Emperor of Japan

Meiji and His World, 1852–1912

Donald Keene,

Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852–1912
 
 
The renowned Japanese scholar brings us as close to the inner life of the Meiji emperor as we are ever likely to get” (The New York Times Book Review).

When Emperor Meiji began his rule in 1867, Japan was a splintered empire dominated by the shogun and the daimyos, cut off from the outside world, staunchly antiforeign, and committed to the traditions of the past. Before long, the shogun surrendered to the emperor, a new constitution was adopted, and Japan emerged as a modern, industrialized state. 

Despite the length of his reign, little has been written about the strangely obscured figure of Meiji himself, the first emperor ever to meet a European. But now, Donald Keene sifts the available evidence to present a rich portrait not only of Meiji but also of rapid and sometimes violent change during this pivotal period in Japan’s history. 

In this vivid and engrossing biography, we move with the emperor through his early, traditional education; join in the formal processions that acquainted the young emperor with his country and its people; observe his behavior in court, his marriage, and his relationships with various consorts; and follow his maturation into a “Confucian” sovereign dedicated to simplicity, frugality, and hard work. Later, during Japan’s wars with China and Russia, we witness Meiji’s struggle to reconcile his personal commitment to peace and his nation’s increasingly militarized experience of modernization. Emperor of Japan conveys in sparkling prose the complexity of the man and offers an unrivaled portrait of Japan in a period of unique interest.
 
“Utterly brilliant . . . the best history in English of the emergence of modern Japan.”—Los Angeles Times


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