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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Japan's First Election

I have always been amused by the antics of Japanese politicians who parade around at ungodly hours in the A.M. (the morning, not Ashley Madison), blasting their political message through super-loudspeakers first with an annoyingly cheerful "ohayo gozaimasu (good morning)" and then blah-blah-blah.

Don't they know that there are gaijin (foreigners) sleeping when all the Japanese are already up and about?

I won't even trouble you with how all foreigners in Japan at the time of an election are asked in English by some confused Japanese soul if they know about the 'erection'?

It's true. But, internal guffaws aside, politics in Japan is taken very seriously by those who vote, and perhaps even by those who offer to run.

Presented for your learned minds is a newspaper from 1890 when Japan had its first ever general election—a mere year after creating its first ever Constitution.

All important stuff, because for the first time in 2,500 years—if you believe Japanese myths about itself, the country will be able to elect officials that it wants, rather than having a monarchy (Emperor/Empress) or Shogun (military ruler) dictate how things must be.

Now… the Japanese people can have elected officials tell them how things are going to be. Or will they?

Y'see… the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Thanks to Vinnie, who supplied a copy of a July 17, 1890 newspaper article printed by the Northern Christian Advocate of Syracuse, New York.

You can see this and other great newspapers from the wonderful archives of the Readex "America's Historical Newspapers" database. Just click HERE for more information

Read on:

Japan's Election.
July 1, 1890, is a date second in interest only to February 11, 1889, in Japanese history.
That unique people were granted a constitution on the date we have just named.
It was announced that a new parliamentary system would go into operation in 1890, and that on July 1 the elections for Parliament should be held throughout the empire.
It appears now, however, that the popular election for the Upper House took place on June 23, when forty-four of the forty-five "commoners of the fourth class" were elected; one not being satisfactorily reported on.
Let us explain:
After British fashion, Japan is to have a House of Peers and a Lower House.
The Upper House is composed of four classes of members:
First, members of the Imperial Family on reaching their majority, and princes and marquises on attaining the age of 25; these hold office for life.
Second, counts, viscounts and barons of not less than 25 years, and in number not exceeding one-fifth of the whole number of these orders; these are to be elected by their fellow for a term of seven years.
Third, members nominated for life by the Sovereign for meritorious service to the state, or for erudition, and above the age of 30.
Fourth, forty-five commoners, elected in the prefectures and urban districts—one for each —by the fifteen largest tax-payers in each electoral area, and appointed for a term of seven years, if approved by the Emperor.
It is further laid down that the number of members in the last two classes shall not exceed that in the first two.
It was the election for the members of the fourth class of the Upper House which took place on June 23.
The Lower House or popular branch of the Legislature will be composed of 300 members representing 258 electoral districts.
We have not yet received word of the elections of the branch of the government, but this new Parliament, or Diet, as some call it, is to convene November 1 of this year.
It was marvelous to see the Mikado lay down a sovereignty which he had inherited through an unbroken line of ancestors stretching backward for twenty-five centuries, and it is equally marvelous to see a nation of thirty-three millions of people quietly assuming powers such as other nations who have exercised them have only been permitted to wield after they have won the right at the price of blood.
The "student politicians" are boisterous and inexperienced but they, too, will learn wisdom as the years go by.


Interesting stuff. I like that we know that there's about 33 million people in Japan as of 1890.

I like that the aristocratic royal elite still held a lot of sway in the way Japan would be run—Emperor, Princes, Dukes, Marquis, Barons, Viscounts… yes, the needs of the many controlled still by the needs of those who have much. Same old, same old.

I like that the American paper as of July 17, hasn't heard anything about who won the July 1 election owing to the slowness news had to travel over seas and land.

I also like the naivety that assumes Japan's right to democratically elect was won without bloodshed. Sure… maybe little bloodshed recently, but there was a hell of a lot of it shed in the days before the Shogun military-style government and way of life was abolished. Do not go gentle into this good night.

I wonder when we began to NOT have a period after out newspaper headlines. To me, as an ex-newspaper journalist, but current magazine writer and blogger, such dot-age is old-fashioned.

With the U.S. caught in the childish mudslingings of yet another presidential campaign, and apparently one or two of Toronto's wards having by-elections last night (I accidentally found that out when I was looking for weather-related information), and the fact that the anniversary of Japan's election passed a few days ago—Vinnie was correct to suggest a hysterical historical look at Japan might be interesting.

Andrew "Duke of Earl" Joseph

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