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The Role of The Emperor in Meiji Japan Japan is a society whose culture issteeped in the traditions and symbols of the past Mt Fuji the tea ceremonyand the sacred objects of nature revered in Shintoism Two of the most importanttraditions and symbols in Japan the Emperor and Confucianism have enduredthrough Shogunates restorations of imperial rule and up to present dayThe leaders of the Meiji Restoration used these traditions to gain controlover Japan and further their goals of modernization The Meiji leaders usedthe symbolism of the Emperor to add legitimacy to their government by claimingthat they were ruling under the Imperial Will They also used Confucianismto maintain order and force the Japanese people to passively accept theirrule Japanese rulers historically haveused the symbolism of the Imperial Institution to justify their rule Thesymbolism of the Japanese Emperor is very powerful and is wrapped up in amix of religion Shintoism and myths According to Shintoism the currentEmperor is the direct descendent of the Sun Goddess who formed the islandsof Japan out of the Ocean in ancient timesFootnote1 According to these mythsthe Japanese Emperor unlike a King is a living descendent of the Gods andeven today he is thought of as the High Priest of Shinto Despite the powerfulmyths surrounding Japans imperial institution the Emperor has enjoyed onlyfigure head status from 1176 on At some points during this time the Emperorwas reduced to selling calligraphy on the streets of Kyoto to support theimperial household but usually the Emperor received money based on the kindnessof the ShogunateFootnote2 But despite this obvious power imbalance eventhe Tokugawa Shogun was at least symbolically below the Emperor in statusand he claimed to rule so he could carry out the Imperial ruleFootnote3 Within this historical context theMeiji leaders realized that they needed to harness the concept of the ImperialWill in order to govern effectively In the years leading up to 1868 membersof the Satsuma and Choshu clans were part
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