Modern Asian Studies


From Custom to Right: The Politicization of the Village in Early Meiji Japan

M. William Steelea1

a1 International Christian University

In 1874 Itagaki Taisuke and other critics of the newly established Meiji government submitted a petition demanding a popularly elected national assembly. This is said to be the origin of the Liberty and People's Rights Movement (jiyū minken undō). Around the same time a number of local political leaders intensified their campaign for the creation of village assemblies. Although the demand for local autonomy in the early Meiji period was both deep-felt and widespread, only a few scholars, notably Neil Waters, have diverted their attention from Itagaki and other political activists and thinkers at the center. An examination of Meiji local politics is nonetheless essential to understand Japan's modern political development.