Unformatted text preview: 19 Encounter with the West 255 Even when it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the Meiji period,
Christianity could never claim as its own more than a very small percentage of the population of Japan (less than one-half of 1 percent); and
after the turn to conservatism in the late 1880s and 1890s, it lost any
opportunity it may have had to become a major force in Japanese life.
Moreover, even if it had not been seen as a threat to the statist views
rendered newly orthodox in the Meiji Constitution of 1889 and the Imperial Rescript on Education, Christianity would have (and indeed has)
suffered from sectarianism in Japan, a sectarianism that had been kept
to a minimum by American Protestant missionaries in the palmy days of
successful proselytizing during the first two decades of Meiji. Apart
from its work in such fields as education and medicine and the profound
influence it exerted on certain individuals, like the ones we have been
examining here, Christianity has been of negligible importance in modern
The Meiji Constitution was written in secret by Itò Hirobumi and his
colleagues and was presented to the Japanese people in 1889 as a gift
from the emperor. It was based on a carefully considered mixture of conservative and liberal principles (with the former heavily outweighing the
latter) that owed much to the constitutional theories of Germany, the
Western country the Meiji oligarchs had come increasingly to regard as
most analogous to Japan in historical background and stage of modernization. The conservative character of the Constitution may, for purposes
of illustration, be noted in several major areas. First, an appointive House
of Peers was given equal lawmaking powers with an elective House of
Representatives. Second, the personal liberties granted to the Japanese
people were all made “subject to the limitations imposed by law”; in
other words, such liberties were not to be inalienable but might be (and
often were) restricted by government decree.
But the most strongly conservative feature of the Meiji Constitution
was the great power it allowed the executive branch of government. This
power derived in large part from omission: that is, from t...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13