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Chapter Summary

The historical role of the Japanese emperors was different from that of kings and emperors in most other countries. Although Japan knew many periods of internal warfare and political turmoil, except for a fifty-six-year schism between two branches of the dynasty in the fourteenth century, the imperial family did not split into rivaling courts. The combination of sanctity and weakness, which characterized the Japanese emperors, enabled others?aristocrats, warlords, or former emperors?to manipulate them for their own benefit. Between the twelfth and the nineteenth centuries, the emperors sanctioned the authority of the military lords, while preserving the façade of a civilian imperial government. Following the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the fifteen-year old emperor, Mutsuhito (known posthumously as the Meiji Emperor), bestowed legitimacy on the new government and its sweeping reforms.

Keywords: civilian imperial government; imperial family; Japanese emperors; Meiji Emperor; Meiji Restoration



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