Genre: Meiji era (明治時代: 1868-1912)

Lifetime: 1868 - 1912

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Meiji means 'enlightened rule'.

The event referred to as the Meiji Restoration (明治維新) is one, if not the most important, moment in modern Japanese history which changed everything - both for the Japanese and the rest of the world. First and foremost it meant the reestablishment of the emperor as the head of state in fact and not just in name only. The Imperial Court was moved from Kyōto to Edo. Edo was renamed Tokyo and the whole process of modernization of Japanese society and industry went full throttle into the future. Almost everything was modernized, from their military to their educational system. Nothing seemed immune to this process. The Western calendar was adopted to bring Japan into line with what were then the most powerful nations on earth. Electricity, railroads, skyscrapers, measurements... everything was codified into law. There was even an attempt to disentangle Buddhism and Shintoism after centuries of co-mingling. Buddhism got the worst of it and Shinto was turned into the state religion with catastrophic results eventually. Just look at the effects of this change on militarism and nationalism, especially in the 1920s until the end of World War II and the imposition of a new constitution by General MacArthur. Since nothing was left untouched by this revolution from the top, even the publishing industry had to adapt. The old systems of publisher and censor seals were eased out and a new way of identifying publishers was adopted. Names, dates - Meiji 1, Meiji 2, Meiji 13, Meiji 28, for example - appeared in an easily read seal either on the front of the print - where a seal would have sufficed before that - or printed in an oblong rectangle in the margin outside of the image border. The publisher's address was there too. Not only did these new seals give the Meiji reign year, but also the month and the day. This was especially clear on first or early editions. Later additions would usually only give the year, but would leave the month and day number blank. It is important to remember that the name Meiji is the name of the reign period of the emperor and not his personal name. Meiji was followed by Taishō (1912-26) and then Shōwa (1926-1989), the era of Hirohito. We are now living in the age of Heisei (1989- ) under Emperor Akihito.