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Meiji tenno o yomu. [Reading the Meiji Emperor]

Breen, John (2007) 'Meiji tenno o yomu. [Reading the Meiji Emperor].' In: Tetsuyuki, U., (ed.), Ratio 03: Nihon no kindai to wa nanika. [What is Japanese Modernity?]. Kodansha, pp. 76-92.

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Abstract

Recent studies of the Meiji emperor, notably those by Ito, Yonekubo and Kasahara, offer new insights in to that modern sovereign’s daily life and his involvement in the political realm. What they omit, however, is an understanding of the complex nature of the emperor’s body. They focus on what might be referred to as the emperor’s natural body, and omit all consideration of the emperor’s second, sacred body (to employ a medieval European distinction). This article explores the construction of that body in early Meiji Japan, a topic that has been ignored in Japanese and Western scholarship to date. The method employed here involves a focus on the development of the ethnic myth of the emperor’s descent from the Sun goddess, and the several processes by which the emperor came to embody that ethnic myth. The article begins with a discussion of the historic pilgrimage of the young emperor to the Ise shrine in 1869. It explores the affirmation of the myth-bearing emperor in the debates on the Constitution in the 1870s and 80s, and analyses the Constitution of 1889 as an enactment of the ethnic myth. It concludes with a discussion of why it was that the leaders of modern Japan insisted on the modern emperor embodying the ethnic myth.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea
ISBN: 9784062140492
Depositing User: Huei-Lan Liu
Date Deposited: 27 May 2008 10:57
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/3951

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