Culturally, Japan has a one of the unique theoretical political system, which is called the imperial system that emperor ruled and governed Japan. Before the Edo period, emperor and the court had a strong authority toward governmental and military decisions. Compared to those periods, Bakuhu and Han-people had an important role toward politics in the Edo period, however, after the Edo period, Japanese political system changed Bakuhu-system back to Centralized system.
In this paper, I am going to deal with the government structures and ideology in Meiji period, and compare the governmental structure between Nara period and Meiji Period. Meiji governments tried to modernize Japan due to the pressure from Western world, and both periods have similar aspect of governmental structure that both governments tried to constitute centralized political system. Since the Japanese government established emperor system, emperor and the court had a strong authority for Japanese politics, and they tried to centralize political system in the Nara period.
Their political system was based on Ritsuryo code, which is a policy that the politics has to be centralized and conforms to the administrative code and penal code. In the Asuka period, the former period of Nara, Japanese government administrated Taiho code, which was considered as the first administrative and penal code in Japanese history. Even though they administrated it, there were still several problems and the code had to be varied according to the situation, therefore, Japanese government tried to improve Taiho code in the Nara period.
Emperor Kouken constituted Yoro code to constitute new governing rules and revised several expression of Taiho code in 718, and it was administered by Fujiwara no Nakamaro in 757. For the central administrative organization, emperor constituted eight administrations that each one has own department such as ministry of central affairs, ceremonial, war, and justice. Compared to the central administrative, local administrative were divided by three categories such as Koku, Gun, and Li, and Japanese government prepared tax system to ensure and improve the national finance.
Also, they adopted Kouchi Komin system. It is a policy that lands and people should be the part of nation. Under the policy of Kouchi Komin system, Japanese government had been adopted Handen Syu-jyu system, which had an important role in Ritsuryo system. Its system is that the government distributes some parts of land to citizens depending on their gender and social class and collect taxes from the citizens who produce rice or another products at given area, and also land to be redistributed to commoners every six years following a new census.
In addition, the government put taxes on each products such as paddy rice, special local products, and silk, and there was a particular labor system that citizens had to work as labor less than thirty days under the a provincial governor. In the Nara period, Japanese government tried to improve their political system that is based on Taiho code in order to fit their affairs, and finally they successfully constituted centralizing administration political style. In the Meiji period, Japanese governments were concerned with the pressure from Western country, and realized that they need to modernize Japan.
At the end of the Edo period, Bakuhu gradually decreased their power toward government policy due to the pressure from Western country such as Perry Expedition or unfair treaty for trading; therefore, Japanese government tried to centralize political system again and succeeded Meiji Restoration. In the Meiji period, the central government moved from Edo Bakuhu to court, so emperor ruled Japan, however, the domain such as Satsuma-domain and Cho-shu-domain still had a strong power for government. At first, Meiji emperor presented the basic policy of “Five Charter Oath” in 1868.
Actually, this policy was a first step of Meiji Restoration, which was the movement of overthrowing the Tokugawa Bakuhu and making centralized government. In addition to the pressure from Western world, there were several peasant revolts and weaknesses of militia; therefore, Japanese government realized that they needed to do fundamental innovation. In this reform, emperor abolished the division of Bakuhu, Regent, and Kanpaku, and reestablished three divisions such as Sosai, Gitei, and Sanyo for supporting emperor’s governmental decisions.
Hanseki-Hokan, which the daimyo gave the rights of land and people back to emperor, was one of the important policies for making centralized government because the existence of this policy made Japanese governments’ power for each domain strong. After the introduce Hanseki-Hokan, Japanese government finally succeeded the abolition of the domain system. In this policy, Haihan-Chiken in 1871, they abolished all the Han system and established prefecture system.
In addition, the decree of banning the wearing of swords in 1876 also caused the decreasing Samurai power. Also, Japanese government established cabinet system instead of Dajyo-kan system, and Hirobumi Ito became the prime minister of the first Japanese cabinet in Japan in 1885. After Meiji emperor and Japanese government reformed several divisions and policies, Meiji emperor implemented Meiji Constitution in 1890. This constitution was based on Prussia Constitution and regarded as first modern constitution in Asia except Ottoman Empire.
The features of this constitution are to ensure the Freedom of Speech, to establish Parliament and Imperial Diet, to do judicial independence, and to make sure that the emperor must have an ancestor of emperor. Due to those innovations of constitutional government and the victory of Japanese-Russo War, Japan gradually increased their reputation from the Western world. In 1911, finally, Jyutaro Katsuta instituted the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between Japan and the USA, and it caused Japan to succeed the recovery of customs autonomy and full annulment of unequal treaty from several countries.
In conclusion, both of Nara and Meiji period had a similar political system of centralized administration. Emperor and the court have strong power for politics and ruled and governed Japan. After the Edo period, Japanese government realized that Japan had to be modernized for fighting against the pressure of Western power. During this period, Japan succeeded to develop their political and economical environment by establishing new divisions and administrations. Those reforms and renovations caused a rapid upheaval in Japan’s economic and foreign policy and forced their presence on the world stage.