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The Birth of Constitutional Monarch in Meiji Japan－A Japanese Diplomat Yanagiwara Sakimitsu and His Constitutional Study in Europe
Individual Paper Presenter(s)
Keio University, Japan
Vernon Bogdanor, a British political scientist, claimed that in democratic systems where the head of state is distinguished from the head of government, the former (e.g. hereditary sovereign or president), with the lack of political power, has an important function of representing not just the state but the nation. This presentation is an attempt to rethink the process of forming constitutional monarchy in the Meiji period of Japan, focusing on a Japanese diplomat Yanagiwara Sakimitsu and his study in Europe. The process has been heretofore often discussed as the effort of depoliticizing the Meiji emperor. However, in addition to this objective, Japan's constitutional monarchy was formed in a way of enhancing both the autonomy of imperial house and the representative function of the sovereign. Yanagiwara Sakimitsu (1850-1894), born in a family of Court noble, was a Japanese envoy in Russia (1880-1883). Concurrently with his diplomatic service, Yanagiwara was committed to study European constitutions and imperial institutions. Among them he was particularly inspired by that of Russia and Austria-Hungary, observing how its imperial house enjoyed the autonomy from politics, and integrated the nation respectively. This led him to advising Itō Hirobumi, a prominent Japanese statesman staying in Europe at the same time, to adopt some of their institutions. After Itō returned to Japan in 1883, he started initiating constitutional reforms. As is exemplified in the introduction of cabinet system, Itō intended to prevent the Emperor from arbitrarily exercising political power. However, having been profoundly influenced by Yanagiwara's proposal, Itō in addition aimed to enhance the imperial house autonomy and the Emperor’s representative function, through varied measures such as augmenting imperial estate or enacting the Peerage Decree.