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Unformatted text preview: hino studied in Europe and the United States before
assuming a full-time position in political thought on the faculty of Tokyo
Imperial University in 1913. He persuasively expressed his aspirations for The Fruits of Modernity 275 Japanese democracy in a series of articles for the magazine Chûò Kòron
(Central Review), the most famous of which was “On the Meaning of
Constitutional Government,” published in 1916.
In essence, Yoshino sought to advance the cause of liberal democracy
in Japan against oligarchic or plutocratic rule. He not only advocated universal manhood suffrage (which, as we have seen, was finally adopted in
1925) but also urged reform of the House of Peers and other appointive
bodies in order to strengthen the power of the elective House of Representatives. Furthermore, Yoshino attempted to deal with the delicate question of the compatibility of democracy with the kokutai concept, which
held the emperor to be theoretically the source of all state authority and
power. While expressing his personal opinion that the emperor was quite
unlikely to go against the sentiments or welfare of the people, Yoshino
sought to clarify Japan’s particular brand of democracy (within the outward form of a constitutional monarchy) by suggesting that the best Japanese word for “democracy” was minpon—literally, “the people are the
foundation (of the state)”—rather than the more commonly used minshu,
“the people are sovereign.” Yet Yoshino’s idea of the people as the foundation of the state, along with his frequent references to the “people’s
welfare,” also had a strongly Confucian ring to it. Traditional Confucianists had always insisted that government be for the people, without
for a moment considering the moral propriety of its also being of and by
In addition to the inspiration of the Russian revolution for the exceptionally radical-minded, specific developments in Japan during and after
World War I appeared particularly favorable to the left wing as a whole.
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- Spring '13