ASIA212Varley

In addition to bulwer lytton prominent british

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Unformatted text preview: he deliberate failure to specify how the executive was to be formed and what were to constitute the precise limits of its authority. There was no provision at all, for example, for appointment of the prime minister, and no proviso about accountability of the other ministers of state in the cabinet to anyone except the emperor. Clearly, the oligarchs intended to retain firm control of the executive, and, after the opening of the first Diet in 1890, the party members in the House of Representatives found very little prospect that they would in the near future be able to participate significantly in the ruling of Japan. The oligarchs formed an extralegal body known as the genrò or “elders,” consisting at first entirely of the highest Satsuma and Chòshû leaders in government, and it was they 256 Encounter with the West who selected the prime ministers (from among themselves) and continued to dominate the affairs of state. The sociopolitical orthodoxy that the oligarchs codified in the Meiji Constitution and the Imperial Rescript on Education is commonly called kokutai, a term that literally means the body of the country but is usually translated as “national polity.” Based on the Shinto-Confucian concept (which we observed in the Rescript on Education) of Japan as a great family-state, kokutai held a special appeal for the Japanese people because of its glorification of the mystique of emperorship. The Japanese regarded their line of sovereigns—described in the Constitution as “unbroken for ages eternal” and in the Rescript on Education as “coeval with heaven and earth”—as a unique and sacrosanct institution that gave Japan a claim to superiority over all other countries in the world. For centuries, of course, the emperors of Japan had wielded no political power whatever, and during the Tokugawa period they were held virtual prisoners in Kyoto by the shogunate. Nevertheless, the throne had served as an incomparably effective rallying point for nationalistic sentiment during the difficult and dangerous transition to the modern era. Altho...
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