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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > February 2017 > What Happened Next...

What Happened Next...

A teenage emperor is crowned, beginning a crucial period of Japanese development and relations with the Western world


The end of a centuries-old dynasty, and a new start for the ancient island nation

The 14-year-old Crown Prince Mutsuhito of Japan became the 122nd emperor in February 1867. In this tumultuous period of Japanese history, Emperor Meiji’s accession was part of a chain of events that finally ended the country’s over-200-year period of ‘sakoku’ – or total isolation.

Japan had long been a fragmented nation, with clan rule dominating the regions. Eventually, the shogun (a military dictator) united the country. He held the real power, while the emperor was just a figurehead. The samurai warriors, originally hired by the rich as protectors, formed a new, powerful class, working for the shogunate. The years between 1600 and 1867 were known as the Tokugawa period, and ushered in an era of peace and stability.

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February 2017